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Coaching

We’ve just posted an update on training and have an example of how we use some software to make easy to follow video user guides. You can find the new page here – or watch the sample system[read more]

For the last few months, I’ve been working with a brilliant coffee vending business near Gatwick. In terms of culture and atmosphere, it’s quite a contrast to BOTH other venture capital[read more]

The results of Google’s “Project Oxygen” have been reported all over the place in the last week. The London Evening Standard and the New York Times both carried this, follow the[read more]

change and transformation


Change & Transformation

Change isn’t difficult of itself, the main challenges are fear and inertia. It’s often said “it’s not change people are frightened off but uncertainity”.

In my experience, fear comes from:

  • uncertainty – uncertainty of outcome – i.e. “will this change work?”
    and fear of what the outcome will be like -“I may not like the way the outcome affects me”.
  • Intertia arises from the legacy of existing infrastructure (systems and processes) and the people and functions that surround it So, creating a clear vision or image of what successful change will be like, is an important step towards reducing the fear of uncertainty.There’s more on structural and cultural strategies elsewhere in this blog.

Delivering some successful change so that people can start to visualise what that feels like, demonstrates that success is possible. Unfortunately inertia makes delivering the first examples of successful change more difficult. So bypassing Inertia and creating the motivation for successful change are both powerful tools to get change moving.

So, what can organisations do, to do get past Fear and overcome Intertia?

  1. Success breeds success. Finding a project with a business sponsor committed to her vision for the use of technology and then delivering that discrete successful project can transform expection and start to overcome the fear of failure. For example in a distribution business, there may be fear around how to use digital platforms to offer services such as Click and Collect and Drop-Ship (delivering direct to your customers customer) or how that may adversly impact an existing mature customer base. By demonstrating how this works with a tightly controlled pilot or proof of concept in say a poorly served sub-market can open the door to using similar strategies to serve a much bigger core market. A standalone solution may be disliked by the mainstream of the company, or by IT, but trying something quickly can prove (or disprove) a new business model far faster than trying to move everyone and everything or the casual death of the idea through analysis paralysis.
  2. Bypass existing infrastructure. When it comes to How to deliver that proof of concept, Cloud based applications (Software As A Service or SaaS) or Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) can provide means to completely bypass legacy infrastructure and in some cases to surpass the performance capability of existing in-house functions. BPO can be used to kick start or model in-house performance, as the base for whole new services or solutions or as a step towards a new operating model with lower fixed costs or more flexible and scalable services.
  3. Skunkworks works. The garage or garden shed workshop is the traditional inventors home. Big corporations struggle to recreate the innovation that the “shed” creates. So creating offshoots, in rented or shared space with none of the legacy systems and rules is sometimes the way forward. IT Teams, Brand Teams, Operational functions (logistics for example) can do the same. There is NOTHING to stop a pilot that fulfills orders for a subset of postcodes by a completely different team, carrier or Cloud based System.
  4. Difference is great. People tend to hire people like them, if you want creativity sometime you have to go out of your way to hire people who are different to you. Many organisations are full of white, middle class male managers. And we tend to hire more of the same – so instead try hiring people who are none of those things and see what happens. If you only hire graduates or PhD’s, hire some school drop outs. If your company is financially prudent hire people who have been made bankrupt. If you are a young vibrant team hire some retiree’s. Change comes from people who will ask “why on earth do you do it like that?” doesn’t it? People less embedded in the house style are also more likely to be optimistic about change – and that can infect the old guard with a more optimistic less fearful outlook as they see sucess emerge.
  5. Start. A Dutch manager I worked for used to say “it’s smazing how many people don’t realise that not making a decision is making a decision!” in other words it’s far too easy to have decided NOT to do something. Almost by accident we find we have decided NOT to start – this happens just by waiting and seeing or asking for yet more analysis or more detailed forecasts. Instead decide to Start see what happens.
  6. Embrace Failure. “Success is a poor teacher” – it deludes us into thinking we got it right, when often good luck or serendipity should get the credit. We can generally learn more from failure – so we need to embrace it and learn from it and move on. Black Box Thinking (by Matthew Syed) should be essential reading for anyone who wants their organisation to improve. I would argue that it demands we all take steps to seek out and analyse what went wrong and improve it. Strategies such as Lean Six Sigma thrive on data about problems and weaknesses.
  7. Measure it. If you don’t measure and analyse what is REALLY failing to hit the mark, your Six Sigma or other process improvement projects may be wholly misdirected. Whenever I start in a new organisation I get hold of whatever KPI/BI data is around – it’s alarming how the most fundamental measures can be missing. Recent examples include missing ABC inventory analysis data for one distributor and seriously flawed order fulfillment data for another. So we quickly (overnight) produced some crude analysis and re-invented KPI’s that could be used to measure improvements. So seeking out data that highlights hidden “failures” and unrwarded success (“What get’s measured gets done”) can provide insights that have long been overlooked.