Posts Tagged ‘Change management’

Mistakes are GOOD! Well, sometimes . . . . . .

Friday,25 July, 2008

These days we’re always being encouraged to innovate – to do things differently and improve.

Sometimes when we try to do things differently, we make mistakes. It seems that making mistakes is an essential part of innovation.

Sometimes the mistakes can be better than our first intentions! In 1928 Alexander Fleming was working with a bacterial culture which became contaminated and died. This ‘mistake’ led to the discovery of penicillin, which has saved countless lives ever since.

But unfortunately, sometimes the mistakes just make things worse, and then we have to learn from our mistakes and try again – what used to be called ‘learning by trial and error’.

In these days of extended accountabilities and media spotlights, risk is invariably seen as bad.

But if we can’t make mistakes, won’t we expose ourselves to the biggest risk of all – the risk of reducing our capacity to innovate and improve?

If we can’t learn from making mistakes, are we making a rod for our own backs?

So why don’t companies come right out and say “It’s ok to make mistakes”?

Of course there would have to be safeguards, but how would you feel if your employer said it’s ok to make mistakes:

  • Provided they are honest mistakes, made with the best of intentions and not because you were just being sloppy or negligent;
  • Provided you take responsibility for your mistakes;
  • Provided you learn from your mistakes, taking steps to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again; and
  • Provided you help your colleagues learn from your mistakes, sharing your experience with them in order to reduce the risk of them ever making the same mistake that you made.

If your company had a ‘Mistakes Policy’ like that, would you feel supported, more able to innovate and improve?

If this wouldn’t work for you, what would you need?

Advertisements

Let’s CHANGE ‘Management Speak’!

Friday,11 July, 2008

Who invents ‘Management Speak’?

You know, the sort of thing – phrases that get trotted out and, after a while, can become irritating clichés!

How about “Touching base” or “User-centred” or “Interpersonal”?

Some examples really grate, perhaps because they seem to divide the speaker from the audience by using the language in an entirely different way.

Other expressions seem to use English in a normal way, with the intention of conjuring up an image without which it would take a lot of effort to explain – a bit like “one picture being worth a thousand words” – even if the picture is imaginary.

But even these can get irritating if over-used!

Frankly, I don’t fancy your chances of getting these ducks in a row . . . .

Perhaps the only answer is to keep inventing new descriptions?

People used to talk of others “Moving the goal posts” to explain a changing work environment. This was inadequate to describe the rate of change imposed by our regulator, for whom I would talk of “Having goal posts on castors”. Then it got worse, and I referred to them “Having goal posts on motorised castors”.

I found that this got the listeners’ attention much better than if I had explained the mounting and changing bureaucracy in a more literal manner.

When explaining the degree of difficulty in getting things done, people often speak of “Trying to herd cats”.

A colleague used to talk of “Trying to catch fog in a bucket”.

I’ve often spoken of “Trying to run up a down escalator covered in treacle” and, more recently “Trying to juggle with jelly”. (I quite like this last one, because it’s impossible, gets messy, plus it’s alliterative!)

So why don’t we invent some new expressions (to replace the ones we don’t like, or the ones we have become tired of), and see how quickly they spread?

If you post your ideas here, we can share them and even begin using them.

We might just brighten up the world of work, communicate better, and have some fun?

And having fun can unlock creativity and make us more productive. I could call this a “Win-win situation”, but I’d better not . . . . . . . . . I wonder what we could call it in stead. Any ideas?

Changing organisational cultures

Wednesday,2 April, 2008

At a presentation given by Kevin Williams (at the time Chief Executive of YMCA England) we were shown a photograph of the people responsible for running YMCAs in the 1960s. They were all grey suited men.

Kevin then went on to explain that, currently, the majority of the larger YMCAs are now managed by women.

Clearly this cannot be the whole story – so what other changes have also taken place which might support such a change in leadership? And what might we learn from this?

I began by drawing a line down the middle of the page, putting “Male” at the top of the left hand side, and “Female” at the top of the right hand side. The following is a list of changes which seem to have happened in the world with which we work, during the same period of time:

Male to Female

Heavy Industry to Service Industries
Machines to Ideas/Knowledge
Strength to Nurturing
Specialisms to Multi-tasking
Power to Influence
Hierarchies to Networks
Control to Encourage
Command to Persuade / “sell”
Mono-culture to Valuing Diversity
Facts to Intuition
Books to Internet
Vote to Buy
Membership to Shareholder or User Group
Grants/Subsidies to Social Enterprise
Competition to Collaboration for mutual benefit

As with all caricatures, this needs some careful handling – but much of the world we work in is undoubtedly moving this way, and we all need to be able to respond. Even where organisations still need to work to the left side, some of their activities will need to work to the right side if success is to be achieved.

It seems likely that some of us are more comfortable when working in the way shown on the left side, others to the right. The solution to this must surely be:

  • awareness of the issues;
  • recognition of the inherent tensions between people, disciplines, organisations, and sectors; and
  • having the right teams or partnerships in place to cover all bases.

If, from where you see the world, you feel that there are any other issues which should be considered, or added to the list, I would be delighted to hear of them.