0 comments on “My interview with WYZE on “the state of digitalisation projects” (German/English)”

My interview with WYZE on “the state of digitalisation projects” (German/English)

WYZE Projects* recently conducted an interview with me to discuss my personal view on the current state of digitalisation projects. We talked about

  • The reason, why some digitalisation initiatives struggle to keep traction
  • The difference of digitalisation to classic business process initiatives
  • Where to find “digital leadership” within organisations

The interview was conducted in German. Click here for the German (native) and English (translation) version of the interview.


 

* WYZE is a consultancy for for particularly demanding and knowledge-intensive topics in the fields of transformation, change, positioning, and marketing. 

0 comments on “Lessons in training yourself to observe how other people feel”

Lessons in training yourself to observe how other people feel

As a coach my goal is to work not just for but with people. A genuine interest in the emotional state of others is an essential part of what I do. To sharpen my empathy radar and to improve my ability to observe how others feel in a particular situation, I’ve started my journey into mimic resonance training (in German Mimikresonanz).

Identifying an emotion in someone’s face should not be confused with mind reading, trickery or lie detection. The TV series “Lie to Me”, while highly entertaining to watch if you’ve started to train Facial Action Coding yourself, has undoubtedly contributed to some such confusion on the subject.

The deeper purpose of mimic resonance as a methodology for acting on empathy however, goes way beyond unveiling a lie.

Communication for the benefit of the relationship

In business – and undoubtedly in private lives – communication is too often a one way street, the sending of a message. But if the effectiveness of communication is your objective, simply “getting it out there” isn’t enough. How a message is perceived, what recipients have understood and how the words resonate with the audience are key to ensuring a communication goal is really achieved.

The ambition to formulate a message with little room for interpretation is certainly a good start.  Conveying a message face to face theoretically allows us to actually see how the content resonates with the other person.

In the age of digital communications, the face to face option is often missing, leaving our empathy radar more or less blind. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to develop a way to create feedback loops for the digital world – perhaps with emoticons.  But for the moment, this form of improving communication and ultimately relationships rests firmly on the premise that we do not replace personal interactions completely with digital ones but rather the two complement each other.

Sharpening the radar for visual feedback, before taking action

I’m thoroughly convinced that it’s essential to remove guessing games from interpersonal communication and to do whatever we can to sharpen our observations of non verbal feedback in any face to face situation.

Mimic is built into us as humans. It’s there from birth and it is scientifically proven that expressions in our mimic are universal across all cultures. It’s a truly reliable indicator for our emotional state as human beings.

But the real challenge is in learning to resonate on what you observe in someones mimic. As opposed to the “mind reading” (I know what you’re thinking) angle, observing a particular mimic, identifying it, and matching it to the respective emotion is essential.  But questioning that emotion, its origin and cause is paramount to real understanding. Any sort of unfounded interpretation can easily lead you down the wrong path.

Remove obstacles in times of change

The training I’ve started will improve my ability to observe what’s happening right before my eyes and how to react to it. My goal is to sharpen my sense of people’s emotions and my skills to find the right words for the situation at hand.

  • Equipped with that, I will be even better positioned to help companies answer key questions in change and digital transformation scenarios:
  • Have people understood the WHY to our journey ahead?
  • How do people feel about the changes affecting themselves and their teams?
  • Are our teams confident and committed to their role in the process?
  • Is our leadership model authentic and does it resonate with the organisation?
  • Will our work deliver value for the people, employees and customers alike?
0 comments on “Have we forgotten about middle management?”

Have we forgotten about middle management?

While working on a series of articles for a client (<— #braggingmoment), I’ve stumbled across an intriguing question: who’s actually in charge of keeping an eye on middle management and their needs and role in digital transformation?

Bam! You’re now a coach.

Flat hierarchies, agile teams and distributed accountability – the new world of organising information and knowledge work. Leadership doesn’t get tired of preaching a “new togetherness” and how the own network of expertise and experience will blow the competition out of the water. More and more employees ask for flexibility and freedom to do their job whenever, from wherever and with whatever – and that’s not exclusive to Digital Natives or Generation Z.

The middle (or operations) management, however, only finds itself in foot notes and at the bottom of a bullet point list. From there they learn that task based management is out of date and how too much control & conquer will suffocate creativity and corporate culture.

They find their new roles described as coaches and guides to their teams. Most of the time description ends on exactly that level, though. But what does it mean to be a coach? What will they be guiding people through and how will good guidance be determined?

Change management must not be exclusive to the employee level

To give change a positive and long lasting effect on corporate and collaboration culture, middle managers need help with their role transformation as well. It’s not fair to expect that they just adapt to a completely upside-down environment and adjust their style of working and managing based on gut feeling and best effort.

No matter how non-hierarchical or flat a company structure is, there will always be a certain group of people who are accountable for overseeing performance and results. Leadership cannot be at the stern and at the same time have an eye on every functional crew member of the ship. At least that’s my humble opinion, and I am aware that there are a lot of other voices out there.

Middle management has to be part of the active change management in an organisation –  in the role of recipient and as shapers.

  • Their WHY needs to be adjusted to the new system and provide them with motivation and means to transform their purpose
  • Their HOW might require a change of skills and perspective, when it comes to rather leading than managing people and objectives – even if they are very operational
  • Their WHAT will probably be determined in a more dialogue fashion – with both, leadership and employees

Additional thoughts on this, anyone?


*** Promotion ***

Interested in my checklist for change? Check out my recent blog post or go directly to the Digital Sherpa checklist here


0 comments on “My checklist to determine the foundation for change in digitalisation initiatives”

My checklist to determine the foundation for change in digitalisation initiatives

The inspiration for this blog post comes from “Hidden Brain“, an NPR podcast series. One of the latest episodes in the You 2.0 series, Check Yourself, is about the history and the impact of using of checklists in aviation and surgery.

While listening to the podcast, I realised a similar pattern of “we know what we’re doing and we are in-line with everyone involved” attitude in a lot of people I’ve worked with in the past. This attitude, however, is not rooted in arrogance or ignorance, but in the confidence in professionalism, dedication and motivation of the surrounding system.

I believe, that – like in aviation and surgery – it could be beneficial to ask some fundamental questions before embarking on the journey of a digitalisation project or program. At least it’s my experience that in a lot of cases, the ticks in the boxes were what was missing in the foundation for joint success. Too many initiatives lack stability or credibility simply because of a lack of alignment and transparency.

Just recently I’ve added a little “Digital Sherpa in a Nutshell” section to my website. Based on the four key dimensions of my work as a coach, I’ve created a little checklist, that I’d like to share with anyone interested out there.

The_Sherpa's_Checklist
(click to see larger version)

Download the checklist in PDF format here

0 comments on “How “corporate personality” might influence the effectiveness of motivation…”

How “corporate personality” might influence the effectiveness of motivation…

Today I might have found the answer to why motivation away from something (e.g.  a concrete constraint) seems to work better than the motivation towards something (e.g. a vision or new idea)…

I’ve recently decided to get certified as a trainer for mimic resonance (English introduction to the concept on the MDI training website) and attend a course at the Eilert Academy. As part of my studies, I came across some findings on motivation in the context of  personality types.

The section in Dirk’s book immediately reminded me of an idea, that I wrote about in my 2012 article on motivation.

Change and Motivation
(A pretty old sketch I created to illustrate the idea)

What I never had really figured out, was the root cause for why one seems to be more effective than the other. Now: in his book, Dirk uses a model to describe certain personality types in the context of the attempt to decipher mimics:

Personality Types
(based on Dirk W. Eilert “Mimikresonanz”, p. 122 + 129)

Comment: My reference to the conditioning of people as preservers or thinkers is based on my experience how people act at the work place. It’s not a generalisation in terms of personality types and of course influenced by the cultural environments I’ve worked in.

Later on, Dirk then elaborates on “motivational direction” (Orig. “Motivationsausrichtung”) of the four personality types:

  • Entertainers & Doers are primarily motivated TOWARDS something.
  • Preservers & Thinkers are primarily motivated AWAY from something.

(Translated from source: Dirk W. Eilert, “Mimikresonanz”, p. 154)

That’s when it clicked for me…

My experience with the effectiveness of motivation and leadership might be rooted in the personality structure of most organisations.

Today’s hierarchies and operational structures have prevented the development of Entertainers (yes, we need those!) and Doers (no, we don’t have enough of them). Too many people are pushed into Preserver and Thinker roles and act accordingly.

That’s why motivation for change and progress has to point in the right direction to take effect: AWAY from challenges, hurdles, constraints and disfunction. Vision statements, promises of a bright future and the outline of “new ways of working” simply don’t resonate with the target group. At least not yet…

Do you share this finding?

0 comments on “Why “agile” doesn’t mean to wittingly cut corners… (Guest article for Simply Communicate, London)”

Why “agile” doesn’t mean to wittingly cut corners… (Guest article for Simply Communicate, London)

I’ve worked in and for big organisations and I’ve witnessed the attempt to introduce less hierarchical and more “agile” organisations and ways of working. While it had worked in some places and projects, in a lot of instances the approach left me with the impression that the concept of agile (proudly stolen from software development) had been interpreted slightly wrong.

As a guest author for Smile Communications (London) I’ve collected my thoughts in a short blog article:

With less hierarchy and governance, companies want to become more agile. The goal is to tear down internal borders, encourage collaboration and be one step ahead of market and competition. Modern digital work tools are supposed to support and nurture this borderless way of working and thinking.

Start-ups get all of this engrained in their DNA from the beginning. Existing businesses have to reverse engineer the process and re-invent themselves. In this, the idea of “agile” often gets misinterpreted and people are left without framework, ground rules and the True North for wherever they are heading.

In this article I want to share my experience from my work in the triangle of leadership, organisational development and technology. (…)

Read more at: https://simply-communicate.com/misinterpretation-agile-modern-leadership/


Come & Join me at Smile Expo in May 2018

I will be on stage at Smile Expo, London, on May 21st. There I will talk about…

Successful organisational change in a digital workplace experiment

What happens, if you really question the norm? What happens if you set a few ground rules for internal digitalisation that require leadership, a non-hierarchical organisation and cloud technology to meet somewhere in the middle? What happens if you dare to adopt evergreen technology at full scale in a highly compliance driven environment?

You definitely get a case study that’s exciting to talk about, no matter what…

0 comments on “Some thoughts on dialogue in the context of leading change in digital transformation”

Some thoughts on dialogue in the context of leading change in digital transformation

Summary: Dialogue and exchange are very common catch phrases used in today’s world of change and digital transformation. With the raise of social technologies in intra-company communications, dialogue and exchange became key drivers and motivators for introducing and motivating adoption of those new opportunities. Looking back on my years in the field I am frequently asking myself: What has to fundamentally change to really accelerate the impact and effectiveness of the new digital opportunities? This short essay contains my thoughts concerning the subject and was triggered by one of the latest TED Radio Hour episodes.

Disclaimer: As mentioned in my section on “Sources of Inspiration”, I get a lot of food for thought from the TED Radio Hour (by npr.org). Listening to one of the most recent shows on “Dialogue & Exchange“, two segments got my thoughts spinning. I need to mention, that what was triggered in my head does not match the actual context of the talks’s content. It’s more an “abstraction” of the two angles on dialogue & exchange.

TAKE 1: Moral Reframing. Manipulating the other side by using a resonating baseline of moral values to win an argument.

In his segment of the TED Radio Hour, Robb Willer and Guy Raz talk about the political divide in the US. Robb introduces the results of a study, in which democrats, republicans & liberals were surveyed on their position towards environmental protection after reading one of three essays. One essay was emphasising the moral values of republicans, one the ones of democrats, one was neutral and simply arguing the case. Republican & democrat participants were leaning towards supporting pro-protection arguments, if delivered in the moral value framing closest to their political position. Liberals would support the subject no matter what.

The study was proof for the method of “Moral Reframing”, in which the other side is persuaded to follow a particular argument, by delivering it through a morally resonating message. I believe, you can safely call that “manipulation”.

What my brain made of this…

Quite a while ago I realised that the saying

Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.

by Confucius is slightly misleading. It implies that we all live by comparable values, standards, preferences and ideals. I believe we can all agree, that that’s not really the case. At least I can name you a list of things – business and private – that I don’t want experience, while others would sincerely indulge in them.

Nevertheless, in a lot of change initiatives, the believes of either thought leaders, executives or advisors (or a combination of all three) are used as the driving arguments for change. Based on those believes new strategies are proclaimed, operating models established and IT tools get introduced. In only a very few of those initiatives the drivers really come from the base and represent the broad perspective on challenges, opportunities and options for a way forward. This is exactly the moment, where the arguments fall short and the need for change is only put out there but does not resonate with its audience.

What if we first listened to the ones that have to adopt change and that need to be taken on the journey towards the future? What if we decided to really seek to understand the fundamentals that move the people that we need by our side to really make a change? What if we used the learning from that process and modified the arguments in a “morally reframed way” to persuade people based on their values to come on board and take an active role?

I can hear the shouts of “that’s manipulation!”. But what, if you also apply another Stephen R. Covey habit of “thinking WIN/WIN“? Then the “manipulation” is not harmful but essentially in the best interest of everyone and a good way of getting a larger adoption of behaviour that is required to really make a change.

What if…?

TAKE 2: New challenges for diplomacy + The ability to have a dialogue without trying to convince the other side

Jonas Gahr Støre is the former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Norway. In his TED Talk he is picking up on the raise of intra-country conflicts and the roles of diplomats in a very difficult environment of extremism.  One piece of his talk that triggered a particular thought process in my mind was this chart (screenshot taken from a still of the video on npr.org):

ted_screen

Besides the fact that this is a massive challenge for diplomats that are trained to solve INTER-conuntry dispute, I suddenly asked myself: might it be the case that corporate leaders and managers are facing a slightly similar issue?

Looking back at my time in larger (and some small) corporations (as an employee at them or a consultant to them) I remember the phrase

“We are dealing too much with ourselves and not enough with the market, our audience or the competition.”

really well. Firstly this means that too many capacities are bound by internal ineffectiveness (not to be muddled up with inefficiencies!). Companies are not applying the right people or skill to solve INTERNAL problems, so things tend to drag on forever. They might be throwing some weight at the problems, but it’s not the right weight. I’ve learned about this angle in a talk from Dr. Gerhard Wohland when he said (something in the direction of):

Whenever a surprise hits, companies tend to ask the wrong question. They usually what to know “what are we going to do now?”. That’s the wrong question. If you knew your options, the situation wouldn’t be a surprise. What you need to ask yourself is “who is the right person in our company to deal with this and find out what to do?”.

Secondly, the majority of people hired for a job (if not hired for an HR role) are trained (and framed) to deal with OUTSIDE facing topics. They are (if hired well) diplomats to deal with EXTERNAL challenges on the client, partner or industry side. They have not come on board as diplomats and problem solvers for the INTERNAL conflict – even though that solving those would automatically lead to improved business success…I dare to quote Richard Branson in this context:

Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.

Those two thoughts lead to two questions, that might be a starting point to resolving the INTRA-company challenges.:

  1. Are the right people dealing with our internal challenges? (instead of: are we doing the right thing?)
  2. How do we attract the right people that we need to deal with our internal challenges? (and most likely this will not be the next VP with an impressive commercial track record…)

Listening without the goal of convincing.

Another part of Jonas Gahr Støre’s talk referred to the ability to

Distinguish talking from making decisions.

What resonated with me here is the fact, that too many intra-corporate conversations don’t have the objective to understand. The dialogue is either “fake” (aka the feedback doesn’t really weigh as much as the initial statement) or the only aim of dialogue is to find the right angle to convince people of something else.

I am sure, we all have been in a situation where we’ve been invited to a “constructive conversation”, which turned out to be an environment in which – after having voiced the own perspective – the only objective was the attempt to convince us.

You’ve been there, right?

Now there is a difference between my TAKE 1 on “moral reframing” in this essay and the lack of dialogue I am referring to here. Because the sort of dialogue I am promoting in my TAKE 2 is a necessary foundation for being able to find resonating arguments. It can only derive from the will to walk into a conversation with the sole objective to understand, not to immediately respond and convince. For this methods like “active listening”, in which a listener repeats the perceived message in own words to then see if the sent and the perceived meaning actually match, can be very helpful.

If the objective of a conversation is a real understanding of all parties at the table, there is no need for neutrality or consensus to maintain a good conversational climate. It would be baked in by the fact that real interest into the other’s point of view is the driver of the talk, instead of the “polite waiting period before I blurt out what all the others have to believe anyway.”

My Essence: Effective change requires a foundation derived from a real dialogue.

Let’s not take the detour over “Starting with Why?” (Simon Sinek) again 😉

Let’s take it as a given and agree, that the purpose for change, for the introduction of new ways of working and the move towards a connected organisation has to start with a real dialogue.

Before companies whip out their value propositions and try to encourage behavioural change, they might want to get a deep understanding of the values and drivers of the people the change will affect. This will help us to work with resonating value propositions, which in itself are much stronger in their effect.

Let’s seek a dialogue that has the objective to understand, not to convince or manipulate.

If we want to proclaim the power of the crowd, holocracy and flat (or no) hierarchies, let’s find the real motivators to do so. Because a stock price, competitive advantage or a steep increase in bonuses won’t be it. That much we should really know already…

Let’s introduce a new breed of (non-HR) managers: diplomats for internal affairs.

4 comments on “If you need a Chief Digital Officer, you’re probably doomed…”

If you need a Chief Digital Officer, you’re probably doomed…

Summary: I’ve deliberately chosen the title to be a little *smile provocative. Of course I don’t mean it literally but where’s smoke there’s fire. So this article is about my very personal angle on the role of a CDO…more or less.

Maybe I need to say that McKinsey Quarterly isn’t my only inspirational source. However, I’ve learnt to appreciate their triggers to summarise some of my experience and complement it with their almost academical angle on my little digital world.

Unfortunately we have to make you our Chief Digital Officer

One of my colleagues at Infocentric just recently forwarded me a McKinsey article on “Transformer in chief: The new chief digital officer”. Reading the article I actually reflected a little on my perception of organisations that decided to install a CDO as part of their Digital Transformation strategy.

Let me make a brutal statement: Digital, Social, Transformation, Web… whatever Officer. Whoever decided to invent those titles gave in to two things:

  • Our DNA is not able to embrace the digitalising world and we need someone with an (compared to us) attitude and unorthodox behaviour
  • Our Shareholders need to believe that we do something about the danger of disruption – we need a change on board level without changing anything

Again, provocative…maybe it’s the core of my article and therefore its real purpose: I want to provoke!

McKinsey put’s the famous quote

If you digitalise a shit process, you end up with a shit digital process

(Thorsten Dirks, CEO Telefonica Germany)

into a different frame: “(…) Many companies are focused on developing a digital strategy when they should instead focus on integrating digital into all aspects of the business, from channels and processes and data to the operating model, incentives, and culture. (…)” (Source: “Transformer in chief: The new chief digital officer”, McKinsey, September 2015).

Digital Transformation means to embrace digital in all its, sometimes even disruptive opportunities. Disruption is nothing but the merciless elimination of something that was pushed into “outdated” by a new eco system anyway. Sometimes it happens to entire business models. Sometimes “only” an IT, communications or customer interaction strategy will be affected by it.

If you need some bearded guy with thick rimmed glasses that wears suit and trainers to tell you that you need to address the new requirements to your business model or strategy, you might have not done your home work…per se. Like in: the people that are in charge have somewhat left touch with the outside world and how things are moving forward. That’s a pretty rough sign in general.

Learn to fail

Looking at my past years in Digital Transformation I can say with confidence that very rarely companies allow themselves to really (really!) learn from mistakes. Try, fail, try again, fail harder and then succeed, however, is something that some companies have used to re-invent entire industries. We know them as the “new economy”. And the old economy is traveling to them from all over the world to learn on how to do things differently.

Now, for doing things differently a lot of paradigms and “measures of success” have to change in the first place. “Doing things right the first time” is something that companies should strive for…when it’s about the core of their business logic. When it comes to change, transformation and evolution, well, you might need a couple of iterations. No matter if you’ve been in charge of process design for 34 years, if you hold three PhDs in science or if you have been a sales over performer in three consecutive years. Sometimes you just don’t know straight away.

The way out: “Leading” a learning culture

I suggest that leaders and top managers start to use the phrase “I don’t know, I need to find someone who does.” more often. Because in an organisation with more than 50 people it’s pretty likely that there is someone who at least knows someone how knows. If you run a multi divisional, multi regional company…well, you do the math.

If leaders allow for bottom up change (not only preaching it, but actually nurturing it) then the phrase “I don’t know” can be magical. Suddenly you get the bits and pieces of your own DNA that could be the starting point of your change if you let it. Sometimes this is called “incubation”…but even that is more of a fig leave in too many cases.

For me “I don’t know” stands hand in hand with one of Franklin Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people:

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.

It does not stand for weakness, disinterest or lack of competence. It’s merely the acknowledgement that real organisational power is built from a combination of many perspectives on the same subject. Like with a tribe…

Advisors are a sign that you actually care to learn

Alright, this might sound a little like a sales pitch for my profession. Nevertheless, if I look at people that have told me: “I didn’t know, so I brought someone to our conversation that actually does know”, I immediately developed a lot of respect for them. And I am not talking about external advisors anyway. Imagine if board & strategy meetings would (at least partly) be open for the digital or digitally savvy portion of the company. If the own digital DNA (no matter how small in numbers or young in age) would complement the decades of business and industry experience to take the next leap. Complement, not replace or push out or compete with.

I have seen companies like Swisscom go on stage in a combination of HR leadership, experienced digital transformers and  trainees. They showed how they, united as a team, take a stand for the transformation of organisation and business model. It was impressive and motivating at the same time.

I strongly believe that the winners of today’s competition for digital dominance will be the companies that don’t extend the board but transform the board.

You don’t need a CDO. You need a “C-Suite that is infected by and passionate about digital“.

0 comments on “Driving #ChangeManagement; thoughts on #McKinsey #change platform article http://goo.gl/2UbUaL #socbiz #e20 #enterprise20”

Driving #ChangeManagement; thoughts on #McKinsey #change platform article http://goo.gl/2UbUaL #socbiz #e20 #enterprise20

With a lot of interest I’ve read Gary Hamel’s and Michele Zanini’s article on change published on McKinsey.com in October 2015 (http://goo.gl/2UbUaL). As part of their recommendation to establish a change platform instead of a change program they suggest to replace the old paradigms of change

  • Change starts at the top
  • Change is rolled out
  • Change is engineered

with a more state of the art framework:

  • From top-down to activist-out
  • From managed to organic

Part of this framework is a platform inspired (not copied from, I like that!) by social media technology. They don’t put the technology in the front row. They advise a change of mind on the executive floor. From change agent in chief to change enabler in chief. This new role is supposed to create the right environment and provide the right coaching for the organisation to speak up.

No matter how much I like the idea and no matter how much I would like to see large organisations change organically, the past years have made me re-think my belief that change can be solely driven from within. I’ve been an active part of change – in various roles – and I’ve worked and am still working with (in some cases pretty large) companies that want to drive change. From within.

I would like to share two perspectives that I would like to see as an addition to the article mentioned above:


#1 the biggest hurdle sits in the middle

Companies have managed to design a way of steering themselves that works on multiple levels of abstraction. The higher managers sit in the food chain the more abstract they look onto their share of responsibility. They way they are managed and measured is sometime even more disconnected from reality than the objectives set of the c-suite. They are the ones that always have to deliver the impossible.

Now change is nurtured and coached from above and activists are encourage to apply disruptive and innovative thinking. Everyone is allowed to work out loud and to form alliances for the greater good.

I would like to recommend that someone comes up with the model for “middle management change”. How can we turn them into activists? How do we enable them to not just rely on dashboards, punctual human interaction and brushed up reports? How to we turn them into coaches, guides, enablers, network facilitators and talent spotters?

I believe that without them in the front row change from inside-out will end up in the same spot as from top-down: a cul-de-sac.


#2 the right environment comes with the right set of KPI

Let’s not kid ourselves. We are talking about companies – in a lot of instances we are talking about public ones. As long as the executive floor and their direct lines do not turn organisations in collaboratively driven powerhouses nothing will change. As long as goals can be achieved individually (aka: alone), something’s wrong. Swarm intelligence in a company has to be nurtured and motivated…and evaluated and measured.

“What is the project of your community?”

This was one of my favourite statements at the 2014 Social Business Collaboration Conference in Berlin. It stands for something that has been seen separately over the past years: collective exchange and concrete measures and objectives.

I truly believe that our communities need projects. No matter if we call them change, innovation, research, development or thought leadership communities. They need a project because they happen in companies and they have to deliver their share of the deal.


This might sound all very harsh and black and white but I am intentionally trying to provoke here.

I am an evangelist for the future of information work. I am am fighter for the social media inspired workspace. I am an encourager of cross-functional and cross-border thinking and work. However, I don’t think that we will be able to do all this without the right measures and frameworks in place. Just unleashing the activists in an environment of freedom and thought leadership is not enough.

0 comments on “Implementing #Change in the Context of the #DigitalWorkplace… Thoughts on #Drivers & #SuccessFactors; #socbiz #enterprise20”

Implementing #Change in the Context of the #DigitalWorkplace… Thoughts on #Drivers & #SuccessFactors; #socbiz #enterprise20

Thanks to being swamped with active involvement with my favorite subject I have again fallen silent on my sharing channel. For the ones who care: I am sorry. I makes me feel bad on the one hand. On the other hand I believe it’s the only way to come up with new and valuable content anyway.

Now…

Even though I have written about the subject on one of the other occasion the frequency in which questions on change and implementing new directions in information work has increased. The awareness for factors beyond design, technology and ambitious thinking seems to be stronger than ever. After digesting my past year’s experience and after resonating on successful and not so successful cases I decided to share the essence of my thoughts here as well.

I want to look at the subject from two essential angles. When I say essential I actually mean it. They are both (together) neuralgic point in organisational change and in particular when it comes to meddling with the way that intellectual asset is being dealt with in the future.

Angle 1: Motivation and Commitment

I’ve elaborated on the subject of motivation before. Nevertheless I feel the need to emphasise the strength of “moving away from challenges” again. On a few occasions I have been confronted with teams that had decided to motivate functional areas as well as executives with the glance on a bright and beautiful future. Everything at hand. Everything tailored. Everything social. What a great world.

A vision.

If you have visions, go and see a doctor.

(Helmut Schmidt, Former German Chancellor)

What people couldn’t see in the vision was the impact on the current way of working and what it means for each individual in terms of commitment and responsibility to build the foundation for that vision. Dull and cumbersome projects such as information architecture, taxonomies, document management systems and life cycle concepts would be what the core teams would be confronted with pretty soon.

If you’re lacking motivation to actually go through that pain it’s only natural that initiatives slow down or are dead in the water almost from the start.

I every single case where future stakeholders across all hierarchical levels and functions were able to “dump” their pain points on the table things were different. Pain points. Not the wish list. Not early Christmas. The stuff that’s driving people nuts and the things that make life more difficult than necessary – for everyone involved.

What is preventing you from being excellent? What is keeping you from performing beyond expectations?

Answering that and prioritizing the impact of challenges on business results and employee satisfaction became a strong foundation for planning and release management in all projects. It was the anchor for the project to argue need & value. It was the best way to surface, which concrete (measurable) benefits would be created from investing in new ways of working and the efforts for changing established behaviour. It was much stronger than any vision and outlook that the team could provide based on analyst reports and industry benchmarking.

Just one comment: if you decide to go down that route you should take into account that it means transparency for progress. As soon as you’ve named the priorities and challenges that will be addressed in the early phases on the Digital Workplace evolution and nothing changes…it’s visible. Very, very visible. Because you have created a concrete reference point for change.

Angle 2: Executive Buy-In.

No. I won’t be repeating the change management mantras. I won’t be preaching the 8 steps of Kottler’s approach to organisational change. You’ve heard all that often enough. However, let me tell you what I have learned about executive buy-in.

You DON’T have buy in of your executives if they have…

  • singed off on the vision that was built on the big three’s forecast for the future without explicitly matching it to the business and organisational challenges at hand…themselves!
  • not explicitly decided to disregard divisional business results as a source for power and independency and support a global approach across whatever kind organisational silos there might exist.
  • not changed the objectives of their next reporting line to resonate on the organisational support that your initiative will need (aka you have the executive buy-in…and only theirs).
  • attended one workshop and delegate their involvement in the next steps to someone else.

I could go on and on. As a matter of fact your initiative won’t be going anywhere if your executives including the ones in charge of the core business operations haven’t formed the winning coalition and have actively worked on determining the “what” and “why” themselves. Like in: spent more than 2 hours in one room including active work, idea gathering and experience sharing.

Oh, and you don’t have the buy in of your executives if they do not listen to the operational level and nurture honest and candid conversation on what’s going wrong. Listen like in: attending workshops, tie off, hands-on writing cards and working on concrete (!) solutions.

Actually: if you have established a well-oiled lean management machine, chances are that your cultural foundation for changing the fundament of information and knowledge work might be quite right.

One last wake up call. If your initiative isn’t connected to business KPI that actually stand for management attention you might be dead in the water as well. Because you will lack the argument to maintain your budget in hard times. If you cannot prove that you are actually changing things for the better you are the first ones walking the line. And hard times are waiting ahead…no matter what the economical trends might be.

Essence of my experience

If you have the first angle on change management in shape chances are that you’re good to go to tackle the 2nd one as well. Because moving away from concrete challenges towards a better enablement of people and work excellence will deliver a lot of attention higher up.

Give your stakeholders all the good reasons to stick with you. Because you will make their life easier. At hands-on work and in the monthly Excel reports 😉