Tag Archives: effective teams

Understanding when we are at our best


By Elisabeth Goodman, 26th June 2016

Why seek to understand when we are at our best?

Two of the most popular topics in the 3-day Introduction to Management course that I run with RiverRhee Consulting are motivation, and Belbin team roles.  The way we explore them is by examining what motivates the delegates on the course, and what their most natural and preferred ways of behaving are.

Delegates at the June 2016 RiverRhee Introduction to Management course

Delegates at the June 2016 RiverRhee Introduction to Management course

It’s through this understanding that we appreciate how different we each are from one another, and what this therefore means about the people that we work with, and those that report to us.

For instance some of us will enjoy our work most if we have lots of opportunities to learn and develop, or if we can help others in their work, or if we feel that what we are doing will make a difference to people’s lives.  Or we may feel happiest in our work if we have the ability to shape strategy, make decisions, or work independently of others.

Given the diversity of our motivators, and preferred ways of working, we need different conditions, types and levels of support to help ourselves and others perform at their best.

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

And yet, we don’t always know what motivates each of our colleagues or direct reports, what their natural or preferred ways of working are, or how we can help them to be at their best.

So how to find out what will help us and others be at their best?

Direct questions such as “what motivates you?” don’t necessarily work. Other open questions might though, such as:

  • What do I / you enjoy most about my / your work?
  • What do I / you like least about my / your work?
  • What would cause me / you to be more / less satisfied about work?

Observation might help too. When we are at our best we are “in the flow”, time just seems to fly by. The chances are that we are totally focused and content, and our body language should demonstrate that. There will also be types of work or tasks that we and others volunteer for or take on gladly, and others that we or they are less enthusiastic about.

Psychometric questionnaires will of course help to identify Belbin team roles and other personality types such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).

I’ve been playing with another aid to understanding in recent workshops and training courses, which is based on my NLP training. I ask people to remember a situation at work when they have been at their best, or the conditions that have enabled them to do so.

I ask them to picture the situation, or the conditions, or to recreate the sounds that they heard, what they felt, or how they would describe it.

They then, if they can or want to, choose a postcard that illustrates the situation, would help them to talk about or describe it, or just feels right.

A selection of postcards courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

A selection of postcards courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

This personal reflection, and subsequent conversation with colleagues, can be a powerful way of helping people to appreciate the different opportunities and conditions that will enable themselves and their colleagues be at their best.

When are you at your best? How will you promote and support the right conditions for the people that you work with?

Do you know?  How will you find out?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

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The power of quiet questioning


By Elisabeth Goodman, 25th April 2016

2016-04-23 12.50.10.jpg

Taking time for some quiet reflection on Brighton beach, April 2016

Why quiet questioning?

Two of the most powerful resources available to us as managers, and as members of a team are questions and silence.

The ideal dynamic, when we are working with others, is to have a natural back and forth of conversation: each person comfortably expressing their views, their feelings, their ideas and listening, responding to, and building on the other’s.

That ideal to and fro of conversation occurs when each person is taking ownership for their part in whatever is being discussed, is fully motivated, and has no trouble being assertive; when there is good rapport.

But we know that this ideal scenario is just that, that there are times when it does not happen, when it is hard to know what to say, when emotions get in the way, when the other person cannot or will not play their part.

This is when asking questions, asking the right questions, and being comfortable with silence can really make a difference.

Click here for information on RiverRhee's management training course

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

Asking the right question

We already know that open questions (those starting with Why, What, How, When, Where) are much more effective in engaging others in conversation than closed ones (that elicit only a Yes or No answer).  It’s so easy to slip up and ask a closed question such as:

“Are you feeling sad?” as opposed to, for example: “What are you feeling sad about?”

I’ve been learning about ‘clean’ questions: those that contain as little of the questioner’s bias as possible.  So for example the question:

“What are you feeling sad about?” includes our interpretation that the other person is sad.  It may be that they have told us this, in which case it may be an appropriate follow-up question.

But if they have not told us they are sad, we may be making a big assumption based on their facial expression or body language – but we don’t really know and we are not mind-readers.

So a clean question would be: “How are you feeling”?

And if they do say “I’m feeling sad”, then another suitable ‘clean’ follow-up question might be “What kind of sadness is that?”,  or “In what way are you feeling sad?”, or even just “Sad?”  So you are reflecting back on what the other person has said, rather than inserting your interpretation.

Caitlin Walker’s “From Contempt to Curiosity” has some terrific structures to help any manager or individual use questions to foster open dialogue and build rapport between individuals and within teams.

Rachel Alexander’s and Julia Russel’s “And the Next Question is – Powerful Questions for Sticky Moments” has a rich selection of different questions to use in different situations.

And we can learn so much from NLP (NeuroLinguisticProgramming) too about spotting the assumptions that we and others make in our language, and how to ask questions to get past those.  For example if someone is saying to you: “This kind of situation always makes me sad”, we can ask “Always?”, or “What kind of situation is that?” or even “In what way?”

Using quietness, or silence

Even when we’ve developed the skill to ask the right questions, we can destroy the effect we’ve tried to create by jumping in with our own suggested answer!

Silence is so powerful: it gives the other person time to reflect and come up with their own answer.  It tells them that we care and want to listen to what they have to say.  It encourages them if they are feeling hesitant.

Silence can be companionable too.  Sometimes just working alongside the other person on something in which you are both involved, or going for a walk together, will create the conditions for the other person to open up and say what they have to say.  You may not even have to frame a question!

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training courses for managers

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

Developing skills in quiet questioning

I’m still learning and practising the art of quiet questioning.  It’s something that we can not only apply at work, but in our interactions with people at home too.

I will continue to reflect upon and share my experiences in my work with managers and teams.  It would be great to hear about your experiences too.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

 

Creating the conditions for growth at work


By Elisabeth Goodman, 16th February 2016

It’s performance review and appraisal time

It’s that time of year again: performance appraisals were either completed just before the end of 2015, or are in full swing. Objectives are being set for the year ahead. Managers and those being managed may be feeling ‘stressed’ by the challenge of finding the time or the skills to do it properly: to ensure that people are feeling valued and/or fulfilled in their work. Performance review time is surely the time to ensure that the conditions are right for the growth of the individual, the team, and the organisation.

Creating the right conditions for growth

Creating the right conditions for growth

Is stress getting in the way of growth?

My attention was caught this week-end by the cover story in The Observer’s New Review “Is there too much stress on stress?” (14th Feb 2016, pp. 8-11). I was fascinated to learn that the term ‘stress’ was coined as recently as 1946 by Hans Selye, an Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist, who was intrigued by the common symptoms experienced by humans to all sorts of diseases and “diverse noxious agents”. The Observer article quotes statistics from the 2015 “WorkStress” annual conference of the UK National Work-Stress Network. Apparently there were 440,000 cases of work-related stress in the UK, and 43% of all working days lost due to illness in 2014/15 were due to stress. And these are just the reported cases.

I remember when I was an employee, before I started running my own business, hearing about the difference between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ stress. The argument went that we needed enough positive stress to ensure that we were achieving our potential. Apparently Selye also referred to ‘good stress’ or “eustress”, and ‘bad stress’ or “distress” but the article suggests that this distinction never really caught on. I am no physiological or psychological expert, but I know, from discussing motivation with delegates in our RiverRhee management training courses, and from my own experiences, that not enough of the right kind of challenge, as well as too much of the wrong kind of challenge can lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and other symptoms of stress.

Motivators and demotivators

I’m currently reading Caitlin Walker’s “From contempt to curiosity” in my exploration of ‘clean language’ as a tool for creating exceptional managers and teams. She references the ‘triune brain’ from Eric Jensen’s “Brain-Based Teaching and Learning”. It’s a reminder that our reptilian brain origins are those for which physiological safety is important. Our mammalian brain thrives on social belonging. The neocortex is the focus for cognitive thought: our centre for creativity and learning. There are echoes of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here: only if we feel safe, secure, accepted and trusted can we free up our brains to grow as an individual and so benefit the team and the organisation.

the major contributors to stress

Back to the Observer article, which suggests that the contributors to stress at work include:

  • emails – too many, too frequently and intruding into home life
  • level of demand on people’s time / long hours
  • reduction in personal control over work
  • poor relationships
  • lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities
  • inability to adapt to change
  • generally insensitive management practices

managers as role models

Again, back to our management training where we put a lot of emphasis on skills to understand and support individuals within their teams, as well as role modelling working practices to better manage their time.

Managers also have a responsibility to see that change is initiated and implemented in a way that addresses our basic need for information and involvement, so that we feel better able to cope. (More tips on the RiverRhee Managing Change page.)

Performance appraisals are an ideal opportunity to review and nurture the conditions in which every individual, team and the organisation as a whole can reduce (negative) stress and focus on thriving and growth.

What will you do to create these ideal conditions?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Enhancing team effectiveness through temperature checks or diagnostics – a second look


By Elisabeth Goodman, 13th December 2015

Additional insights on team temperature checks

It’s been three years since I wrote my last blog on team development and team temperature checks, and I have since published The Effective Team’s High Performance Workbook, and also used the principles and approaches with project and operational teams.

Stages of team development, adapted from Tuckman

Stages of team development, adapted from Tuckman

 

My adapted version of Tuckman’s stages of team development, and the team temperature check survey or diagnostic are continuing to prove to be both simple and powerful tools for helping teams to be more productive and happier in their work.

I have, inevitable, gained some additional insights:

  1. There are no short cuts for achieving high performance teams
  2. It is however possible to accelerate the formation of high performance teams
  3. There is a handy way to group the different elements or prerequisites for team effectiveness
  4. There are many more aspects of team effectiveness to add to the list
  5. A team’s stage of development is determined by the least integrated member of the team

I’ll go through each of these in turn.

There are no short cuts for achieving high performance teams

My recent work with a team vividly reminded me that there is no point trying to encourage them to think about how they are going to work together, until they have resolved what they are each trying to do.  People not only need clarity on the team’s overall purpose, but also on their individual roles and responsibilities.

Until they know what they are expected to do, the lack of certainty involved can lead to insecurity and an inability to think beyond that to how they can build stronger relationships with the other members of the team, let alone start developing more effective working practices.

It is possible to accelerate the formation of high performance teams

An early face-to-face team building event still seems to be the most effective way to accelerate the formation of a team.  We need to be in the physical presence of our colleagues to foster that deeper understanding of each other, to build trust, and to have open discussions with each other about what we think and feel.

I continue to find that psychometric tools such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) or the Belbin Team Roles are a terrific resource to help team members understand and appreciate the respective strengths that they each bring to the team.

The other very simple technique to accelerate the formation of high performance teams is to encourage people to work with different members of the team in turn.  There is nothing like working with someone on some specific task as a way of getting to know each other.

The different elements or prerequisites for team effectiveness can be grouped together

I realised, as I was working with one team to collate the results of a team temperature check (or diagnostic), that there is a natural way to group these elements.  This discovery was reinforced by another client that was already using the groupings, albeit under slightly different names!

A way to group the different elements or prerequisites for team effectiveness

One way to group the different elements or prerequisites for team effectiveness.  The elements listed are examples from potentially longer lists.

There are many more potential elements of team effectiveness to add to the diagnostic list

Each client I work with has their own ‘take’ on which elements they wish to retain or add to the list – and that seems entirely appropriate.  The list is likely to depend on their team’s stage of maturity, and the nature of its role.

The list in my original blog on team development and team temperature checks was just nine items long! I have reproduced it here.

  • Clear purpose & goals
  • Trust & support each other
  • Open communication
  • Clear roles
  • Diversity
  • Task / Relationship Balance
  • Decision Making
  • Meeting management
  • Information Management

The various teams I have worked with have added such elements as:

  • Communication with stakeholders (as opposed to communication within the team)
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Action follow-up
  • Leadership
  • Performance monitoring

We use the final list as the basis for the team temperature check or diagnostic survey, and so it’s also worth having an ‘other’ category to pick up anything else that team members feel it’s important to review.

A team’s stage of development is determined by the least integrated member of the team

When my colleague Janet Burton and I are running the RiverRhee training courses for managers we ask them to identify which stage of development their team is at.

It’s not unusual for most of the team to have got to a certain point in their performance, only to be pulled back to an earlier stage with the arrival of one or two new team members.  Alternatively, part of the team may have forged ahead, whilst the rest of it is still in the storming stage.

After some discussion we usually come to the conclusion that the manager needs to work with those members of the team who are at the earlier stage(s) to properly assimilate them into the team.  Only then can the whole team achieve high performance.

What has your experience been?

As always, it’d be great to hear from readers who have explored the stages of team development and/or used temperature checks or diagnostics to enhance their team’s performance..  Have your experiences been similar to the above, or different?  What else have you learned?

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management).

The Effective Team’s Operational Excellence Workbook


By Elisabeth Goodman, 10th June 2015

This is the third in my series of  “The Effective Team’s ” workbooks and it will be out shortly.

THE EFFECTIVE TEAM’S operational excellence WORKBOOK

Elisabeth Goodman (author), Nathaniel Spain (illustrator), 2015 – ISBN 978-0-9926323-7-3

Cover illustration for the Effective Team's Operational Excellence Workbook

Cover illustration for the Effective Team’s Operational Excellence Workbook

This third book in the series focuses on how to achieve operational excellence.  Here is the description from the back of the book:

“Operational excellence helps us to create a more fulfilling work environment where everyone actively contributes to quality customer services or products and to the efficient flow of the organisation’s end-to-end processes. In this third book for ‘effective teams’ the author draws again on her experience with business support groups such as Library and Information services, and with organisations in the Life Sciences and SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises).

The book reflects her approach as a trainer, mentor and consultant for operational excellence. It takes you through a systematic approach for defining and improving how your team spends its time and resources. It will help you to ensure that you are focusing on the right priorities to deliver value to your customers, and that your processes are simplified and streamlined. As with her previous books on change management and high performance teams, the plentiful principles and methodologies are explained through scenarios and are accompanied by individual or team exercises. There are also notes on further reading.

Again, both operational teams and project teams will benefit from the book’s rich insights and depth.”

THE detailed content of the book

The approach and format for this workbook is much like that of my previous two. It can act as a refresher for people who have attended one of my workshops relating to operational excellence (or Lean and Six Sigma). It can be used as a stand-alone manual for individuals who wish to learn about how to continuously improve their work. It can also provide the basis for planning and facilitating workshops with others.

Please note that this book is an introduction to the discipline, and you might want to read around the subject, take some formal training, or use an accredited practitioner to support and mentor you on your further journey.

Each chapter is designed to reflect my approach for running workshops in operational excellence. The first chapter provides the context and framework for starting any operational excellence initiative. The subsequent chapters are best followed sequentially as they will take you through the framework in a step-by-step way.

There are practical scenarios to show how the various principles and methodologies can be applied in almost any area of work where there is some form of repeated process. Each chapter has an exercise for practising the principles and methodologies, either in teams or individually.

The workbook also includes support materials in the form of full-page versions of illustrations and tables for use as a team and for your individual planning.

Finally, there are references for further reading if you would like to find out more about the subject.

COST AND AVAILABILITY

Copies are priced at £10.00 each, plus packaging and posting, and will be available via the RiverRhee Publishing web page.  Or you can use the RiverRhee contact form to pre-order your copy.

Difficult people are not necessarily being difficult!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 31st March, 2015

How to work with difficult people is a subject that many managers struggle with

How to work with “difficult” people is one of the topics Janet Burton and I explore in RiverRhee Consulting’s 3-day Introduction to Management course , and in our tailored in-house supervisor and line manager courses. I also previously referred to this subject in one of our newsletters on the subject of creating exceptional managers.

Elisabeth Goodman presenting the Introduction to Management course

How to work with “difficult” people is one of the most popular aspects of our courses, being one that many new and even more established managers can find quite challenging. I wonder whether it’s because the whole area of managing interpersonal relationships, dealing with conflict, emotional awareness and intelligence is something that is largely neglected in our educational system. We are so focused on academic achievement, that this essential aspect of work and indeed home life can be under-developed, unless other people in our lives have helped us to learn about it, or we have taken the initiative to explore it ourselves.

Difficult people may just be being different – we should take time to understand them

As I wrote in the newsletter, difficult people are not necessarily being difficult, but just different! Our different personalities, perspectives on, and beliefs in life will lead us to approach our work differently, communicate differently and generally act differently. At any moment in time, there will also be other circumstances happening in our lives that might be influencing how we think, feel and behave.

When faced with what seems to be a difficult situation or person, we would do well to step back and reflect on why they seem to be difficult, and to also step forward into the other person’s shoes. It may indeed be some aspect of our own behaviour that is creating or at least contributing to the situation.

We all make assumptions and try to mind read. One of the most obvious solutions, but also the one a lot of people will avoid, is to actually have an open conversation with the person concerned, to understand their perspective as well as communicate our own. Several of the managers we’ve worked with have dared to have those conversations as a result of what they’ve learnt on our courses and have been greatly relieved by the outcome.

Other strategies and tools to help us understand “difficult” people

There are various other strategies at our disposal, such as active listening, coaching and assertiveness that can help us to better understand what is leading to people being “difficult” as well as helping us to influence any associated behaviours and situations in a positive and constructive way.

We use various psychometric tools in our training ranging from Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles, to NLP representational (or communication) styles, Belbin’s Team Roles and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). These can be very illuminating in terms of understanding our different perspectives and approaches to life and work.

I’m in the process of reading “Working Together”[1], a book about transactional analysis (TA) in the workplace. TA, and the “OK corral”[2] originated with Eric Berne in the 1970s. It’s about understanding our beliefs about ourselves and how we believe others view us – often something we have inherited from childhood – and how that influences our behaviour and interaction with others. It can lead to individuals being generally passive or aggressive rather than assertive in their behaviour, or to responding passively or aggressively in certain situations.

The OK Corral - based on the work of Eric Berne

The OK Corral – based on the work of Eric Berne

In an organisational setting, the nature of the “OK” dynamic between individuals can influence the dynamics within teams and make a difference between a dysfunctional team and one that thrives on open discussion and attains high performance. The open and positive behaviour of senior and middle managers can make a difference between engaged and ‘empowered’ individuals in what Wickens (1995)[3] calls an “ascendant” organisation, and one where people are alienated, acting in an anarchic way, or where there is total apathy.

In conclusion – it’s worth spending the time to understand people, to create a more positive working relationship

As one of my own exceptional managers once told me, the work of a manager can be as much as 80% about people, and only 20% about tasks. If people are being “difficult” we should take the time to understand why they appear to be so. The root cause may be something that we can do something about or otherwise influence.

As Mountain and Davidson point out: people working together don’t have to like each other to still be able to work effectively together. In my own experience, better understanding can lead to something that is more akin to liking (if that was not there already), and certainly to a more positive working relationship.

[1] Mountain, A. and Davidson, C. (2015) Working Together. Organizational Transactional Analysis and Business Performance. Farnham, England, Gower

[2] Eric Berne’s 4-box matrix matches the various combinations of “I am OK”, “I am not OK” and “You are OK”, “You are not OK”. The “healthy position” being “I am OK, You are OK”.

[3] Wickens, P. (1995). The Ascendant Organization. Basingstoke, England, MacMillan Business

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.

From stoical survivor to natural navigator – strategies for proactive change programme managers.


By Elisabeth Goodman, 26th February 2015

Roles of those associated with change programmes

I’ve just come back from delivering a seminar for the Midlands branch of the APM, with my colleague (and Chair) on the APM Enabling Change SIG, Martin Taylor. The event, “How to keep programmes on track and teams inspired during periods of change”, attracted a lively set of people.  About a third of them were managing change programmes, another third were supporting programmes in some way and a further third were frequently (!) being drawn into change whilst addressing their day to day responsibilities.

This blog reflects some of the points that came up on the theme of proactive management of change programmes.

(By the way, this was our second visit to the Midlands branch of the APM.  I spoke last year on Facilitating operational excellence in and for business change projects.)

Railway destination for 24th Feb 2015 APM Midlands branch event

Railway destination for 24th Feb 2015 APM Midlands branch event

The nature of change within change programmes

I was impressed by how some of the people I spoke to were doing what they did because they enjoyed the challenge of change. They were often dealing with continuous change, rather than discrete periods of it, had multiple change programmes on the go, sometimes juggling equal priorities, whilst at the same time coping with change within the programme itself.  These ‘internal’ programme changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Sponsor turnover
  • Shifting objectives
  • Additional constraints on timelines, budgets and resources
  • External impacts – legislation, competitors, politics – the typical components of a PESTEL analysis. (We are now entering the “purdah” period for the forthcoming UK elections which brings additional constraints for those operating in or with the public sector.)

Strategies for keeping change programmes on track

Some of those present mentioned how they would like now and then to have just a few change programmes to deal with at a time.

They’d like to see some joined up thinking between programmes, especially where they are affecting the same stakeholders.

They’d also like the decision makers to remember why individual programmes are happening in the context of the bigger organisational strategy.

All of these and more formed the basis of a check list that Martin and I developed with the delegates for how they could proactively keep programmes on track during periods of change. (The full list, other notes and slides from the event will be posted shortly on the APM Enabling Change SIG microsite.)

Victims, survivors and navigators of change

The above proactive approach to change is also an illustration of how programme managers can effectively be navigators rather than victims or survivors of change (terms defined by Richard McKnight and further described in one of my publications – The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook, RiverRhee Publishing 2013).

Victim, survivor and navigator mindsets in change

Victim, survivor and navigator responses to change

Being a victim of change, as the name implies, is an unproductive ‘us and them’ mindset where we blame others for the situation we find ourselves in and expect them to sort it out. Whilst we may occasionally need to give way to our emotions in this way, as leaders of change we do, at some point, have to shake ourselves up and get on with it.

Stoical survival techniques can also only be temporary. It’s a kind of “in limbo” state where we are only just coping, and it will bring its own stresses.

Navigators on the other hand are people who ’embrace’ change and explore what they can do to make it happen in a constructive way: tackling the issues, anticipating the risks, and taking advantage of the opportunities that come their way.

Helping your team to be inspired during change

In the seminar we also discussed how managers can help their teams to be ‘inspired’ during the changes that affect the team: the sorts of changes that we outlined above. These changes can ‘hit’ the team at any stage of its development: whether newly formed, already storming or in full high performance flow.

We discussed how the programme manager can and should adopt the situational leadership approach: being highly directive during periods of uncertainty and ensuring that members of the team have one-to-one time to discuss their concerns and explore their ideas.

Creating the conditions for inspiration during periods of change

Creating the conditions for inspiration during periods of change

Members of the team, as much as the stakeholders affected by the outcome of the change programme, will benefit from plenty of communication. We all respond best when we have some degree of certainty and control over what happens to us.

Any information, however negative, or preliminary will help towards certainty.

Clear roles and responsibilities, and some level of involvement, will help people to feel more in control.

If, as a programme manager, you can provide this level of direction and support for your team, you will create the conditions where team members can feel more motivated, become navigators themselves and take more of a leadership role within their own domain of responsibility, and ultimately be more creative and inspired!

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.