Thursday, March 27, 2008

Change Management 11: Certain Misery or the Misery of Uncertainty

Change Management 11: Certain Misery or the Misery of Uncertainty

Small changes can lead to big changes. We don’t need a treatise on Chaos Theory to observe that changing systems are nonlinear. Each variable in the change environment exponentially affects the outcome. For example, a simple three-variable closed environment will yield 6 permutations, while 6 variables will yield 720 possible outcomes. In this field, sometimes it’s best not to count past three! It’s this unwieldy number of possible outcomes that leads us to the creative insight. The former Soviet Union went to great lengths to control this type of creative insight by controlling variables. Control was their thing, after all, and they suffocated from lack of creative adaptation to change. Today, countries and companies go to great lengths to foster the creativity inherent in change.

Embracing creativity is essentially the only way a business can adapt to the constantly changing business environment. Unfortunately, in the face of organizational change, many individuals, departments and corporate cultures still retreat into the unhealthy and limiting defense mechanism of over-control, even when it stifles the very process of creative adaptation. As a successful leader in change, you must be comfortable with a multitude of unknown variables and outcomes. If you are not, then you risk the misery of controlling an ever-increasing number of possible outcomes. Remember, only 6 variables produce 720 possible outcomes. This is a lot of plates to keep spinning-not to mention the no-confidence vote you’re giving your creative problem solvers. Creative team members just don’t react all that well to manipulation and stifling over-control.

The very first exercise the leader must undertake is a thorough inventory of his or her fears. Look at the worst case scenarios first. Once you have a good long list, brainstorm them with the team. If worst case scenario number one occurs, what are the creative recourses? If you let your team run free with ideas for an hour or so, you might be surprised at the far-reaching and pleasantly unexpected results. What you are doing here is fear (negative outcome) control. If you’re going to lead through a period of change, you must know thyself, and particularly your fears.

Predictability and ambiguity are two dynamic forces working in constant opposition. In an active change situation, predictability tends to contract while ambiguity expands. In dynamic situations, leaders can become fearful of an explosion of ambiguity (too many options). In attempting to control this, they inadvertently implode due to the repression of creativity (à la the Former Soviet Union). In the heat of battle it’s easy to forget that it's always much easier to tone down a overly creatively solution than to spruce up a dull one (known as the lipstick on a pig solution).

It’s not part of our macho, action hero culture to admit to fear and possible negative outcomes, but this is what must be done. Get the team together and get those fears on the flip chart and allow the creativity to flow. This exercise is an exceptionally powerful way to unify the team. What usually happens is that many of these fears are unfounded or easily solved by the collective open creativity of the team.

Ian Glickman, Ph.D.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Leadership 5: Theory X, Theory Y

Leadership 5

"Know thyself" - Plato

According to an American Society for Training and Development study, job knowledge is the only thing that ranks higher than communication in determining good leadership. One of the most important ways a leader communicates to his or her group is by example and attitude, and attitude usually determines behavior.

What’s your general attitude toward your colleagues? Are you a Theory X leader or a Theory Y leader? Theory X and Theory Y are well-researched leadership principles. In a nutshell, Theory X states that people inherently dislike their jobs, see them as a necessary evil, are unmotivated, and must be externally controlled throughout the day by coercion, direction, or threat of punishment. Theory Y, on the other hand, states that work is natural and allows one to express oneself physically and creatively (i.e., work is ego-satisfying). Most managers have a mindset combining both of these theories, but, without a sophisticated psychological instrument, it might be difficult to determine the proportions of each. When motivating subordinates and leading by example, however, some degree of introspection and self-evaluation is helpful if we want to work smarter and more efficiently. Evaluation can get tricky because you can have a Theory Y person trapped in the body of a Theory X company. This is known as the “press of corporate culture” (which opens up the corporate culture can of worms-more on that in another post).

Let's try to evaluate our attitudes regarding Theory X and Theory Y management style:
1. In your leadership role, do you feel more like a policeman or a teacher?
2. Do you find some degree of meaning and value in your work? If yes, how much?
3. Do you think your team members or employees find meaning in their work? If so, how much?

Scenario One: You feel that you are more of a teacher/mentor who works with intrinsically motivated people who find value and meaning in their jobs.

Scenario Two: You’re stuck in a meaningless job with little value and act like a policeman all day to a bunch of Theory X employees. ("I’m telling ya doc, it’s them, not me!")

It’s okay if you responded that you feel like a cop in a valueless job, which, now that you mention it, is rather meaningless. It’s okay because you know where you stand. And knowledge is a good thing. However, if this is the case and you're not just experiencing a temporary bout of clinical depression, you're going to come off as quite INCONGRUENT, even hypocritical, when you give your next pep talk or motivational speech. Incongruence is the opposite of genuine. You will, of course, still be leading by example, but I fear it may not be the example you wish to set. Genuineness is a good thing; incongruence is not a good thing. You don’t want your employees saying, "That manager is like, soooo totally incongruent!" Though incongruent is the technical term, I’ve heard the condition stated in much more colorful language.

Now the goal of the game is to try to move your peg from Scenario Two to Scenario One. The reason behind this, in case several haven’t already flooded your neural pathways, is that the research is abundantly clear that Scenario One is...well, just better, as confirmed by a long list of payoffs such as health, happiness, progress, and success.

Step 1: Try (very hard if you have to) to find one little, perhaps even minuscule, sense of meaning or fulfillment in some aspect of your work. Most jobs are multifaceted, so it might not be so difficult to locate one or two meaningful aspects. Write down, in concrete terms, what it is exactly that makes this facet meaningful.

Step 2: Observe (or shall I say, actively look for) some sense of creative motivation in your team member. Catch them doing something good and tell them you noticed it, as this is excellent feedback and positive reinforcement. Don’t make the same mistake I have made on several occasions of thinking that a person can’t possibly find meaning in their particular job. I have been surprised-make that astounded-to find out how much meaning and value the person sitting across from me placed on their work.

Perceptions and changes my be small at first, but bit by bit, you’ll be progressing in the right direction. More importantly, you’ll be leading by a more genuine example. Way to go, dude!


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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Change Management 3: The Change Facilitator Leader

Organizational Change Management
“There are three types of people in this world, those who can count and those who cannot.”
If you’re in management long enough, you will eventually experience a significant change in your company. This is usually followed by an intense and often quite justified sense of betrayal by those most affected.
You may overhear the employees bemoan, “I can’t believe they’re doing this to us!” This is the time the leader has to become more than just the one giving orders. If this is your situation, you have to become a CFL (Change Facilitator Leader). Just having this attitude alone will give you a leg up on the other managers.
Naturally, you will want to pay special attention to the groups most affected by the change. Though that may seem obvious, it’s amazing how little it is done. Attention can be in the form of focus groups, brainstorming, or process sessions. Depending on the nature of the change, this could take several meetings. Do not underestimate the importance of these meetings, for several reasons: First, it allows the individual members of the group to feel less isolated. Second, you’ll be able to clarify exactly what the change is, who will be affected, and how the change will affect them, thus removing the negative influences of the rumor mill (which, as you probably know, will have filled in the details that you have not yet addressed). Finally, and most importantly, it will allow you to assess the individuals of your group in terms of Fast Movers, Slow Movers and No Movers. As the names suggest, the Fast Movers are already starting to come around, strategize, plan, and act. The Slow Movers are beginning to mobilize, or at least have come up with good questions and legitimate concerns to discuss. The No Movers are-well, not moving.
Step one: Forget about the Slow Movers and No Movers, at least initially. Your biggest priority is to focus on the Fast Movers. Get them on board ASAP by including them in the change process at all levels. Include them in meetings, delegate leadership roles to them, give them as much responsibility as they can handle, and have them report to you individually (or better, in teams) as much as is reasonable.
Step two: Now start converting the Slow Movers, either individually or in groups, playing subordinate roles to the key Fast Movers. This slow, methodical conversion is crucially important. In both physical systems (phase transitions) and social systems (tipping points), once a critical mass is reached, the whole system converts. For example, in physical systems, when one percent of normal disorderly light waves become orderly, this one percent converts the whole light system into a laser beam. This is you want from your group, isn’t it? A conversion from disorder to laser-like orderliness.
The quicker you get the Fast Movers off the dime, the sooner the whole process will become positively directed. Don’t make the rookie mistake of spending all your time dealing with the No Movers. That’s like explaining to the caboose where the train should go. Go directly to the engine, the Fast Movers. You will have facilitated and structured the change instead of ordering it; thus, you will gain more buy-in from everyone affected. The No Movers will eventually realize that, as they say in Texas, “It’s easier to ride a horse if you’re facing the direction the horse is moving in.”


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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Leadership 1: Who Values Group Values?

The days of the dominating, stand-alone charismatic leader are long gone. Given that today’s projects are often costly and complex, and that group members are talented, specialized, and expensive, the charismatic leader model is something to be avoided—it’s the business equivalent of putting all your eggs in one basket. A preferred technique is Facilitative Leadership, which has been shown to be the most effective manner in developing a loyal followership. Remember, one cannot lead without followers.

In today’s complex business climate, the successful leader cannot afford to be ignorant of the goals, objectives, and values of his or her team members. An old saying applies here: “You have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk.” This should be the marching order for any successful leader, whether it’s a leader of an informal group of three or of a multinational corporation. The facilitative process involves active listening and constant creative questioning.

As a leader begins to understand the group’s values more clearly, he or she can facilitate leadership more easily by using the group’s own momentum. This allows the group members to discover how their personal aspirations, professional goals, values, and objectives fit the goals and tasks of the whole group. Workers tend to be more passionate about and committed to an idea that they have developed themselves, rather than to one that has been passed down as an order. The leader’s job is to facilitate this congruence.

Bernard Bass, an innovative business psychology professor, has demonstrated that facilitative leaders are more successful than conventional leaders in a variety of groups and venues, ranging from nuns managing convents to Fortune 500 leaders. In all likelihood, this approach will work in your setting too.

An old Indian proverb illustrates this concept: “ The creator, like a spider, builds her world then enters into it.”Ian

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