Saturday, 31 December 2011

How to be successful in 2012 and beyond.

According to many who (by the popular definition) are successful and according to the many popular analysts of success, achieving it is as “simple” as sticking to a regime like:

Step 1: (re)picture what success will look like in 10 years. Be sure to think Big, Hairy, and Audacious (Thank you Jim C) ; beyond your imagination of how to get there.

Step 2: decide up to three main 3-5yr thrusts that will take you towards that 10yr vision.

Step 3. set an goals for 2012 that will addresses the highest priority action within those 3-5 yr. thrusts

Step 4: set up to five actions for the first quarter

Step 5: Take action and monitor your progress and focus weekly, monthly quarterly and review your goals annually.

Interestingly, by this definition most people are not successful, arguably because in reality they don’t stick to the regime. This begs the questions: 1) Are most people therefore failures? 2) Are there grades of success? 

At dinner parties and other gatherings this summer we’ve played the game “Who’s the most successful?” That game is always on, but seldom explicitly. So we decided to put it on the table.

We discovered, as you might expect that personal notions of success seem strongly affected by life experience.

According to one summary circulating in the email, notions of success are broadly age related and a kind of cycle of life:


We found that politically, people seem to vote for government that they believe will assist them to achieve success on their terms and thus increase their chances of winning – or at least getting a good grade.

We found that people whose children are "successful”, but are “unsuccessful” themselves tended to measure their success in terms of their children’s material success if the kids are rich, or creative success if they’re artistic, or got “good jobs” if none of the above. Or it might be reproductive success if they’re producing lovely children.

Some argued that success is belonging, contributing and growing according to one’s strengths. (Liberal).

Others argued that success is to do God’s will to further his kingdom on earth. (Religious).

Success seems to vary between cultures. For instance a Chinese lad from Taiwan observed that in his community the “top dog”  has the biggest house and flashest car. He observed that in Kiwi culture the “top dog” cooks the BBQ. Maybe that’s why Kiwi’s are regarded as less commercially aggressive
Anyway, it quickly became clear that people tend to define success pretty much to suit themselves (or get very depressed). This can be a problem when a modern economy, especially  in the current recessionary climate, needs economic growth to prosper; needs people produce and buy more stuff: needs success to be materially measured.

We figured therefore that the best policy is to foster materially measured success by nationally standardising success measures along materialistic lines: to have National Success Standards; that these be administered by a dispassionate bureaucracy, preferably an already established one to avoid set-up costs.

In New Zealand, achievement standards are administered by the New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA). NZQA administrators will likely be very pleased to acquire the increased span of control.

NZQA’s hold over NZ education is also an advantage because if we have National Success Standards and we want everyone to have equal opportunity to be successful (egalitarian) we must have widely available education for success.

Because we need a quick return on the education investment we can’t wait for kids to qualify in Success  and work their way into the corporate workforce. We must educate the existing workforce starting NOW.

So we must rapidly develop and deploy a programme of tertiary level courses in Success which would necessarily be night classes  at universities and polytechnics.

That way working people could study to qualify in Success while they continue to work during the day. Along the way they could  apply their learnings to their workplace  and families and whole workplaces and families could become successful!
If we act quick enough, 2012 can be a huge success for everyone! ;-)


Friday, 5 August 2011

Manager or Leader: red-herring

Should bosses be managers or leaders? Is there a difference? Can leaders be managers? Can managers be leaders? Whatever, it’s irrelevant. The debate’s a red herring.

It was maybe relevant in industrial-age 20thcentury when the boss’s prerogative was simply to control workers either by inspiring (leading) or manipulating (managing) them; when leaders and top managers (executives) were the unquestioned priests of the church of Industrial Management.

It’s time to break the spell. It served the industrial age well but it’s an albatross round the neck of business in the post industrial age: where rates of change are exponentially increasing and high-wage economies and maybe ecological survival depend on people being radically creative, passionately engaged, deeply committed and highly collaborative; where everyone’s a marketer because everyone in the organisation vitally affects the customers’ experience.

This new world needs a fresh understanding of leadership that enables diverse personal strengths to flourish in rich, close, open collaboration; that enables each member to lead according to their strengths.

We need a new understanding that charismatic leadership is just one of many forms of leadership: that, for instance, an introverted analyst can lead precision and attention to fine detail; an independent egotistical salesperson can captain sales effort; a systematic, reliable process improver can lead quality assurance.

It’s time for the “leaders and drivers” to allow the rest to actively and vitally engage in leadership. Trouble is, everything in conventional experience tells us, leaders and led, that that’s courting disaster: inviting anarchy; presiding over descent from control into chaos.

Yet conventional leaders and managers who deliberately learn to allow other forms of leadership to flourish, experience almost miraculous results. The learning’s not easy. It feels risky: like managerial suicide. It’s counter intuitive. But with wise support and professional coaching it happens. Not overnight but typically over 2-3 years with early signs of success clearly evident in 12 months.

This change isn’t something that leaders and managers do to others. It’s fundamentally what leaders and managers do to and amongst themselves. It’s about the systematic changes they make to their interpersonal behaviour and expectations.

It’s about the changed responses that they receive in a spiral of change from mechanical co-operation to dynamic, interpersonal collaboration. It’s about organisation changing from “boxes and wires” structures to rich webs of interpersonal relationships between people with diverse talents and strengths and deeply shared purpose.

This is the new key to competitive success in the 21st century. Are you up for it?

Will you dismiss it as “crazy-idealistic” dreaming considering the sort of people you have to work with? OK. Carry on as usual. Maybe your market will stay locked in the 20th century. If it doesn’t, get ready to eat the dust from your competitors who make the change.

Also published on MPS Pegasus


Monday, 18 April 2011

Who do you think you are?

Who you think you are is affected  by the context you’re in and it affects the behaviour of those around you. Who you think you are at work is affected by your assumptions about what your work role means and the cultural dynamics of the organisation.

This was highlighted for me recently by a client’s story:

For as long as I’ve known him my client’s been disappointed with the performance of his sales manager. The sales manager hasn’t achieved the potential indicated by his personality profile and successes outside work. He’s good but not great.

Yet recently he showed brilliance, but not in the usual work context. He and my client were at a supplier’s international conference. My client, unable to cope himself with all the relationship building opportunity and expectation, totally delegated half of that to his sales manager.

The sales manager’s performance in that context was vastly improved from normal. Had my client not known the sales manager’s underlying personality profile, he’d have been worried that his sales manager was on drugs of some kind.

My analysis: that goes to show what’s possible if you can change the organisational context. Next step is to raise the experience to consciousness and deliberately seek to change the local (internal) context to enable that brilliant performance back home.

I recommended my client tell his sales manager how amazingly effective he had been in that outside setting. Then ask him how they could together work to change their behaviours and assumptions to enable the sales manager to tap that previously hidden strength.

He’s done that. The sales manager was surprised and pleased to have been caught being brilliant. They are deliberately working to change their relationship and the organisational dynamics. My client is taking the lead by being accountable to his sales manager for changing his own behaviour.

Who you think you are can turn innovative, curious, dynamic and effective people into comparatively conventional, apathetic, dull and ineffective drones; turn considerate, reflective and humane people into insensitive, bullying manipulators (and vice versa). (For more on bullying see What to do about workplace bullying)

You are just as susceptible to those affects as those around you. Reading about and understanding that effect won’t immunise you. If you’re the boss and your people are behaving badly or unproductively then the change starts with you deliberately changing the way you behave.

That’s probably going to be difficult because who you think you are is deeply engrained. (For more on that see Why good people behave badly in organisations). The good news is that it’s difficult for everyone so you don’t have to become a saint overnight to steal the march on the competition.


Monday, 21 March 2011

How to Radically Change Business Teaching and Learning

Public education is failing to produce people skilled at collaborating in enterprise; at bringing their particular strengths and passions together to collaboratively, dramatically exceed the possibilities of their individual strengths and limitations. Conventional organisation, management and research have failed to produce new practice.

To get a feel for the problem, go to Fernando Reimers on HBR  and the  TED LinkedIn discussion, Our Education System is Failing . . . .  (more popular than WikiLeaks).

There is no shortage of ideas, research and recommendation on what should be done about it. There’re even maverick teachers creating and delivering programmes that can and do produce people who know their passions and strengths and naturally, actively collaborate instead of merely  (dysfunctionally) co-operate.

The barrier these mavericks face is to sustain and grow their innovations in organisations and  markets that have little concept of education other than as experienced: typically industrial age, conveyor belt, control focused, uniformity and standardisation by process and qualification.

The good news is that sooner or later opportunities pop up to achieve deep, widespread change. One such opportunity may be in New Zealand high school Business education. There is an acknowledged need to produce graduates with the skills and behaviours to radically improve the effectiveness of New Zealand business enterprise. In response, the high school Business curriculum is in process of radical revision with radically different teaching an learning processes in mind.

The challenge is to spread the experience of the radically different ways of managing learning that bring this new curriculum to life. That’s not only about making room for teachers to experience new ways, then enact them. It’s also a matter of addressing  the typically conventional assessment models and other education management systems and processes designed to control teachers in much the same way as they are expected to control their students.
A collaboration of organisations and people passionate to achieve such a transformation was recently formed to tackle this set of problems in a radically different way.  It came together from concept to action over the first three months of 2011, with initial financial support and international research interest confirmed in mid March. It doesn’t even have public website yet and intentionally probably won’t for a while yet.

It's  a collaboration of Omnicom OCC Ltd with the Faculty of Creative Industries and Business of Unitec Institute of Technology, and Unitec Falkenstein Trust,  a Business education trust associated with Unitec but established by successful business entrepreneur Tony Falkenstein.

The collaboration’s first project, a pilot weekend-intensive workshop with follow-through coaching for a diverse range of invited participants, is booked for early May. Although the focus is initially local, the hope and plan, if the pilot is successful is to go national, and eventually international.

The intention is to generate transformative change by exposing seasoned (in this case, high school Business) teachers to the new experience and possibilities of a radically different way of managing learning; then to coach them in their efforts to collaboratively enact their new experience within their respective institutions.

The way that the process is organised and operated is crucial because the purpose is  to interrupt conventional behavioural loops: to achieve a transformation, not an intellectualised,  incremental modification in teacher and learner behaviour. One way of seeing the transformation is from control-centred management and experience of learning to learning managed and experienced collaboratively.

The teaching and learning model that initially influences the thinking and action in this teaching and learning transformation process was conceived and developed by Roger Putzel, St Michaels College, Vermont and subsequently further developed and operated in multiple  sites around the world including in New Zealand.

Putzel’s approach, called XB, was developed for transformative teaching and learning in Business related subject areas. So it seems an ideal platform to transform Business teachers,  Business teaching, Business students and the business of education for business.

But that’s not all. The same basic model can be applied to teaching and learning anything, anywhere: even in a commercially focused learning organisation. In fact it can be  easier to implement there than in institutional education . . . . . . .  

Monday, 14 March 2011

Measuring a “pound of flesh”

TEU’s Nigel Haworth is probably right to pejoratively call University of Auckland VC, Stuart McCutcheon a Managerialist.

In this latest stoush with the Tertiary Education union McCutcheon claims the rational high ground (NZ Herald). But to Haworth and many others he’s behaving like an industrial Shylock demanding his pound of flesh; his stance smacking of conventional managerial thinking and arrogance: underpinned by a particular set of unquestioned assumptions about how to measure and get better performance.

Of course in his mind McCutcheon is simply being rational; more rational than fellow academic Haworth, and denies wanting a “pound of flesh”. But to Harworth and the significant proportion of university employed academics in the union it clearly feels like that.

The thing is, there are far more productive measures of performance and satisfaction than those that demand or seem like they demand “pounds of flesh”.

Steve Denning commented in a recent communication:

“As I look back on my many years as a manager, I can see that one of the things that kept management grinding along on its death march was the measurement system. So long as the managers used a measurement system that kept tracking "things", it meant that "people" and "teams and "storytelling" inevitably got the short end of stick. 
So managers often talked a good game about people and teams, but at the end of the day, what really mattered was whether you made your numbers.”

Traditional management will keep grinding onwards unless and until we change the things we measure and crucially, the way that we measure them. 

We must pay attention to the people elements, not just the "things" or "outputs" that an organization produces. 

Steve’s doing a 5 part series in his Forbes blog on measuring what really matters. Part 4 on measuring time has links to the previous 3 parts. Part 5 is in the pipeline.


Friday, 25 February 2011

And the forecast is: Wrong

The Business Herald in the New Zealand Herald this morning (Friday 25 Feb 2011) features an edited extract from Dan Gardner's new book "Future Babble". In the excerpt Gardner writes mostly about how "we" continue to believe experts' predictions about the future when they are notoriously, conclusively, consistently wrong. According to Gardner this is because our minds are hard wired to seek simplification and certainty. But it doesn't work! Gardner's excerpt ends where I think the real problem lies:

"And that leads to the ultimate conclusion, which is one we do not want to accept but must: There are no crystal balls, no style of thinking, no technique, no model will ever eliminate uncertainty. The future will forever be shrouded in darkness. Only if we accept and embrace this fundamental fact can we hope to be prepared for the inevitable surprises that lie ahead."

The excerpt offers no clue on how we might "embrace" this uncertainty but the Christchurch earthquake and aftermath this week and ongoing, dramatically indicates how. The key to survival, recovery and prosperity lies in our capacity to collaborate.

But command style management, focus on dispassionate information, and individualistic reward systems ensure that most of us seldom, if ever experience collaboration. At best we experience co-operation only.

The key to thriving in a climate of uncertainty is unity through shared vision in culture that constantly questions and tests its assumptions. To get that we have to engage diverse perspectives. Conventional management practice requires compliant uniformity, often called "alignment".

It seems pretty clear to me what has to change. Education, especially Business education, for one, has to change: not so much what is taught and learned, but HOW it's taught and learned (and assessed): collaboratively.

That said, the problem then becomes how to change education. How do we do that when bad education is endemic:

Students expect “add water and stir” education. They just want a recognised qualification at lowest cost.
  • Universities want to deliver recognised qualifications at lowest cost.
  • Employers want recruits with recognised qualifications, like they got when they were at university because that’s the easiest criteria to winnow the applicants.
  • University teachers are up to their eyes administrating and researching. Why would they upgrade their pedagogy when the markets accept what they currently produce?
It’s a single loop system. It can’t learn/change because there is no way for disconfirming data to enter the control process. The system has no concept of what could be. The individuals within it possibly do, but the organisational system is self-sealing, impervious. The way it is managed has got to change.

Industrial era management practice is the main blockage in commerce too. Take the Borders failure. Check out Forbes blog for more on that.

Industrial era management ideology and practice is so endemic it doesn't get questioned. It's like water to a fish. We're immersed in it - hierarchy and compliance. Question it! Encourage others to question it. If you're a manager, encourage them to question you. 

Stop investing in what was, when the answer is in what could be. Stop using tools and technology to shore up the status quo. Together risk finding a radically new way to manage.

To manage the risk and grow your courage, hire an experienced change-coach, learn from people and industries that have already done it. Start with books like: Umair Haque The New Capitalist Manifesto; John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison The Power of Pull; Ranjay Gulati Reorganize for Resilience; Rod Collins Leadership in a Wiki World; and Carol Sanford The Responsible Business.

For a comprehensive account of the rise and fall of 20th Century management as well as an account of the principles and practices underlying the reinvention of management, read Steve Denning 's The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management (Jossey-Bass 2010).


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The rare joy of collaboration at work and how to get it.

For me, one of the biggest joys summer holidays is collaborative living: together engaging in expeditions, construction projects, food preparation, and eating all organised through conversation; a fluid interaction of strengths, talents and giftings born out of established, open relationships, valued difference and shared expectations; the lead taken by various individuals depending on the situation. I seldom experience such collaboration anywhere else. Cooperation yes: operating alongside others; interacting in standardised ways to complete tasks, but very seldom the joy of collaboration.

Increasingly such collaboration is acknowledged as the secret to personal joy and individual and organisational effectiveness. People learn, grow and contribute best in relationship with others: collaborative relationships of mutual trust and respect within shared understanding and aspiration.

The problem is that the way we typically organise and manage our education and industrial systems and processes didn’t evolve for that. It evolved for industrial-age efficient mass production and replication. It doesn’t work for the innovative, highly adaptive, knowledge intensive collaboration that’s the key to success in the world today.

Management (practice and ideology) as-we-know-it is stuffed, but few can envisage even the possibility of something different. It can be a difficult slow process to begin to conceive that it could be different, let alone conceptualise what it could be. Concepts of how to organise and manage are deeply engrained in our unconscious through our experience of education and work life. But achieving that breakthrough in understanding, difficult as it usually is, is less than half the battle. The main challenge is to achieve the change: to transform to management not-as-we-know-it.

Steve Denning puts it very nicely in a recent post to the open discussion Revolutionizing the World of Work: a criticism of Management guru John Cotter’s 2007 list of eight things that leaders who successfully transform businesses do right and do in the right order. (Harvard Business Review - Jan. 2007 pg. 96-103). Here’s the list:

1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency
2. Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition
3. Creating a Vision
4. Communicating the Vision
5. Empowering Others to Act on the Vision
6. Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins
7. Consolidating Improvements and Producing Still More Change
8. Institutionalizing New Approaches

Denning points out that recipes like this, interpreted and enacted by managers, are what got the world economy into the crap that it’s currently in. He not only calls for and describes the desperately needed radical change from that kind of management but also describes how to achieve it.

Referring Chapter 11 of his 2010 book The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management he writes:

Thought therefore must be given, before heading pell-mell into the implementation of radical management, not only to the principles of radical management, but also to the principles of radical change management. If you have mastered the arguments of this book so far, you will have already guessed that radical change management is not an eight-step top-down hierarchical rollout of a program, embodying a preconceived idea, articulated in some back room by outsiders, and then imposed with one-way communications that tell people what to do.

You will know that that kind of thinking and acting is precisely what has brought us to the current impasse. You will expect it to be a process that gives due respect to the interests not only of the organization but also of those doing the work and of those for whom the work is done. You will intuit that communications will be interactive and respectful of the individuals involved while giving due attention to productivity and innovation.

And you will be certain of one thing: that radical change management will not be a simple recipe that you can wrap up and take back to your organization to apply without modification tomorrow morning, with any expectation of success. You know that you will have to create a story of your own—one that fits your own context—its possibilities and its constraints. You also know that you will have to adapt the story on the fly as conditions shift.

What's wrong with Kotter's stuff is not the eight step program per se. It's the top-down spirit with which it is articulated and often implemented.

If you took Kotter's eight step program and implemented it with "due respect to the interests not only of the organization but also of those doing the work and of those for whom the work is done" and with communications that are" interactive and respectful of the individuals involved while giving due attention to productivity and innovation", you might still get a good result.

It's all about the heart.

Yet if you say that to managers, they tend to think that you are soft in the head.

Denning doesn’t leave it there. He gives his most recent summary of the “spirit” of what’s needed for successful change process: 18 specific practices. Not three, or eight or 10, and not in any particular order: a list of almost “Tom Peters” proportions: definitely not conventional Management!

1. *Make the change happen organically*: Change begins when a single individual takes responsibility for the future and decides to make it happen. The individual may be the CEO. In a large organization, it is more typically someone in middle management. The individual begins inspiring other people. In turn, they become champions and inspire still others.

2. *Launch a small high-performance team: *A small high-performance team will be needed to inspire and guide implementation. Dutiful or representative performance won’t get the job done. This will be a group that is creative and energized, trusts one another, passionately believes in the cause and is willing to do whatever it takes.

*3. **Do it quickly*: The change happens quickly or not all. Once organizational change takes off, the process will be viral in nature. The idea is either growing, spreading, and propagating itself, or dying and de-energizing people and spawning new constraints. A top-down process that is grinding it out, step by step, unit by unit, is usually generating antibodies that lead to mediocre implementation or total failure.

4. *Let the change idea evolve*: The change idea itself will steadily evolve. This is not a matter of crafting a vision and then rolling it out across the organization. This is about continuously adapting the idea to the evolving circumstances of the organization. As the organization and everyone in it adapts the story of change to their own context, each individual comes to own it. The process of adaptation never ends.

5. *Run the change process on human passion: *The change process will run on human passion—a firm belief in the clarity and worth of the idea and the courage to stand up and fight for it. No template or detailed rollout plan can inspire the energy, passion, and excitement that are needed to make deep change happen.

6. *Focus the passion*: It will be focused, disciplined passion. This is not an approach where anything goes. There will be a tight focus on the goal and continuing alertness to head off the diffusion of energy into related or alternative goals. Progress is assessed and adjustments made based on what has been learned. There will be systematic feedback on what value is being added. There will be freedom to create, but within clearly delineated, adjustable limits.

7. *Get outside help but don’t rely on it*: Outside help will be used but not depended on. Intellectual energy is generated by cognitive diversity and interactions with people with different backgrounds and ways of looking at the world. The external advice will be received, evaluated, and adapted to local needs. In the process of adaptation, the idea will become owned. Things are not done simply because outsiders say so; they will be done because they make sense for this context.

8. *The top of the organization must support it and be supported: *Although implementation cannot be accomplished by top-down directives or rollout programs, the support of the very top of the organization is key to creating the umbrella for change, for setting direction and heading off the inevitable threats to the idea. Yet the top alone cannot make it happen. In a large organization, the top will need many others to communicate the idea throughout the organization in an authentic way.

9. *The idea is more important than any individual*: Top-down change programs typically die when the manager leaves. The replacement manager sweeps clean what has gone before. By contrast, when a change has taken root in an organic fashion, the idea continues to live because it is owned by wide array of people.

10. *Form a strong nucleus to lead the charge*: A high-performance team will be needed to inspire and guide implementation. Dutiful or representative performance won’t get the job done. This will be a group that is creative and energized, trusts one another, and is willing to do whatever it takes.

11. *Proceed through conversations: *One person starts talking to and inspiring other people, who in turn have the courage, determination, and communication skills to fire up fresh groups of people to imagine and implement a different future. In turn, they become champions and inspire others.

12. *Establish a beachhead*: All of the successful large-scale implementations had at least some people on hand who had seen it and done it before and could say, “I’ve seen this work!” Creating a beachhead of such people is thus an important early step.

13. *Begin in a safe space*: In the first few iterations, bumps and bruises are to be expected. Until people get the hang of it, some missteps are likely. It is therefore prudent to try it out in the first instance in a relatively safe and low-profile space.

14. *Agree on a common terminology*: When fundamentally different ideas are being introduced, confusions and misunderstandings are inevitable. To the extent that a common terminology can be defined, made easily accessible, and consistently used, the transition will be easier.

15. *Communicate the Idea through stories*: Springboard stories communicate the spirit of an idea and generate new stories in the minds of the listeners, which drive them into action and spark more stories that are told to others. Rehearse your story before you get to making a presentation. Be ready when the opportunity calls.

16. *Practice total openness*. Just as the workplace depends on radical transparency, so does the change process itself. For example in the transition at, all of the daily meetings were held in a public place so that everyone could see how things were progressing. A task board was displayed on the public lunch room wall so that everyone had access to what was going on. The willingness to share information with everyone enabled people to adapt on a daily basis to what was happening.

17. *Generate dramatic surges in progress*: As Seth Kahan explains in *Getting Change Right*(2010), creating high-profile face-to-face events can accelerate progress. Creating gatherings that bring players together in high-value experiences can push the transition forward in leaps and bounds.

18. *Work sustainable hours*: Although occasional crises may require extended working periods, regularly working long hours is highly unproductive and leads to low-quality output. Long working hours are a sign of serious management malfunction.

In the end, the gains are accomplished by a transition from a focus on processes that produce things (goods, services, money) to a focus on people. A successful transformation requires the firm to adopt a people-centered goal, a people-centered role for managers, a people-centered coordination mechanism, people-centered values and people-centered communication–so as to focus the firm on the people who are its customers.

You may think you’re already people centred. Most managers do. If you do, then you’re probably deluded. It’s endemic. Recognise that and get deliberate about radically changing. Read The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management for a start and get help!