Monday, August 22, 2016

Warning Stones - Have you built below this point

At the edge of Aneyoshi, a small village in Japan, stands an ancient stone tablet. About 3m high it is one of many similar markers, some up to 6 centuries old, dotting the Japanese coastline that stand testament and state warnings to the community. The one at Aneyoshi says "Do not build your home below this point", proving its message to within 300m of the tsunami impact of 2011.

As I read articles about the existence of these warning stones and the experiences that drove the communities to erect such sign posts I cant help but see the kinship to warning stones that may exist in our organisations and institutions. Warning stones that are similarly ignored or not understood. "Do not build your houses below this point"

Japanese history is dotted with similar tsunamis to that of 2011 so you would think that the message was pretty clear, "do not build your houses below this point". No argument or discussion. Just don't!

Similarly there are many warning stones or markers that organisational founders and developers leave for us that should be heeded also. Just like the ancient Japanese it was the intent that their descendants avoid the disastrous experience they had endured. So why do we not heed the warnings?

"You don't understand the language"

One of the problems is that the language used in the Japanese inscriptions is not the language used today, so the current generation don't understand the message. Similarly, we are at risk of also disregarding rules and principles that sit at the core of our organisations because we are simply unable to interpret them or the language used has lost its potency. Maybe the media holding the advice or the format cant be played on our newer devices. Maybe its just that the message is just not contemporary enough for us.

"You have never experienced the event"

Another problem is that many of our people have not experienced the event for which the rules or principles apply. They have not endured any hardship or "tsunami" events. Our people have joined our organisations during the growth and good times and probably inherited prosperity, not understanding where or how the first dollar was earned or the near collapse that happened. Try explaining the great depression or the GFC to future generations. How will your warnings be heeded or not by those you hand over to? How will you communicate the message?

"Where is our house built?"

Is it time to take a walk around and look at the coastline. Are there things that we have overlooked in the journey of our predecessors that need heeding. Are we just keeping up with the latest medium without bring across the media itself? Do we need to go back to the founding statements of why we are here and why we exist, and examine where we are standing at the moment?

Have we been drawn into the "global village" down by the coast to be with everyone else? Are we in the danger zone?

Are there things in our personal life that need to be relocated?

Have we built our house below the warning stone?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Collaborative Chaos

Innovations generally don’t take us from point A to B…... 
They take us from point A to Chaos.

Any significant development or change through history has almost always proven disruptive and often thrown institutions and conventions into chaos.
The new reality of the "blogispere" for example has clearly disrupted the publishing industry. The fact that I am able to write this article is challenging the way publishers and media agencies deal with the prolific reality of amateur and self publishing and the future of their businesses. The internet and social networks may have provided the vehicle and mechanism, but the rest is out of any institutions control and is developing under its own power. It is now also challenging conventional laws.

the mechanisms not the structures have the power to deliver the solution

The "mechanisms" therefore, not the products, have the power then for organisations to completely rethink how they achieve otherwise difficult and complex development.
Creating or utilising mechanisms, not institutions, to create and develop within, without any apparent ownership by you, may seem a bit scary or "chaotic" but they also hold the power to provide a vehicle to deliver significant outcomes for your organisation.
How much of what you may have identified in needing to obtain, develop or achieve traditionally involves structural investment and management to deliver. How often does this become too heavy to manage or create?

Letting the problem out

 Whilst it is nothing new, very few of us actually "let the problem out". In other words "not own" the development, but provide a collaborative tool that gives the market source (the apparent chaos) the power to organically produce the outcome for you.
Two things will happen. The source providers will give you more than you could actually produce inside your own capabilities and the the market consumers will show you the real focus of where you need to go.

Retaining or trying to institutionalise knowledge will only limit what can be achieved with it

Knowledge is one thing, that is the key to success, however retaining or trying to institutionalise that knowledge will only limit what can be achieved with it. The limitations being the very institution that tries to control and manage it.

Real innovation is achieved when the the knowledge it let loose.

What can you let loose today?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Perverse Incentives

Does it seem like you hit a brick wall every time you ever seem try to make that change or push ahead?

What is it then, that's running a counter campaign against your objectives?

Are there incentives that are outweighing the choices that your customers, stakeholders or employees are making. Not just in a commercial sense but even in what they seem to value. Incentives that may run counter culture even to what is outwardly expressed or observed.

If you are experiencing this sort of environment then step back and think about what it is that causes you to buy a product or or undertake an activity that may be against your better judgement. What was the trigger or incentive that goes on in that space for you?

It may not have even been a conscious thing, but it influenced your decisions at the time?

These are "perverse Incentives”.

If you haven't heard of them you certainly will have experienced them. They are happening every day in every way, and unless you are seeking them out and understand how they influence you and your stakeholders then you can keep doing what you do with no effect.

Perverse incentives may also be emotional or cultural and may not follow logic. They will also be affected by personal beliefs, so understanding the core default responses by others is essential in influencing or harnessing change.

Some may come from outside sources that may materialise momentarily or through social constructs or connections that have no direct contact with your business or its products.

It's the reason you change your buying habit purely because the product you don’t want, comes with something you do! It's why affluence lessens giving, and social disadvantage strengthens it. 

Its why certain communities respond to volunteerism, and others don't.
It's why a supported community will actually become less resilient.
If you understand how an adrenaline fix and a sense of purpose experienced in people responding to significant events, you will understand how this can discourage attention to preventing them taking place.

Look at how people totally remote from events want to emotionally engage with them.

If you train all your life to go to war and never see a battle then what is the outcome. Is your readiness state providing an inverse climate for other vulnerabilities or behaviours?

You may not think so at first but look below the surface and tease out the butterfly effect. On your product or service? Your people? Your service providers?

Retail marketers and strategic advisors understand this more than others but many organisational leaders often overlook these as they endeavour to drive change or introduce innovation into the business. They also write off activities or alternatively, pursue them pointlessly, because they have not understood the perverse influence that is currently in control.

Whilst some perverse incentives are enduring, others are constantly changing. So if you think you’ve found them, keep looking.

Its not all about the obvious.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Organisational Adultery

The trend of "refreshing" Organisational Values becomes rather interesting as it suggests immediately that the current values are not valued, not understood, or are not contemporary enough.

Any review of values should be to reflect who we are, however I see many organisations simply trying to reword the language as if somehow it may help our performance or improve culture.

From the outset your values are a statement of “YOUR” values. Simply that. Not something you aspire to, or wish you had, as if its a signpost to some distant location or be confused with a mission statement or vision. They should be the ones you actually have.

The only reason you should write them down is to share them with your people and commit them to each other. A bit like marriage vows.

We often get lost however in the flamboyancy of the wedding day, the word crafting, the artwork and decor rather than the actual "Marriage".

So the question begs, why are we attempting to change them? Did we not fully understand them in the first place? Unless we are totally talking a different culture or language that our partners understand, "what is it" we are trying to change.

More likely its us.

Pulling together and not apart requires a relationship that depends on a common belief, commitment and trust in each other. "A team is not a group of people who work together its a group of people who trust each other”.

So how is our trust relationship? If the organisation can’t see the current values being played out then any trust or validity in the values statement is broken and it becomes tarnished or irrelevant.

Its akin to an adulterous husband or wife suggesting to their spouse that changing or modifying the marriage vows will make our relationship better.

So whats driving that suggestion? Is our relationship weak or wandering? Do I need a new contract to assure me? If we didn't trust the first commitment how is this different?

The first step here may be repentance. In an organisation the culture is set from the top not the bottom. So where does that leave the leadership?

How strong is the relationship with your people, and how much do you care to make yourself vulnerable?

Can your people trust you? Do you trust them?

Is refreshing your values just a distraction to the real problem. Was it all about the wedding and not the marriage? Are you avoiding your infidelity being discovered? Is your relationship strong enough to survive discovery?

If you can’t get past this aspect then the relationship is already broken. It must be stripped down completely and rebuilt.

"Who you are is what you say and how you behave when no-one is looking".

So where are you at with your organisational values. Are they your values, or are they only aspirational?

If your commitment is expressed every day in every way then a refresh or even a recommitment should be unnecessary?

Or are you just being contemporary?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

When Good Men do Nothing

Who is it that ties your hands when influences and actions take place seemingly outside of your control, and in direct opposition to the principles and strategy of the organisation.

I am sure you have all observed or even participated in organisations where the behaviour of the leadership and observations by some were that their hands were tied. 
Is that really true though? Ever?

A quote by Edmund Burke "The only thing necessary for evil to prosper is when good men do nothing" came to mind when looking at some executive reactions to events that impact their organisational or personal position.

Whilst we might try and shift our responsibility to impacts outside our control there is still the question of how you respond to these events, and how you portray your true values and beliefs. If you do not demonstrate and reinforce your values and openly communicate your position to your people then how do you expect them to either respect or uphold any support for what is trying to be achieved.

If your hands are tied then the message is that you are not the leader but the slave Someone else, not you, then is leading your people. For you to remain silent is to condone or support the direction of others.

So what is your voice in the case of events outside your control? Spit the dummy? Become resistant or even militant? No. There is a voice that can be heard, substantiated by reason, evidence and belief. Its a voice that can have an open conversation and lay the path for a way forward that recognises the drivers and where honest discussion can be made. 
A conversation based on principles that drive a clear strategy for the way forward and declares a foundation for everyone to know where things stand, particularly your own people.

Even if you suggest a prudent silent response is best, do your people and any other onlooker for that matter really know your true position? Is your silence understood? In a world that likes things to be nice and a sense of keeping the peace is preferred it is very easy to think that doing anything but staying quiet is simply causing trouble. This however provides the greatest opportunity for those that have more sinister agendas to unravel both you and your organisation. 

Every time you remain silent you lose a bit of your integrity, and it sets a precedent upon which arguments for the next occasion, and the next, are built. Not just by you, but also by others. You have now given permission for others to lead and to further undermine you and your organisation. What you were trying to avoid has now become the Inevitable.

The reason why we succumb is often a lie, a lie that we built ourselves. Those that want to seek their own agenda also know this, and only need to test the ground to prove it and induce a reaction (or not) as the case may be. Your fear is usually "self generated" even if you don’t want to admit it. If you remain silent then their point is proven.

Putting your position on the line or presenting politically unpopular messaging is what real leaders do.

You might say that you always stand on and uphold your principles, however assure me this. When it’s your job on the line or when the popular belief is against you, when you feel your hands are tied, will you speak?

Decide what your response will be.
Have you already given the ownership away?

Does everyone know your true position, or are you silent?

Are you just a good person doing nothing?

Its not too late.