Five minutes on…creative sparring

Creative sparring, provides a tool to observe and feedback on one 2 one sessions by an independent observer.


It takes the following form:-


Listening:         +ve              -ve                                    Supporting:       +ve                        -ve


Mark the graph once for each comment by the sparring partner.

Base your scoring on your impression of the impact / perception of the recipient, rather than the intention of the sparring partner.

Score 0 for neutral comments

Score + 1 or – 1 for each simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and +2 or -2 for a simple statement of fact

Score up to +5 or -5 for high impact statements and note then down below the grid


Guide: –  

+ve         simple encouragement like ‘yes’ or ‘I Iike that’

Helpful comments like ‘it might appeal to children too..’

-ve          criticism without being constructive e.g. ‘it will be expensive or it won’t sell’



+ve         Encouragement like ‘tell me more’

Helpful open questions like ‘what would you make it from’

-ve          controlling statements e.g. ‘I think my idea is better…’

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Time management


Stephen Covey in his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey designed a matrix that helps individuals prioritize activities, determining which activities are important, which are urgent, and which can be considered distractions or interruptions.

According to Covey, urgency can be defined as requiring immediate attention, and importance has to do with an outcome that contributes to an individual’s mission, values, and high priority goals.

Here is a breakdown of each quadrant:

Quadrant I: These activities are both urgent and important and require our immediate attention and can be considered crises and problems. Individuals who live in Quadrant I are often consumed with problems all day every day and only find peace in escaping to Quadrant IV. These individuals can be characterized as crisis mangers, problem-minded people, and deadline-driven producers. Living in Quadrant I is not sustainable, as you are always “on fire,” as my professor would say.

Quadrant II: Ideally, everyone should strive to “live in box two.” These activities are important, but not urgent, and help achieve personal goals. These activities are things we need to do, but never seem to get around to, such as exercising, building relationships, and long-term strategizing. Individuals who “live in box two” are often opportunity-minded people and have a relatively low number of crises, which allows for more goal oriented activities and increased productivity.

Quadrant III: Activities that fall into this quadrant are urgent, but not important and often get mistaken for being important. Individuals living in Quadrant III spend time reacting to the urgency based on the expectations and priorities of others. These activities are often seen as distractions because they are urgent, but not important to the individual.

Quadrant IV: Activities held in this quadrant are not urgent nor important and have very little value, which takes time away from other urgent and important activities. This quadrant is where surfing the web and watching TV lie along with other timewasting activities. Individuals that reside in Quadrant IV lead very irresponsible and unproductive lives.

Most people find themselves living in Quadrants I and III, leaving no time for Quadrant II. Stephen Covey stresses the important of moving to Quadrant II, which results in fewer crises and problems. Covey’s Time Management Matrix will help individuals make the move to being effective as well as efficient.

How to Use the Matrix

Here are the steps for prioritizing your activities:

  1. Create a To-Do List and include all tasks you need and want to do within the next week (or set period of time of your choosing).
  2. Prioritize these activities based on importance, NOT urgency. You can use a scale of 1 to 5 or re-order the activities based on importance; either option will work.
  3. Sort all the activities into the appropriate quadrants based on the constraints above.
  4. Now evaluate where you are spending most of your time and consider how you can start working toward Quadrant II.
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Five minutes on … corporate entrepreneurship

Traditionally, in divisional organisations, the prerogative of entrepreneurship rests with top managers. It is their job to allocate resources; those on the front line are implementers. The divisional structure has also proved ideal for refining the management of on-going operations.

However, it has little built-in capability for discarding obsolete ideas and assumptions, nor has it proved an exciting environment for entrepreneurs who could bring in fresh ideas and business approaches.

To fix these problems, many top management teams have, in the past, turned to strategic or purely structural solutions:

no innovation? Then turn front-line units into skunk-works

no internal skills to generate ideas? Form a strategic alliance to gain access to new skills

no possibility to grow organically? Acquire and bolt on a growth company

Downsizing and re-engineering are now occupying senior managers, as these attempts to kindle the entrepreneurial spirit have proved to be no more than short term fixes.

Companies that really do innovate are characterised by a different view of the organisation. Their leaders view them as a collection of processes, not structures. The entrepreneurial process is a key one.

the entrepreneurial process

Requires a view of the organisation’s anatomy from the bottom up:

front line management’s role is transformed from implementer to initiator

senior management’s role is to provide a context within which entrepreneurship can happen i.e. establish internal discipline and set the standards that will motivate front line managers to superior performance

Challenge: restructuring mature business to increase management freedom and action. The company reinforces message through awards given to managers and their employees who have shown the greatest initiative in improving their performance or solving difficult problem. However, many senior executives still find it difficult to accept a less centralised approach to problem-solving. One example: a manager of a concrete block plant rewarded because his plant increased production by 40% in 6 months (based on suggestions from employees) admits he felt uncomfortable at first asking employees for help; thought it was his job always to know what was best.

To demonstrate a belief in the people deep down in the company as those who will ignite the entrepreneurial spirit, companies need to find ways to create a federation of small disaggregated units that will behave like enterprising small businesses, creating excitement for everyone working in them.

ABB has been reconstructed as 1,300+ little companies that operate individual businesses in national markets worldwide

Canon’s numerous production and marketing units have been split into separate companies

Andersen Consulting organises and manages its operations as individual practice groups in each office

3M’s project teams are building blocks for its organisation; successful project teams consisting of an entrepreneur with an idea and a small team that believes in it, grow into larger divisions and departments

But the mere existence of small units doesn’t guarantee that they will be innovative. A lot of work is still needed to transform the attitudes of managers at all levels to create the right conditions for the entrepreneurial process to flourish.

From traditional to enterprising managers

The concepts of empowerment and self-managed teams apply not just to front line or first level employees but to managers and professionals at all levels.

However: cannot turn command and control managers into entrepreneurs overnight years of being reported to, approving everything and working within strict boundaries means a gradual, steady process of “unlearning”


Keeps structure flat; breaks down operations into as small units as possible; devolves responsibility from the outset; infuses employees with open, value-based culture; preserves and develops fast, decentralised decision-making. Top 3 leaders give constant attention and a lot of resources to keeping management freedom.

Many managers are not trained or competent in the ‘soft’ skills on which business success really depends

technical managers trained to manage functions, numbers, processes, machines, technology suddenly find themselves having to manage people; managers trained in rigid hierarchies find it difficult to make the transition to a more democratic, participative style and to relate to people

Traditional managers are not encouraged to come up with new ideas yet business survival and success now rely on a company’s ability to manage its most

valuable asset: the application of human imagination and creativity to making ideas happen generating breakthrough ideas

The process of idea generation needs a certain amount of muddling, confusion, disorder, uncertainty. This is radically different from the precise, controlled thinking of classical management, but used in areas where creative breakthroughs are a more established way of thinking and acting, for example in science and the arts.

The aim is to create a climate to stimulate everyone to be on alert for breakthroughs; and to act on thought.

Managers are now applying tools to develop the mind’s ability to connect seemingly irrelevant lines of thought to spark unusual ideas, then develop them later into feasible actionable solutions.

Some techniques:

  • put problem temporarily out of mind
  • let team/individual distance themselves from problem or issue
  • deliberately focus on an apparent irrelevancy can generate surprising or unusual connections; speculative explorations
  • force-fit ‘irrelevant material’ together with the problem or issue allow mind to invent a way of connecting them
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Five minutes on … the balanced scorecard

which measure?
A recent survey by the Institute of Management Accountants found that 64% of US companies are experimenting with some sort of new performance measurement system.
what is it?
In essence, the scorecard is a measurement model which takes a company’s strategic objectives and translates them into measurable actions.
a good scorecard:
  • takes a holistic view of a firm’s performance
    ie is interested in financial and non-financial measures of a firm’s performance; akin to a flight control panel – is a pilot interested in fuel levels only? eg measures return on capital employed, profitability, defect rates, employee retention 
  • is not generally used to set strategy
    but is used instead as a health check for strategic goals already set; eg a failure to convert improved operational performance into improved financial performance should spark a strategy re-think 
  • shows the cause-and-effect relationships between objectives and measures
    it is interested in both:
  • the outcomes or results, referred to in the scorecard as the ‘lag’ indicators; these show whether the strategy has been a success; eg revenue from new products, customer retention
  • the mechanisms, referred to as the ‘lead’ indicators; these serve as a warning signal to show whether the strategy is likely to be a success; eg product development cycle, customer satisfaction survey 
  • is weighted
    measures are grouped and given a weighting according to their importance to the individual firm; eg financial measures (60%), customer measures (30%), operations (10%) 
  • is an ideal measurement model for stand-alone business units
    most corporations are too diverse (eg different products, strategies, processes) for meaningful application of the scorecard which likes to measure like with like; eg for a business unit with its own strategy, marketing, customers, internal processes, and direct management, it is ideal 
  • can be used as a diagnostic tool
    if top-line results take a dip, a look at the measures which drive these results should show what is causing it; eg if the scorecard shows a dip in customer satisfaction, a look at more detailed layers of the scorecard could reveal this is due to improperly filled orders, or poor customer service 
  • comprises approx 25 measures
    if the scorecard focuses on just 1 or 2 measures, it can give a distorted view of performance, and encourage the wrong corporate behaviour; eg if managers track only cashflow, the firm may eventually stop investing in long-term opportunities
  • the Americas Marketing & Refining Division of Mobil Oil now gauges its progress using a scorecard comprising 23 measures, only 5 of which are strictly financial
  • in contrast, while financials comprise just one of four categories on Cigna P&C’s scorecard, the financials count for 50% of employees’ bonus
how does it work?
The scorecard aims to set objectives and measures in 4 main areas (referred to as ‘perspectives’ on the scorecard):1. financial
at the core of the scorecard, the financial perspective is essentially the focus or the objectives and measures in all the other scorecard areas; the most common financial objectives and measures used for scorecards are:
  • ROI
  • EVA
  • profitability
  • revenue growth/mix
  • cost reduction/productivity
These objectives will vary depending, for example, at which stage the firm finds itself in its industry cycle – eg the growth stage will call for revenue generation, the mature stage cashflow.
2. customer
the company’s key customer segments represent the sources that will deliver the revenue component of the firm’s financial objectives; key customer measures used are:
  • market share
  • customer retention
  • customer acquisition
  • customer satisfaction
  • customer profitability
3. internal processes
here, managers must identify the processes that are most critical for achieving customer and financial objectives; due to its complexity, the scorecard carves up the ‘process’ section into 3 parts, setting core objectives and measures for each:
  • innovation processes
    % of sales from new products, time to develop next generation products
  • operations processes
    quality, cycle time, cost
  • post-sale processes
    speed of response to failures, payment processing
A walk-through example showing the chain of cause and effect between the 4 perspectives of the scorecard:
  • financial
    the outcome chosen is return on capital employed (ROCE) 
  • customer
    the driver of this financial measure could be repeat and new sales from existing customers, the result of customer loyalty; so customer loyalty becomes one measure on the scorecard; but how to achieve customer loyalty? analysis of customer preferences may reveal that on-time delivery (OTD) of orders is valued by customers; so OTD is incorporated as a further measure into the scorecard (the logic being that OTD leads to customer loyalty which leads to improved financial performance)
  • internal processes
    the next step is to pinpoint the processes in which the company must excel to achieve exceptional OTD eg the business may need to achieve short cycle times in operating processes, which is included as a measure on the scorecard 
  • learning and growth
    finally, how do organisations improve the quality and reduce the cycle times of their internal processes? by training and improving the skills of their operating employees – so training becomes a measure on the learning and growth section of the scorecard
4. learning and growth
the objectives and measures in this section are meant to ‘enable’ the other 3; the focus here is firmly on employees, and is measured mainly by variants of:
  • employee satisfaction
  • employee retention
  • employee productivity
Of course, the scorecard should be tailored to each company. There are 3 key steps to arriving at your objectives and measures:1. strategy
what is the company/business unit trying to achieve?

2. action
given this strategy, what are the actions crucial to achieving it?

3. measurement
how would we know if we achieved this objective?

With its overall strategy centred on ‘extraordinary growth’ and ‘continuous improvement’, and an aim of growing its business by 20% year on year, Rexam Customer Europe, a precision coater and laminator, set about implementing a balanced scorecard. But instead of using the 4 perspectives typical of scorecards, Rexam adopted 3 perspectives of its own, which were: 

perspective objectives measures
shareholder’s return on net assets improvement gross margin
target XX% by 1997 overhead % of sales
working capital

extraordinary sales growth/broader customer base % sales growth year on year
growth XX%/yr compound % sales from top 4 customers
market share in markets where No 1

continuous profit improvement capacity utilisation
improvement target return on sales XX% by 1999 % waste
cycle time reduction production cost yr/yr improvement target reduce by XX% by 1997 R&D time on new projects
on time delivery

merit in the method?
Two clear camps of opinion are now emerging as to the value of the scorecard method -; on the one hand are the scorecard supporters who claim:

  • people can finally understand where what they are doing fits into the firm’s overall performance 
  • under traditional accounting systems, you might know to the penny the cost of the raw materials, but be clueless about the effectiveness of the production process using them 
  • many of the newly-revered intangible assets, also indicators of a firm’s health, don’t appear on a balance sheet
Those against, however, argue:
  • straying from non-financial measures confuses the issue; at least financial measures provide clear goals
  • financial measures are also more objective
  • intangibles can’t be measured anyway
what are the problems?
Potential barriers to successful scorecard implementation include:
  • vague vision
    when the organisation cannot act upon the strategy 
  • strategy in a vacuum
    where the strategy is not linked to departmental, team or individual goals 
  • long-term, short-term mismatch
    where, for example, the strategy is long-term, but the measures are short-term 
  • too much lag
    too many lag factors, and the firm misses early warning signals 
  • too much lead
    too many lead factors and the firm may see operational improvements, but won’t know their effect on business performance
Plot the course correctly, and your firm’s journey should be turbulence-free. Get it wrong, and you’ll send it careering off-course, or force it down to earth with one rather large bump. 
a sample scorecard
The following is an example of the types of objectives and measures for each of the 4 main ‘perspectives’ found in a balanced scorecard: 


  • Objectives Measures Unit Current Target Weighting
  • Profit growth Operating profit %
  • Profitability Return on sales $
  • Asset utilisation Return on net assets %
  • Survive Working capital %
  • Harvest Cashflow $
  • Objectives Measures Unit Current Target Weighting
  • Customer On time delivery %
  • satisfaction Complaints No.
  • Customer satisfaction Ranking
  • Product avail. Key items out-of-stock rate %
  • Growth Sales from new customers %
  • Market share %
  • Share of customer wallet %
  • Partnership Sales with ‘partner’ cust. %
  • Average order turnaround Days
  • Objectives Measures Unit Current Target Weighting
  • Innovation R&D time on new products %
  • No. of items first to market %
  • Sales from new products %
  • Break-even lag on new Months products
  • Process Parts-per-million defect rate %
  • improvement Average set-up time Hours
  • Schedule achieved %
  • Product cost yr/yr improvement $
  • Average throughput time Weeks
    (processing + inspection time + waiting/storage time)
  • Re-work %
  • Waste recycled %
  • Objectives Measures Unit Current Target Weighting
  • Employee Workforce requiring re-skilling %
  • capabilities Strategic job coverage
    (tracks no. of employees qualified for Ratio specific jobs)
  • Lag between training and effect Months
  • Processes achieving targeted
  • rates of improvement %
  • Sales per employee $
  • Employee
    Employee morale survey Ranking
  • Employee
    retention %
  • Employee
    suggestions made/ %
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Leadership – a little more to consider?

Leadership in some more detail

 This paper on leadership is in four sections:-

  1.        Theory
  2.        Trust
  3.        Relationships
  4.        Further reading

the full paper is here:-LeadershipInDepth2014

An introduction
The dictionary defines a leader as ‘a person who rules, guides or inspires others’. By looking at different styles of leading you will be able to analyse how you yourself behave as the leader of your team. 

Good leaders have the respect of the people they lead. People you have worked with who have gained your respect may have, for example:

  •          made quick, effective decisions
  •          treated all their staff equally, honestly and fairly
  •          had a particular expertise to share
  •          been willing to support you.

 Key Qualities

We expect leaders to achieve far more with their teams than merely to direct and control. Increasingly leaders are expected to build teams that are open to learning. Peter Drucker said that an organisation that has ceased to learn will cease to be.

Key qualities required to build such teams are:

leads with vision not tradition.
The team is aligned with a vision of what it wants to become. The vision is generated by the whole team and is inspiring and meaningful.

the leader is a learner, not a teacher.
The leader is aware of self development needs and is willing to learn. The leader is not committed to the ‘old ways’ as being the only sound wisdom.

focuses on process, not content.
The leader seeks to get the process going instead of trying to determine the content of how the group works.

enabler, not controller.
The leader doesn’t try to keep control, but delegates and leaves the team free to perform. The leader shares responsibility and the authority to act.

coach, not expert.
The leader helps people learn and develop skills, they always expect more of people.

linkers, not hoarders.
The leader shares information across groups and links joint projects. The leader spends time seeking information and linking the team’s work with that of other groups.

emotional literacy, not technical skill.
The leader understands that change is difficult and that people have feelings that need to be supported. The leader is sensitive to the needs of individuals, finding ways to create co-operation and mutual benefit. The leader encourages resistant and ‘stuck’ team members to grow.

Read the rest in the attached paper

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Five minutes on … action learning

don’t just sit there – learn something

 Action learning is an educational process whereby people work and learn together by tackling real issues and reflecting on their actions. Learners acquire knowledge through actual actions and practice rather than through traditional instruction.

Action learning is done in conjunction with others, in small groups called action learning sets. It is proposed as particularly suitable for adults, as it enables each person to reflect on and review the action they have taken and the learning points arising. This should then guide future action and improve performance.  Thank you Wikipedia

The traditional approach to learning – spoon-fed, take a test, retain nothing is under attack. An alternative – stretched, take action, changed something – is action learning…


“One must learn by doing the thing: for though you know it, you have no certainty until you try it” Sophocles 415BC

“There can be no learning without action and no (sober and deliberate) action without learning”
Reg Revans, originator of Action Learning

what is action learning?
At its essence, Action Learning (AL) is learning by doing, and its main benefits over traditional taught approaches to learning are: fact, not fiction: unlike the typical learning techniques based on hypotheticals and simulation, in AL the focus is on real problems

A problem: may not have a single right answer, or even be solvable. A puzzle: can be resolved.

Action learning is about solving real problems.

In context, not a vacuum: the problems to be resolved are directly relevant to those involved

Solutions, not just lessons: any learning is immediately applied: so the firm obtains concrete results, and the individual sees the learning in action

Active, not passive engagement: give AL groups – aka ‘sets’ – real, current and relevant problems, plus the responsibility for solving them, and watch them sit up and take notice.

Revans believes that learning consists of two elements – traditional instruction or programmed knowledge, and critical reflection or questioning insight.

This produces the learning equation: L = P + Q

which matters to the individual, not just the organisation any problem to be tackled via AL must be a situation in which those involved feel they are personally affected, and “I am part of the problem and the problem is part of me”

For their first AL work-shop, HR execs of Johnson & Johnson units had to prepare:

  • a proposed change project for their business
  • a detailed analysis of their business and value drivers

Projects were progressed between meetings, reviewed in further workshops, and presented (along with the individuals’ strengths and weaknesses) to the presidents of each division.

how does AL work?
The typical features of an AL programme:


  • the ‘set’
    the name given to the group of people (about 6) who come together to work on a problem or several problems together; meeting periodically to review progress; the set comprises people with no experience of the ‘problem’ who are willing to openly provide a perspective of the problem situation by asking questions
  • the problem
    must be specific and actionable, and owned by a set member. AL is not suitable if the end result is to be no more than recommendations or to draw conclusions, as any action will be thin on the ground
  • the individual accountability
    each set member should be made responsible for specific tasks to progress between meetings

A rule of thumb in some companies are for each member to work on an AL project/problem outside their functional area.

The best AL focuses on learning at 3 distinct levels:

1. about the problem

2. about oneself

3. about the process of learning itself or ‘learning to learn’

  • the process: each set member states their problem; the other members ask questions about the problem statement; the problem ‘owner’ then reflects on the questions, carries out research, and starts to develop responses; these are discussed at the next set meeting until a conclusion is reached
  • the ‘time out’: caught up in the heat of their actions, sets may take decisions they will later regret: a period for reflection must be factored into the programme

will AL work in your organisation?

Questions to consider to find out if you and your organisation are ready for AL:

As part of an initiative to improve real production at ‘ABC Ltd’ , suggestions from the AL set are tested on the shop-floor after weekly production has finished, allowing experiments without interfering with real schedules.

are management prepared to reveal sensitive information which may be needed for the set to take action?

will set members be sufficiently empowered to be able to take actions and follow them through?

as a potential set member, are you prepared to make mistakes in full view of your peers, and to have them scrutinise your work?

And how do you feel about being held truly accountable
for the actions you take?




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Five minutes on … making change stick

Many change programmes don’t last. When the pressure is off, behaviours return to the old ways. Often there is too much focus on changing processes, to the detriment of the people involved.

Strategic programmes that fail include:

  • re-engineering
  • competitive positioning
  • taking ownership
  • strategic marketing
  • TQM
  • benchmarking

Survey of managers on change programmes

  • 67% said employee moral ‘worse’ or ‘same’
  • 60% said employee reactions neutral, sceptical or resistant
  • 57% rated employee skills as ‘worse’ or ‘same’

Process change
The old view focuses on changing the procedures, processes and systems; built on a command and control structure. Organisations are mechanistic with strict architecture. People aspects may be ignored or left to last. Work processes define the people, and treat them as replaceable and interchangeable.

people change
The new view characterises organisations as communities of people, not tasks to be done. Change processes catalyse the employee’s ability to generate and apply knowledge for the good of the company. The key to leading successful change is to fully tap the organisation’s:

  • collective wisdom
  • accumulated judgement
  • perceptions
  • experience
  • intuition
  • intelligence

leading change
Leading effective change, and managing all the change components, takes vision, commitment and communication.

Address all three components in a balanced, orderly manner. For example: Giving your commitment to a weak vision may pressure an organisation in the wrong direction; providing a strong vision but no commitment is seen by others as empty words.

1. vision
Start the train on the right track. Create a strong vision to inspire and motivate the organisation. To create your vision apply:

  • foresight
    see the future of the company as an effective competitor, market leader etc post-change

Following wildcat strikes, obsolete products, and threatened closure, Chrysler implemented their change projects by starting with strong fundamental principles:

  • vision: cooperation, modern operating agreements, collaboration
  • common values: code of behaviour, we need your experience and brains to survive
  • self managed teams: reduced management layers, new performance system to

encourage learning -result: within 3 years $5m loss now $1.5m profit, 70% decrease in defects

  • attribute sensitivity: identify the attributes and resources that need to be changed to give the company the new capability
  • ‘balanced’ perspective: weigh the energy focused on running the business with that needed for the change programmes
  • short & long term focus: create short term goals to keep the energy levels up, with long term goals as the end result. Use short term ‘wins’ to tackle even bigger improvements
  • strategic targeting mindset: select and sponsor the best strategic change programmes

2. commitment
Keep the train moving, even on the toughest hills. Commit the necessary resources to see change through. For example:

  • invest personal time and energy
    spend time setting and communicating goals, providing action plans, defining employee incentives, hearing presentations, removing obstacles
  • build a structure
    set up a pilot project, or team, with strong momentum, maybe in a separate but central location. Build a web of interdependencies, throughout the company
  • gain top level support
    commit to gain senior management support, and advertise it
  • assign the best people
    use employees where they will work best, capitalise on strengths; allow people in turn to lead others
  • allocate resources
    assign enough time and money to get change in place; lasting change can take years not months and needs to be able to withstand pressure from employees and other stakeholders in the meantime

3. communication
Inform the passengers what’s going on, and listen to replies.
People won’t change just because they have sat through a state of the art multimedia presentation showing fait accompli. Help people to understand the process intellectually.

The best communication programmes:

After nearly a decade of hit-and-miss change efforts, Siemens set up a communications policy to reinforce their latest change proposals:

  • appointed a new generation of managers: to foster cooperation and teamwork between departments
  • disclosed financials: all managers know the facts, and bottom-line accountable
  • listened to its customers: a 3 day gripe session, together with managers
  • freed up R&D people: meet market demand more quickly
  • results: pre-tax profits now rising again, even with increased global competition
  • use two way communication
    think of communication as a process, not a task. A desk-thumping CEO stating ‘we need to sell change to the employees’ usually makes change more difficult. Build information through two way channels.
  • share the thinking, not the conclusions
    involve people at the “thinking” stage.
  • communicate face to face
    one-to-one interaction is still crucial in this networked world. In flattened, networked organisations, information flows are even more difficult to control, with info flowing upward, downward, and across in all directions. But they are people, not cogs.

 Barriers to change

Plan for technical faults, snow on the tracks.
A threat to a group’s domain tends to strengthen their identification with it and increase resistance to change. As you progress through the change programme, you may encounter:

  • location barriers
    how someone feels about change depends on where they sit in the organisation, and where they may be moving! People consider themselves as members of a current group, not a future group or organisation.
  • upheaval barriers
    change is a messy, disorderly, disjointed process around which competing factions contend
  • competition barriers
    change is the outcome of competition between stakeholders, you can’t please them all
  • turf barriers
    areas of expertise, authority, tasks or access to resources may be threatened by the change
  • interpretation barriers
    individuals and powerful long-established groups have their own specialism, knowledge, beliefs; and interpret the world in their own way
  • communication barriers
    departments develop a unique, shared language creating a barrier to cross-functional communication

Permanent change
Keep all stakeholders on board and happy

Three essential steps to lasting change:
Charts and numbers appeal to reason in your staff, but change requires a leap of faith.

  • physical change
    changing the behaviour, systems and processes
  • intellectual change
    understanding the change rationale
  • emotional acceptance
    ‘buying in’ the change, believing in it

Emotional acceptance is often the most difficult step. To encourage the leap:

  • articulate and commit to common values
    this gives stability during upheavals and provides a basis of trust
  • reinforce the clear direction and strategic context
    help people to build a common future, and keep it in view ahead
  • establish social contracts
    share responsibilities, risks, rewards in a community of people
  • reward people
    build commitment with recognition, money, more responsibilities, and promotion

Apply vision, commitment and communication and you will get the locomotion through.

Change Check-list
Have you addressed the following issues with your staff?

  • why must the organisation and people change?
  • who is responsible for the tasks, and what skills are needed?
  • what changes in systems, structures and processes are needed for the future?
  • what are the consequences for the organisation if people behave in certain ways?
  • what information is needed to ensure objectives are met?

Have a look at the following that helps substantiates the above

The Change guru, John Kotter:

HR Zone:

The Harvard Business Review:

The Guardian commentary on digital media initiative:



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Five minutes on …facilitating teams

Facilitating teams
With more and more firms making the move towards team-working, the role of the facilitator is increasingly important. From the Latin ‘facilis’ for ‘easy’, three fundamentals of a facilitator’s role …

It is not your place to analyse or solve the problem, but to make it easy for the team to solve the problem, by ensuring, for example:

  • agendas, actions, follow-up – that they set actions and carry them through
  • time-keeping – that they stick to their deadlines
  • participation by all team members –  that no one dominates, and no one is left out
  • team focus – that they don’t wander off the point
  • clarity and agreement of objectives and action points – that they all understand where they’re headed and who’s doing what
  • airing of all issues – that problems don’t go unresolved
  • provision of supporting data and documents – that they have the wherewithal to carry out what is expected of them

As the facilitator, unlike the team members, your key concern should not be the problem itself, but ensuring the problem is understood, approached and analysed correctly; if you are dragged into discussion on content, there’s a good chance you’ll lose control of the process. Now, if there is no formal facilitator what can you do?

  1. You could ask for outside help, a trusted colleague to observe the group, in action and give feedback
  2. You could ask one of the team to step back and observe the team in action, there are lots of techniques to evaluate a team in action:-
    1. Simple recording of interactions, who is listening – engaging, who is disrupting – sabotaging. Friction may be dysfunctional but it may be more productive.
    2. Is there a clear process to manage the meeting and outcomes
    3. More formal analysis can be conducted – Belbin to consider the dynamics , one-2-one coaching

If you appear to favour one view more than another, you risk losing the team’s trust and respect

  • to maintain impartiality, ideally aim to only facilitate teams of which you are not an active member –  i.e. do not wear two hats in the team
  • keep your opinion to yourself; watch out for ‘opinion intrusion’, i.e. those slips of the tongue which inadvertently reveal your view; examples of ‘opinion intrusion’ and more impartial alternatives:
    • ‘we tried that approach two years ago and I don’t think it worked’
    • ‘Let’s add that suggestion to the list; now, are there any others?’
    • ‘that’s a good idea’
    • ‘Thanks for your input; would anyone care to comment?’

Central to the role of facilitator, and can be used to:

  • bring team members back to the point
  • force them to consider a point which they have overlooked or avoided
  • add fresh impetus when the team is running out of steam
  • overcome conflict or an impasse

PS: A good chair / team leader should be a facilitator – it is a skill of leaders

Four main intervention methods:

  1. suggesting: e.g. if the team is stuck – ‘might I suggest? what about?, ‘would it be an idea to consider …?’
  2. physical leading: e.g. if the team needs focus, e.g. writing on flip chart
  3. summarising: also useful if the team is losing the plot; e.g. ‘let’s recap, as I understand it, so far we’ve …’
  4. questioning: to encourage them to clarify, explain, expand, reconsider;

The key question types and when to use them:

open-ended: questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no, to stimulate their thinking how/what/why/when type questions
e.g. how would that help improve productivity

greater response: to generate a deeper explanation, or clarification often use the terms ‘describe’, ‘tell’, ‘explain
e.g. could you just describe for us how that would work

redirection: to deflect a question which asks directly for the facilitator’s view
e.g. what do you think (to the facilitator); that’s interesting, I suppose it would depend on a number of factors. John, what has your experience been in this field?

Closed: to verify the facts, call for yes/no answers
e.g. so the normal lead time for that particular line is 6 weeks?

Budding facilitators take note: making it easy for them, makes it far from easy on you.

Posted in JIT: Leading teams, Leading teams, The leadership toolbox | Leave a comment

Five minutes on… creating a change culture

not about structures, but winning hearts and minds, read on:-

Companies which manage change successfully overwhelmingly share the view that their real challenge is not in revamping strategies, systems or structures, but in changing individual employees’ behaviour, and in creating an environment or ‘culture’ which is conducive to change itself. Corporate culture may be described as the ‘way we do things around here’, the ‘comfort zone’ of a company comprising its:

  • values
  • beliefs
  • behaviour

How strong these are depends on factors such as:

  • Leadership
    • employees quickly learn from leaders which behaviour is acceptable and rewarded
    • length of time with the firm
      • attitudes and behaviour patterns are more deep rooted in long-standing employees
      • interaction with colleagues
        • canteens, cigarette breaks etc are fertile ground for reinforcing compliance with the company culture

culture types
To be able to adapt to any form of change requires an innovative, responsive and flexible culture. Easy to say, tough to achieve in companies where the management approach has evolved from militaristic models of organisation. Deeply embedded culture types which block change are:

  • conventional culture
    • conservative, bureaucratic; employees are expected to conform, follow the rules
    • control culture
      • hierarchically controlled and un-participative; centralised decision-making leads employees to do only what they’re told
      • competitive culture
        • all about winning; employees are rewarded for working against not with each other

cultural clues

A structure for assessing a company’s culture:

  • visible artefacts/symbols
    • is the technology out of date or leading edge? how casual is the dress code? is the office layout open plan or rabbit hutches? what kind of company cars are they driving? Do managers eat in the staff canteen?
  • communications/language
    • are superiors and subordinates on first name terms? what is the level of humour – if any? is the corporate newsletter chatty with non work-related information or full of management-speak, sticking strictly to work issues?
    • routines/rituals
      • are meetings ad hoc or planned and structured? what does the company induction comprise? how lively, frequent, formal are company ‘bashes’?
      • control systems/incentives
        • is the emphasis on individual or group targets?
        • what quality controls are there? how is staff time monitored?
        • stories/myths
          • what constitutes a success story in the company’s eyes? how do people describe their work? what images are held of the leadership? what’s the company’s reputation?
          • power structure/hierarchy
          • what are the job titles? Where does accountability lie? How do employees react to different senior managers? What is the decision making process?
          • values/beliefs
            • What do employees understand the mission or purpose of the company to be? What are the company values? Are they apparent in staff behaviour? Which areas have most respect? What is the attitude towards customers?

Spotting the signs
Microsoft is an example of an informal culture – one visitor to the company observed a group of programmers in bathing suits discussing software bugs over a game of volleyball in the hallway

Japanese cosmetics company Kao has a culture built on trust – all employees have access to the organisation’s entire computerised information system, and can even check up on the President’s expense account

discipline and support are central to Intel’s culture – every meeting follows an agenda and closes with a firm decision; discussion or dissent is not discouraged, but once an issue is fully aired, people are expected to commit; also, by deliberately backing more than one potential solution to a problem, Intel increases its chances of ultimately finding a winner; but to maintain the commitment of an unsuccessful team and its willingness to take risks, management celebrates discoveries made along the ‘road not taken’

Cultural keys

Corporate cultures where change can thrive have four factors in common:

  • Discipline
    • i.e. consistency, follow-through, honest communication of results, documentation, working through a process; while compliance can kill off any attempt at change, discipline can help drive change through, and deliver results
    • trust
      • people resist change when they think it opposes their interests; there must be transparency about who gains, who loses, what the benefits are, and to whom they accrue; without trust, employees will not take the risks necessary to change
      • support
        • unlike a command-and-control culture, employees lend each other a helping hand through coaching, personal development, praise for a job well done
        • stretch
          • stimulates employees to strive for more ambitious objectives; raises their expectations of themselves and others; employees encouraged to strive voluntarily to meet and beat their own goals
Posted in JIT: Leading teams, JIT: Managing change, Managing change, The leadership toolbox | Leave a comment

Five minutes on …building teams

Team building
It’s a little more than forming, storming, norming and performing …mourning.    Read on…

Are you sure you are part of a team?
Or are you one of the unfortunate many aiming for ‘Team’ but not making it past:

  • club
    group of like-minded souls, who have ‘get togethers’ to ‘touch base’ instead of ‘meetings’ to ‘make decisions’, who never challenge each other, who are there to play, not perform or 
  • troop
    rife with rank, run by the one who’s most senior, with the others complying, and who are there to ‘tow the line’ or
  • group
    a collection of individuals pursuing disparate tasks under a flag of convenience

If such descriptions are too close for comfort, back to the drawing board may be best …

The design
The basic components needed to have even a chance of engineering an effective team:

the need: decide first if the task to be addressed really is one for a team; i.e. don’t use a hammer to crack a nut

  • the size:
    too large, and it’ll be hard to hear all voices or to keep track of who’s doing what; too small, and the team may be spread too thin; 5-8 is the often suggested optimum size
  • the mix:
    should be a combination of chemistry (balance of personalities and approaches to work e.g. the creative, the thinker, the doer) and expertise (the functional knowledge they have to offer) – you may already know about Belbin
  • the focus:
    should be crystal clear from the outset; encapsulate their goal in a simple, effective statement, e.g. a slogan ‘to move the needle’, or a target ‘to save £1m’
  • the wherewithal:
    in terms of resources (time, equipment, money etc) made available to them
  • the support:
    e.g. from their departments and senior management; are those outside the team prepared to act on the team’s recommendations?
  • the structure:
    the two main alternatives for team management structure are:
  1. externally controlled
    management can appoint a leader who serves as a ‘mole’ on the inside; can ensure discipline, and that the work is done the way management wants it; but key question: could it be sending the message that the team is not trusted?
  2. self-directed
    the team runs the show; key questions to address:
  • how will the work be split?
  • could be by function, i.e. the accountant crunches the numbers; but to develop people individually, best to rotate them across different responsibilities outside their field of expertise, e.g. the marketing person moves onto the accounts
  • how to ensure accountability?
    set up specific responsibilities, deadlines, behaviour ‘boundaries’ and penalties
  • how to lead?
    the team can appoint a facilitator, or rotate leadership to avoid power plays, some teams rotate leadership on a weekly, task, or even meeting basis; others opt to let team members lead work which falls naturally in their area of expertise, e.g. the marketer leads the marketing (see also ‘facilitating teams’)

The mechanics
While input from managers and outsiders may be welcome and even necessary at the design stage, once set up, there are 3 key procedures which the team ought to settle for itself:

1. behaviour/norms – the ground rules
what is the team’s ‘code of conduct’; if imposed from above, the team may round against them; but the risks of setting the code themselves include:

  • peer policing
    leading to suspicion and finger pointing between team members
  • laxness
    the code is ‘there is no code, because we’re all team mates together, and the boss isn’t around to check up on us’

2. decision-making
will it be by majority-voting, or consensus? Does the team leader have a casting vote or right of veto? Should the functional expert take the final decision on issues in their field of expertise?
Key problems to watch out for:

  • ‘decision drag’
    teams are rarely as decisive as the individual
  • ‘decision by committee’
    where the entire team takes even the most trivial decisions together: this eats time
  • ‘decision dilution’
    where a decision is couched in such broad terms as to allow many interpretations; when the time comes to act on the decision, each team member has a different perception of what was agreed
  • ‘decision-maker awe’
    where team members defer to the superiority and judgement of individuals in their area of expertise, so decisions go unchallenged
  • ‘group think’
    occurs when the desire for group consensus overrides people’s common sense desire to present alternatives

3. communication
How to keep each other informed? How often to meet? Which people to inform when? Which info to how?
Here, teams should beware:

  • ‘technology tag’
    wasting time bouncing faxes, e-mails and voice mail messages around the team; agree set times for conference calls
  • ‘meeting mania’
    going to the opposite extreme of endless meetings on issues which could be solved by a phone call; establish tight meeting management procedure (see also ‘managing meetings’)
  • ‘paper push’
    firing off multiple versions of multiple documents; establish the habit of marking documents with the date + version no. to keep track of updates

The fine-tuning
For the team: a self-evaluation prompter to assess how you work as a team. Rate your team’s performance from 1 to 4, where 1 is poor, 4 is excellent.  Then compare with other team members’ views to see if you’re in sync …sorry for layout WordPress can be unforgiving 

Area                              Assessment                                                                          Rating

focus                             clarity & understanding of team objectives             1 – 2 – 3 – 4
team’s ability to stick to the point/objective           1 – 2 – 3 – 4

communications      team meeting follow-up                                             1 – 2 – 3 – 4               frequency & quality of communication                                                             1 – 2 – 3 – 4

decision-making      effectiveness of team decision-making process    1 – 2 – 3 – 4

progress                      team’s adherence to deadlines                                    1 – 2 – 3 – 4      team’s efficiency                                                                1 – 2 – 3 – 4

my individual learning in the team to date               1 – 2 – 3 – 4

dynamics                     trust between team members                                     1 – 2 – 3 – 4

team members’ commitment to the team                 1 – 2 – 3 – 4

team’s handling of conflict                                             1 – 2 – 3 -4

effectiveness of team leadership                                   1 – 2 – 3 – 4

fairness of work distribution within the team            1 – 2 – 3 – 4

support                             extent of support from outside the team                1 – 2 – 3 – 4

 So what’s it to be – club, troop, group or team?

Are you any closer to knowing how many team members it takes to screw in a light bulb? …
Five – one to change the light bulb and the other four to a) report the action in the minutes, b) complete the risk report,  c) complete the Environmental Impact Statement and d) present the output to the main board.

Actually, it’s not that funny                                                                                                                    

Some reference; there are many on teams but start here:-

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