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.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Collective Belief

The culture of any group or community really derives itself from the beliefs of the collective of the individuals, and are are more often based on the transfer of a "convincing story".

It can be true therefore In organisations where this can come from an underlying belief in the sometimes "unwritten" mission statement.

It takes a strong and convincing alternative story therefore to change the culture not just a set of words drafted in a brainstorming session.

So how do you develop this? Firstly take a hard look at your own actions and words. The ones you espouse when no-one is looking!. What you believe will come out in both your behaviour and responses. So is it time to honestly put on the table what you believe?

At the outset, this can prove difficult if a fundamental belief you have runs counter to the corporate values that are being espoused. This may purely be a belief that a counter culture pervades or a "perverse incentive" exists that blocks any move to shift current culture.
If this is true then you will constantly be under significant stress and will never change the culture or achieve the outcomes you desire until you table these beliefs openly whilst allowing them also to be challenged.

If leaders are not prepared to put their position on the line for what they believe then their actions will betray them eventually if not immediately and no amount of pretending the will change it. 
"Fake it till you make it" just doesn't work.

I watch many organisations struggle to engender a "preferred culture” whilst ignoring the discussion around what they “believe” and what their employees “believe”.

Before you embark on the values and culture journey or even set your strategy, take some time to discuss the "collective beliefs” that exist within your people and in your customer base. What are the common ones? What are those that will simply block any shift to a desired state? Which ones are “real” and which ones are “false"

Which beliefs are influenced by "convincing stories" pervading within your organisation? Which ones did people bring with them.

From this understanding you will be in a far better place to identify what you can, or even need, to influence. What convincing stories are able to be told and "what makes them convincing".

What stories have influenced your beliefs? Are they still convincing? Are you prepared to challenge them yourself before you go out and attempt to provide a convincing story to others? Will they stand up to challenge? 

Christopher Columbus was convinced the world was round and his actions followed that belief. How would his journey have been affected if his crew believed it was flat? Was there a convincing story told here?

The thing about the word “convincing” it usually relates to evidence based experiences. If you or your people have overwhelming experiences that underpin their beliefs then you need to ensure that these are openly surfaced. From here a convincing story can then be written together. One that will have a firm foundation and demonstrate itself in actions and voice without coercion and something that the organisations people “value” and convince others.

You may even decide that the culture you are trying to influence doesn’t need to change, it just needs to be harnessed!

It starts with you however.

Whats the "unwritten story" being told by you, and is it convincing?
Did you bring it with you or did you hear it somewhere?
Are you prepared to write it?

Are you prepared to hear another story?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

More or Less

It was a well known question from the Charles Dickens character, Oliver Twist. "Please sir, can I have some more?” 

How much of what we do in life or business are we constantly either asking or expecting the same thing? For more!. More profit, more production, more effort, more overtime, more pay, more attention etc. 

If we were to closely look at our organisational strategy (or even our personal one). What is it saying? What message are you selling? Is it about being in front or getting more?

If we were to challenge our intent, and measure it against the picture of the rat "racing" in a ladder wheel, what would we see? The “more" the rat runs around the wheel the “less" he gets anywhere. Does our strategy or intent therefore provide for real sustainable change, or are we just really contributing to the speed of the wheel. Are we able to think differently or are we just contributing to the "rat race"?

To really make a difference requires different thinking. It was Einstein that said "it requires different thinking to solve a problem, than the sort of thinking that created it”.

So, lets step off the wheel for a moment. What if we started asking for less? What effect would this have on our environment? Not just the physical environment but also the social and even business environment that we operate in. What would it do for our employees? For our family?

What if we were to accept less pay, have less stuff at home, have less things we are trying to achieve, demand less support, work less overtime, demand less of our employees, etc.?

Before you stop reading, thinking I have no idea about economics, just take a moment and put aside our embedded thinking and add up what is really being achieved. 

History will show us the cyclic round of boom and bust that all the economies of the world experience whether it be through war or financial greed, however we continue to think we are getting smarter. We analyse the economic statistics and indicators and try and predict the next flow. We even call this "foresight"! We buy and sell hoping to get “more” bigger, brighter, better. But do we get any "more”?

If your success then, is really just a measure of how fast you are spinning the wheel, you are probably only a slave to the wheel. 

If we really want to encourage or express true innovation then we have to introduce some disruptive thinking. Are there conventions that we simply will not question because they are so embedded.
Spinning the wheel faster or trying to predict the next “cycle" of the wheel rotation is far from innovative. Everyone else is there already and having your people taking turns at the wheel does not provide any value for you or them.

Start looking for the “wrong answers” (unthinkable) and you might just stumble upon a right one. Stop looking at your life and business the way everyone else looks at it. Be really innovative. Even engage your people in the process. It may just be the differentiation your looking for.

People might think your stupid. They may even think you are careless but robustly challenging where your headed is not careless but "considered". 

Your critics will most likely be the creatures on the wheel!

What is "more", and why are we all still asking for it?
What if our "less" created "more"?

Whats the worst that can happen?

"Please sir can I…….?"