Category Archives: Communication
RULE IV: Innovation requires a good idea, initiative and a few friends.
In my last post on Change Ninjas we talked about the benefit of blending in to the organization and timing your advocacy of change. However, you can’t do it alone.
I recently worked with an organization that wanted to see a significant culture change but didn’t have full time resources to dedicate to it. One person was clearly interested in being a ‘ninja’ and knew that they couldn’t do it alone…so where could they find partners?
Just like the historic ninjas, this Change Ninja quickly formed a “dojo” of allies from several areas of the organization and the team began to sketch out the future state of the change and the steps needed to get there. When choosing ‘dojo members’, they followed Shepard’s advice:
“Like the change agent, partners must be relatively autonomous people. Persons who are authority-oriented—who need to rebel or to submit—are not reliable partners; the rebels take the wrong risks and the good soldiers don’t take any.”
If you’re trying to inspire change, find people who are like minded (regardless of where they are in the organization), get them together, and get to work!
Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dojo.png
There are people around you who are perfectly comfortable the way things are. But, you know things need to change – because of opportunities or threats that most people haven’t seen yet. So how do you help people who are comfortable move to a new, better place?
The late Dr. Michael Hammer was a gifted teacher and I once heard him discuss “Everything I Needed to Know About Transition I Learned in the Bible.” His premise: How do you make people see a need for change when things are good?
Show them how things can go bad.
The Hebrew people were in slavery to the Egyptians. They had to make mud bricks all day and build these huge pyramids in the baking sun. No fun. The relative safety and abundant food made them satisfied and when Moses arrived on the scene announcing it was time to move to a great new place (the ‘Promised Land’) he didn’t get much buy in.
Sound like any change you’ve been involved in?
So, how were the Hebrews convinced to leave this difficult yet comfortable place? Moses combined a burning platform (“Pharaoh is chasing us!”) and a motivating vision (“A land flowing with milk and honey!”)
After escaping Pharaoh, Moses led the people into the Sinai Desert. They had gone from Egypt (bad) to the Desert (very bad). No constant water supply, harvesting a miraculous food supply, moving regularly. They surely longed for the “good old days.” That is, until they crossed the Jordan River and arrived in the “Promised Land.” And it was good.
So, do you need to move people to a “promised land” that they don’t want to visit? Take a lesson from Moses. Help them understand how now is bad, take them (if only in their imaginations) to a place that’s worse, and then lead them to the promise that is held by the future.
Read a summary of the Israelites Exodus from Egypt here
Image of Pyramids and Spinx © 2006-2016 Kenneth E. Fields
This recent Harvard Business Review post reminds us, “If you want something done right, do it yourself!” Lots of organizations have ‘outsourced’ their change management planning and actions to an ‘internal consulting’ function. However, does this absolve management of responsibility? I think not.
How do we identify the ‘right’ role for managers to have when things are changing all around them? Don’t they need help (sometimes all of the help they can get!)? Absolutely. Change management specialists are just as critical as financial experts are to investors or mechanics are to car owners! And just like those examples, everyone has a special role to play. We’ll be exploring those roles in the coming weeks.
What roles have you seen played well (and not so well) in organizational change projects?
As early as the 10th grade, I can remember a friend saying, “Kenneth, you have no tact.” It’s true, I can be a pretty direct communicator. It may simultaneously be one of my best attributes and my biggest flaws. On the HBR Blog Network, Anthony K. Tjan has shared some key points about directness in his article Have the Courage to Be Direct.
“When we avoid conflict or try to skirt directness, it does a disservice to all involved, and often just plain wastes time.” – Nobody has enough time so wasting it is a pretty serious offense.
“Being assertive and direct does not need to mean being cold and hard. The tone you use and the words you choose…matter a lot.” – Ahhhh, the Achilles heel of direct communicators – style. We direct communicators can be so focused on the message that we forget a real person with feelings and emotions will be receiving it!
Tjan concludes: “Diplomacy is a great virtue but so is clarity, and diplomacy without our clarity is just undiplomatic B.S. Have the courage to be direct.”
Where do you and I need to have the courage to be tactfully direct today?