Tag Archives: managing change

Why clarity of purpose is so important for both effective leadership and effective management


By Elisabeth Goodman, 9th October 2019

According to W. Bennis, “Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing.”

Clarity of purpose is one topic where these differences in remit can be vividly illustrated, as Thomas W. Malnight, Ivy Buche and Charles Dhanaraj remind us in “Put purpose at the core of your strategy” in the September-October 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review (pp. 70-79).

 

Illustration from Sept-Oct 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review

Clarity of purpose underpins organisational strategy and change

This is the main message in the HBR article.

Responsiveness to external drivers: A leadership team that is clear about the purpose of its organisation – the main reason why it exists – can respond to economic, competitive and other external drivers of change in a well thought out way. Or, as per the opening quote for this blog: they can “do the right thing”.

A planned approach to change:

With clarity of purpose, leaders can take a considered approach to how they want to work with the market, their customers, make changes to their products and services or their internal processes.

Without clarity of purpose any change is simply haphazard, unlikely to get the backing of stakeholders, and unlikely to succeed.

When leaders are clear about their purpose and can communicate this as the context for organisational change, they will be more effective at bringing the rest of the organisation on board with the change.

Evolving the purpose: Should it be appropriate, leaders can also evolve the purpose to respond to opportunities and challenges, as long as they make the basis for the evolution, and its outcome, clear to all stakeholders.

Successful high-growth companies:

According to Malnight et al, it is such a purpose-led approach that makes for successful high growth companies. One of their illustrative examples is Neste, a Finnish oil-refining firm, that made a switch in 2009 to developing sustainable sources of energy. This was a response to dropping oil prices, new EU legislation on carbon emissions, and a 50% reduction in their market value over the course of two years. They summarised their new purpose as: “Creating responsible choices every day”.

Neste’s CEO and his leadership team had to persuade employees, customers and investors; make major investments in infrastructure and innovations in technology; and create a fundamental change in the company’s culture. By 2015 the company was the world’s largest producer of renewable fuels from waste and residues.

Clarity of purpose provides the ‘why’ for motivating people to work for an organisation

Dan Pink and Simon Sinek are two exponents of using the purpose or the ‘why’ of an organisation as a strong motivator for people who work there (or indeed for those who buy from the organisation).

Malnight et al. remind us of this too: “The two best tactics for doing that [making purpose central to an organisation’s strategy] are to transform the leadership agenda and to disseminate purpose throughout the organisation.”

A manager who communicates the purpose of the organisation, provides people with the context for how they and what they do fit into the bigger picture. The manager is “doing things right” by giving people the information that will help them to focus and be at their best in support of the organisation’s purpose.

According to Malnight et al., the softer benefits of having a clear purpose include:

  • Unifying the organisation – as employees understand why changes are happening and are more likely to support them
  • Motivating stakeholders – the authors suggest that there is an increasing trend for employees, and maybe especially Millennials, to want to work for an organisation that is contributing to some ‘higher cause’
  • Broadening impact – as explained by the authors, is about providing the context for how teams in the organisation fit in and the value that they can bring to the organisation and perhaps, ultimately, to society.

Conclusion

With clarity of purpose being so central to both leadership and management, organisations should ensure that this is a regular agenda item on leadership and management team meetings.

An organisation’s purpose should also be regularly cascaded in communications through the organisation, and especially at times of change, and when setting team and individual objectives for the year ahead.

Notes

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 support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) 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 member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

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) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Recognising and responding to employees’ receptiveness to change


By Elisabeth Goodman, 19th June 2019

Victim, survivor and navigator mindsets in change – based on the work of Richard McKnight.  Illustrations by Nathaniel Spain in my book “The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook”, RiverRhee Publishing, 2013

providing the conditions for navigators of change

One of the most repeated and, in my view, misleading tropes about change is that “people resist change”.

Certainly if people are not given enough information and involvement or control they are likely to demonstrate resistance characterised by being a ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’ of change.

However, if the opposite is true: if people at least understand what the change is about, and what it is for, then they may come to believe in and value it – and demonstrate the characteristics of ‘navigators’ of change.

(You can read more about the concepts of ‘victims, survivors and navigators’ of change in one of my blogs on navigating change.)

employees are more receptive to change than business leaders give them credit for

An article in the May-June issue of Harvard Business Review – “Your workforce is more adaptable than you think” – by Joseph B Fuller et al (pp. 118-126) reveals that employees can be more aware and receptive to change than their business leaders predict.

Joseph B. Fuller et al, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2019 pp. 118-126

In fact, these employees would like to have more support and development opportunities to better equip them to deal with change i.e. they want to be ‘navigators’, but need the tools to help them to be so.

This was a large multi-country study, including the UK, which compared the perceptions and attitudes towards trends or changes (‘forces of disruption’) in the workplace, between low to middle-skill workers and business leaders.

The forces of disruptive change

Joseph B Fuller and his co-authors explored a total of 17 aspects of change, under six broad headings:

  1. Accelerating technological change – resulting in a decrease, increase, or other form of change in the nature of people’s work
  2. Growing demand on skills – an increase in the skills or knowledge expected of people at work; and an increased demand for (new) people with the relevant skills
  3. Changing employee expectations – people wanting to work more flexible hours for a better work/life balance; people more motivated by purpose and autonomy
  4. Shifting demographics – the expectation and necessity of greater diversity in the workforce: age, gender, race etc.
  5. Transitioning work / business models – reflecting some of point 3. but also more complex ecosystems of collaborations and partnerships
  6. Evolving business environment – in terms of regulatory, economic and political changes..

What business leaders can do to nurture employees’ receptiveness to change

Joseph B. Fuller and his co-authors’ recommendations would seem to echo my earlier points about people being more receptive to change if they are given some level of information and control or involvement in change.

Here is what they recommend:

 1.  Instil a continuous learning culture – with resources to support it, on the job, and also by recruiting from within. (This echoes a point in another article in the same issue of HBR about recruitment.)

2.  Involve and engage employees in the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of transition.  In one case study, the authors show how a company asked everyone to reapply for the smaller number of jobs resulting from their transition, and then provided support for those who were not successful to find new jobs.

3. Look to develop talent from within (a similar point to 1. above).  Be ambitious rather than assuming that you need to hire for the new skills.  Plan for what you need, and also for the skills that you will no longer need.

4. Collaborate with competitors and with academia to develop training and resources for new skills – especially in areas that are not currently being supported.  (This is something that companies in Cambridgeshire and in the Life Sciences are quite active in.  See for example this introductory Bioinformatics course from the Wellcome Sanger Institute.)

5. Find ways to manage the uncertainty within your organisation – for example by tracking emerging trends and giving people the opportunity to volunteer to be involved. They could for example work on projects outside their immediate area of work; another way to develop talent and skills.

Conclusion

Although business leaders might be tempted to ‘protect’ their employees from the changes that their organisations are subjected too, doing so can only backfire.

People cope better with change if they are kept informed and involved and, as this HBR article shows, will be better placed to take a proactive role in the associated challenges and opportunities.

NOTES

RiverRhee’s next course on Managing Change is on the 14th November.  Do get in touch if you would like to learn more about our approach.

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 support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  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 member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

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) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Storytelling for business (Part 2)


By Elisabeth Goodman, 5th May 2018

My Knowledge Management colleague from my days with NetIKX , Stephen Dale, recently alerted us to John and Joann Girard and Co’s new book “Knowledge Management Matters – words of wisdom from leading practitioners.”

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 15.00.06

The editors very generously offer the book as a free pdf, although one look at the contents convinced me that I needed the convenience of the printed book.

It’s the chapter entitled: “Putting stories to work: discover”, by Shawn Callahan that has caught my attention first.

Storytelling in a business environment is a topic I am fascinated by and would like to add into my CILIP on-site course on Good Practices for Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration.

I started to explore this topic in an earlier blog on Telling stories at work and am always keen to learn more.

Shawn Callahan has written his own dedicated book on the subject: “Putting Stories to Work: Mastering Business Storytelling”.  He is an evident expert on the subject, and I picked up lots of useful tips from his chapter here which I’ve combined with some of my own insights in this blog..

Why use storytelling in a business environment?

We may not realise it, but many of us do this already!

We seem to be genetically programmed to listen to stories. They engage us emotionally and make us pay attention.  They help us to learn and remember.  As soon as someone begins to tell us about something that happened to them or to someone else, almost subconsciously, we are ready to listen to what unfolds.

So, in a business context, stories can have a lot of potential for a variety of situations, for example:

  1. At a staff meeting, to get people engaged in the vision and goals of a team or of the whole organisation
  2. When going through organisational change, to build buy-in to and commitment for the new way of working
  3. During activities relating to learning and development – to help the new knowledge ‘stick’

However, storytelling does require some skills and techniques, and this is where Shawn Callahan and others can help us.  His chapter in “Knowledge Management Matters” focuses on how to discover good stories – so I’m cheating a little here in extending this blog to the wider aspects of storytelling.  Perhaps I’ll get hold of his full book next…

What are the basic constituents of a good business story?

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 15.40.45

In my previous blog on storytelling I highlighted what Christopher Booker had to say about how the seven basic plots resolve themselves into some common characteristics: a character, an event, some conflict and uncertainty, some form of resolution.

Shawn Callahan has a framework which is not too dissimilar – there should be:

  • A time and/or place to set the scene
  • A series of interconnected events (preferably connected by “but” or “however” which are more dramatic than “and then”)
  • Two or more characters in dialogue
  • An unexpected twist

As we know, fairy or children’s stories usually have a moral lesson.  For a business story, there needs to be some link with the business point that you want to make.

What makes for an attention grabbing story?

A business story does not have to be about business!  In my previous blog on “Telling stories at work”, I describe how we learnt, during my NLP practitioners’ course, to use metaphors as a way of getting a point across. We also learnt that a story will be more powerful if we draw on the senses: what we see, hear and feel.

The metaphor I created, in the NLP course, drew on my husband’s research on the fruit growing industry in South Cambs.  My main character was a magnificent elderly greengage tree in our garden, a possible remnant of the orchards that used to fill this part of South Cambridgeshire.  It is in full delicate white bloom at this time of year and at the mercy of determinedly pecking pigeons, and of sudden snaps of late spring frosts.

Greengage treeIn the summer, downpours of rain will swell and split the fruit, and wasps will burrow into it, so that the gages fall rotting to the ground.

However, come August, I still manage to make rich green jam and succulent crumbles, and sometimes still have surplus to put in the freezer.

Despite this constant challenge and adversity, the Cambridge gage has continued to survive, appearing on the stalls in the Cambridge market and further afield. It has deservedly earned a reputation for its rich golden green colour and unique flavour.

My story was an illustration of the constant change that we experience, at work as in life, and of enduring resilience to it.

Shawn Callahan suggests a few pointers for attention grabbing oral stories in a business context:

  • They should be about topics that your audience can relate to.  So my story linked to nature, food, and (for a Cambridge audience), local to Cambridge might work. Apparently anything relating to our reptilian brains i.e. stories about power, death / near death, children’s safety, and stories about sex (though perhaps not in a business environment) will be effective too.  Power can be about position, education, money, celebrity, beauty – and of the misery or joy that they can cause!
  • Using photographs (in a presentation setting perhaps), especially if they feature people, will add to the effectiveness of a story.  Artefacts can also help with eliciting and sharing stories – a technique I’ve used for example in the adult French conversation group that I lead, where I’ve asked people to bring something that has some sentimental value to them to talk about.  That resulted in some very powerful stories.
  • And oral stories need to be shorter, less detailed and more evocative than written stories.

Where to find your stories

Shawn Callahan’s chapter is on discovery, and he has lots of suggestions for us for where we can find our stories for business.  They don’t all involve making them up ourselves.  We can:

Listen in to what we hear work colleagues talking about in cafés, restaurants, corridors, and in the informal part of meetings before they start or after they have finished.  We can then tell the story as we saw or heard it.

Reflect on an experience we’ve had, and then connect it to a business idea (as I did above with the greengage tree).

Do something unexpected at work, which then creates a story for others to tell to illustrate a business point.  (Shawn Callahan tells one about a CEO quietly replacing a light-bulb during a meeting to illustrate his value of being prepared to ‘muck-in’).

Be aware of stories that we find ourselves telling, especially those that make us feel some emotion, and that we can attach a business meaning to (as I did in my previous blog in talking about a personal experience of change).

Retell other people’s stories – but make sure we acknowledge them. I  have one that my friend Tim told us about his washing machine when we visited him and Harriet a few weeks ago.  Tim and I got quite excited about his story as he worked it up over lunch after he and I had been talking about how he could get started in storytelling.  It’s a simple story, with an unexpected outcome, and I will be using it, with his permission, to illustrate how it’s possible to start telling stories, and to find them from unexpected sources!

Victim survivor navigator

Victim, survivor and navigator mindsets in change

Draw on scenes from films, especially films that others might have seen.  I have for example used a scene from The Shawshank Redemption, where the characters are sitting in the prison courtyard, talking about their attitudes to imprisonment and how they for me depict different responses to change: the ‘survivor’ (played by Morgan Freeman) who accepts his fate (at least initially) as being in the hands of others, and the ‘navigator’ (played by Tim Robbins) who is always looking for ways to take control of his own fate.

Conclusion

Shawn Callahan had lots of useful tips to enhance those I have previously collected about storytelling.

I am starting, as he suggests, to keep a storytelling journal.  I may or may not, as he also suggests, set myself a regular time to reflect on what has happened or what I have heard during the day that might make for a good story.  I will certainly continue refining and practising the stories  I do have, so that I can draw on them when I need them.

And I am looking forward to exploring this whole topic with my delegates in CILIP’s on-site course on Good Practices for Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration.

NOTES

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 support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  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 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) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

 

Defining a positive vision for change


By Elisabeth Goodman, 24th December 2017

First define a clear and compelling vision

In my RiverRhee and CILIP on-site courses on managing change, and in my publication “The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook“, I encourage people to think about “why” a change is taking place, before defining “what” it is and “how” to make it happen. The “why” or the vision for a change programme is often something that people find difficult to define.

Yet defining a clear and compelling vision is the first of the six common factors for successful change that my colleagues on the APM Enabling SIG committee and I identified during my time on the committee.

Key factors for successful change (APM Enabling Change SIG)

Some of the most compelling language around the incentives for change (for example Daryl Connor’s “burning platform“) focuses on negative or reactive, rather than positive or proactive reasons for change.

So it was good to read N.Anand and Jean-Louis Barsoux’s article in the November-December 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review (Note 1.) which suggests some compelling options for positive change.  Their four-year study of 62 corporate change programmes, across various sectors and countries, has also enabled them to define a clear and simple methodology for selecting such compelling visions.

Select your compelling vision and engage with your stakeholders

As Anand and Barsoux’s point out, the catalyst for organisational change, or transformation, cannot be improved efficiency or productivity alone. (Also known as operational excellence – on which more later.)  There must be some other ultimate aim or goal that will enable the organisation to deliver greater value to its stakeholders.  Their study identified five of these goals or, as they call them, quests:

  1. Global presence (becoming international in every aspect of the way the business works)
  2. Customer focus (understanding needs and providing integrated solutions that combine products and services)
  3. Nimbleness (the agility to adapt to different strategies, ways of working or cultures)
  4. Innovation (using internal and external resources)
  5. Sustainability (green or social responsiveness)

Defining nimbleness as a goal is an interesting one.  Our approach to operational excellence at RiverRhee is to increase the efficiency of organisational processes so as to free up and retain financial and intellectual capacity for delivering greater value.  This sounds like the nimbleness goal too…

The originality of the authors’ findings and recommendations revolves around using an internal audit against these five quests in a way that involves staff and hence also gets their buy-in for change. (This consequently also addresses the  APM EC SIG’s fourth key factor for successful change to engage stakeholders.)

Anand and Barsoux’s framework to audit the current status of strategic goals or “quests” – HBR, November-December 2017, p. 84

The audit enables those involved to evaluate the organisathon’s current performance, and hence identify gaps and potential prioritisations for change.

The authors also provide a forcefield analysis style tool for evaluating the enablers and barriers to help with the prioritisation.

Enablers and blockers to help prioritise the potential five quests for organisational change (Anand and Barsoux, HBR November-December 2017, p. 83)

Ensure strong leadership and sponsorship for change

The second factor for successful change that we identified in the APM Enabling Change SIG is having sponsors and stakeholders that are able to role model and support the change.

So Anand and Barsoux’s emphasis on developing leaders’ capability for change is a great way of building this sponsorship.  I particularly like their example from the company Stora Enso.

A dozen managers were selected at a time to be Stora Enso’s “Pathfinders” team.  Their mandate was to identify sustainability opportunities and to challenge the old way of doing things. The cohort was replaced each year, thereby building a pool of leaders with the capability and the mindset to champion change throughout the organisation.

What will you do next?

How well do you define the vision for your change programmes?

Could one or more of Anand and Barsoux’s list of five quests match with your vision for change?

How will you engage your stakeholders and ensure you have effective sponsorship for change?

NOTES

  1. N.Anand and Jean-Louis Barsoux.  What everyone gets wrong about change management.  Harvard Business Review, November-December 2017, pp. 78-85
  2. 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 support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  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 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) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Telling stories at work


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th October 2017

Why tell stories at work?

I first heard about the power of using stories at work, in the context of sharing knowledge and building learning and understanding, in the 1990s.

Stories are a powerful way to share knowledge and build learning and understanding.

David Snowden, who was then a Director at the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management, was a chief exponent of the use of narrative to convey complex messages.  (Snowden’s work has since evolved, and there is an informative and somewhat entertaining account of David Snowden on David Gurteen’s website.  Gurteen is himself somewhat of a guru of Knowledge Management.)

what makes stories so powerful?

Paul McGee tells us why stories are so powerful in his article “The power of telling stories” for the April 2017 issue of the Training Journal.  He reminds us that we have been using stories since the cave paintings 20,000 years ago, and we continue to engage with stories through books, TV programmes, film and in our day-to-day conversations.

And the reason, he tells us, why good stories are so engaging, is that they activate every part of the brain.  Not only the language processing parts, but every other part of the brain.  The more sensory and action words we include: how things look, smell, feel, and the actions involved – the more we engage the parts of the brain that would be activated if the listener was actually experiencing the event themselves.  They don’t actually need to be experiencing it for this to happen..

The result of telling a good story in this way is that it engages the emotions as well as the intellect.  Emotions make a story more memorable, more inspiring, and so are more likely to lead to commitment and to action.

When and How to tell a good story?

1.  Choose your opportunity and your topic

Stories can be shared about just about anything – but they do need to have a point to be effective!

Here are some situations I can think of – and that I have experimented with in my work with RiverRhee:

In a one-to-one mentoring or coaching situation to give a verbal example of how to do something, or not to do something based on your own experience of doing so.

In a training course or workshop, to convey some key principles, a framework or a methodology.

During a presentation, to get people’s attention and/or to illustrate some key points that you want to get across

2.  Think of a main character or characters, an event, and an outcome

As McGee says, in the Training Journal article, artistic licence is fine.  The story does not have to be true, although you might find it easier to create it, and to be convincing, if it has some basis on reality.

Christopher Booker, in “The Seven Basic Plots” (Bloomsbury, 2014), argues that these different plots (including comedy, tragedy, quests, rags to riches, encounters with monsters, voyages, rebirths) actually resolve themselves into some basic common denominators.

So, as he says, a typical story unfolds as follows: “once upon a time there was such and such a person, living in such and such a place… then, one day, something happened”.  That happening leads the main character (hero or heroine) into some experience that changes their lives.  There is conflict and uncertainty.  Ultimately there is some form of resolution.

One of my most powerful stories of this type illustrates how people can react to changes that they initially perceive as positive.  The words used in the change curve below mirror, to some extent, those for Booker’s story plot above.

Positive change curve – from “The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook”, RIverRhee Publishing, 2013

Although I can’t share the details of the change here, it was a family event that we had instigated, thinking that it was the right thing to do (uninformed certainty).  No sooner had we initiated it, than I literally felt like I had gone cold with shock (informed doubt!).  We persevered for a while, but eventually realised that the solution was not going to be as easy as we had thought, and that we had to start exploring other options (realistic concern).  Eventually we did find a way forward and are in a much better place (emotionally and intellectually!) now (informed certainty).

3.  Add some sensory detail – and try some metaphors

I learnt, in my NLP Practitioner training, about the wide range of words we can use when we talk to bring our own experiences alive, and to communicate more effectively with others.  We use some of these words automatically when we speak, and often neglect the wide array available to us.

So if we deliberately think about appealing to all of our senses, the results would be something like this:

  1. For visual language use: see, look, picture, blue, yellow, light, bright, dark, transparent etc.
  2. For auditory language use: hear, sound, loud, quiet, clank, click, tinkle, shrill etc.
  3. For kinesthetic language use: touch, feel, damp, dry, wet, sharp, hot, cold etc.
  4. For auditory digital (inner dialogue, or self-talk – this is more language based) use: understand, think, explain, process etc.

In fact, in our NLP course, we also used the power of metaphors as an aid to communication: telling a story that does not even have to directly mention the principle or method that you are trying to get across.  People draw their own inferences from the story – and the fact that they have to ‘work it out’ can make the final message even more powerful.

It can take a little courage to trust your audience to make the right inferences, and I generally err on the side of telling them – as with the ‘urban myth’ I use for explaining the importance of finding root causes to address sources of waste in Lean and Six Sigma and process improvement!

when and how will you try out stories at work?

As McGee suggests in his article, and as my own experiences show, it takes some courage to have a go with story-telling, to share perhaps personal stories, and to embellish the stories with sensory detail.

Choose a situation to begin: a one-to-one conversation, a course or workshop, a presentation.

Develop a story that you are comfortable with.

Write a list of prompts to remind you of the key points.

Test it out on a friendly audience.    Rehearse.

Remember the very long tried and tested history we have of the effectiveness of stories.

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 support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) 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 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 was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

 

 

 

Operational excellence can give you the competitive edge!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th September 2017

According to Sadun, Bloom and Van Reenen, writing in the Sept-Oct 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, a disproportionate amount of emphasis is put on the competitive advantage of strategic planning, to the detriment of operational excellence.

Competitive advantage of operational excellence_HBR Sept-Oct 2017

From: Why do we undervalue competent management? Neither great leadership nor brilliant strategy matters without operational excellence. Raffael Sadun, Nicholas Bloom and John Van Reenen. HBR Sept-Oct 2017, pp. 120 – 127

What is operational excellence?

Their definition of operational excellence, or good management practice, goes beyond a more traditional focus on Lean and Six Sigma process improvement techniques.  It covers four broad dimensions, and 18 specific aspects.  The four dimensions are:

  1. Operational management – which includes Lean process management
  2. Performance monitoring – which includes the use of key performance indicators (KPIs)
  3. Target setting – which includes a clear link between organisational strategy, and individual goals (aka. a clear top-to-bottom cascade of objectives)
  4. Talent management – which includes setting stretch goals, employee development and retention

What is the evidence for the competitive advantage of operational excellence?

As Sadun et al say, MBAs and management experts such as Michael Porter distinguish between strategy and operational effectiveness, and put greater emphasis on CEOs’ priority being on strategy for competitive advantage.

The authors of this HBR article have been carrying out in-depth research since 2002 on more than 12,000 organisations in 34 countries, in conjunction with the London School of Economics.

They have found that operational excellence is a massive challenge for organisations and that the large persistent gaps in these practices are associated with large persistent differences in organisational performance.

The better managed organisations are more profitable, grow faster, are less likely to die, focus on innovation as well as efficiency, attract talent and foster employee well-being.  All in all they demonstrate sustained competitive advantage.

Achieving operational excellence boils down to three things

Erroneous self-assessment, a blame culture, overestimating the costs involved and underestimating the potential benefits can all get in the way of adopting good management practices.

Managers, especially in family businesses, can worry about potential loss of control if they bring in others with greater expertise in operational management.

The workforce may not have the numeric, analytical and other skills to implement operational excellence.

And it requires a shift from working in silos, to collaborating across teams; reassurance that greater process efficiency won’t lead to redundancies; and “walking-the-talk” by management (CEOs included).

So achieving operational excellence boils down to three things:

  1. Commitment from the top: with a clear vision, visibility and role modelling by senior leaders (i.e. all key approaches for managing change)
  2. Understanding and ensuring availability of the required skills i.e. those associated with all four broad dimensions of operational excellence, as described above
  3. A shift in mentality at all levels to adopt these management practices as a way of working

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 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 was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Why leadership training fails – some tips for what to do about it


Guest blog by Liz Mercer, 11th January 2017.

why-leadership-training-fails_hbr-oct16

Editor’s note

Delegates from RiverRhee’s training courses often come away with one or more new ways of working that they would like to influence when they get back to their place of work. We are glad that this is the case: it is an indication that we have helped them to reflect about their own and others’ approaches to work, and what could be done to improve things.

However, they can sometimes be frustrated by the difficulties associated with implementing these changes. So I was very interested to hear about this article that Liz Mercer had come across, and suggested that she write this blog as a guest author to tell us more about it.

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The organisational context needs to be right for learning and growth

As passionate proponents of all things Leadership Development, I was drawn to an article in Harvard Business Review’s October 2016 edition, entitled ‘Why leadership training fails – and what to do about it’.

It’s my own experience, and long held belief that there are four key elements that need to be in place before any leadership development activity can truly work:

These are:

  • The leader has a desire to learn and grow, and the timing is right
  • The leader has some self-awareness and is motivated to improve their emotional intelligence
  • Supportive mentors and managers provide the right playground for development to be a positive learning experience
  • The organisation creates the space and opportunity to experiment and grow

So, when the articles’ authors Michael Beer et al, proposed that “no matter how smart and motivated they (leaders) are” unless you have “a favourable context for learning and growth” brought about by “senior executives attending to organisational design”, my attention was turned to much broader and more wide ranging considerations.

More than that…” if the system does not change, it will not support and sustain individual behaviour change – indeed it will set it up to fail”.

They go on to say that organisations will continue to put millions of pounds, time and energy into leadership development, only to find when leaders try to embed the behaviour change that they are now so committed to, they simply hit brick walls, barriers and infertile ground: a somewhat depressing thought for so early in this new year.

HR’s role came up for closer inspection once again too. I am familiar with the need to align learning, training and development with organisation strategy and goals: to identify the right set of competencies to develop in the people who can deliver the strategy and make change happen.

The organisation as a ‘system’

And yet, I was reminded by the article that organisations are systems of interacting elements, including, but not limited to roles, responsibilities, relationships, organisation structures, processes, styles, cultures, back grounds – the list goes on. It’s an amalgamation of all these elements that drive organisation performance and behaviour, not just, and only, the leadership community.

In their research, the authors found that CEO’s and their leadership teams needed to be confronted with uncomfortable truths more frequently, in order that they can free up the organisation and its leaders to take it where they want it to go.   One CEO insisted on taking a step back before approving a programme of leader development. When managers were asked to say what barriers they experienced, it wasn’t a lack of training that was the issue, some old favourites emerged…

  • The senior team didn’t have a clear and articulated strategy with corporate values
  • Well-structured talent and development planning discussions were infrequent
  • Talent hoarding restricted movement and created higher turnover

I noted that in the end, once the systemic changes happen then this encourages – even requires – the desired behaviours that leaders embrace in leadership development programmes.

So, what can you do about it?

The authors identified six basic steps to real talent development and these are summarised here:

  1. The senior team clearly defines values and an inspiring strategic direction
  2. Identification of barriers to learning and strategy execution: this may result in the redesign of roles, responsibilities and relationships.
  3. Day to day coaching and process consultation to help improve effectiveness in this new ‘system’
  4. Training and development activity is embedded where needed
  5. New metrics for individual and organisational performance are developed.
  6. Systems for selecting, evaluating, developing, and promoting talent are adjusted to reflect and sustain changes in organisational behaviour.

And so, what I loved about this article was that it reminded me of the importance of the ‘system’ in leader development and organisation growth. To ignore the system runs the risk of the huge investments made in leadership development, simply not paying off.

What this means for me as a proponent of managerial, leadership and organisation development is an increased focus on diagnosing the systemic barriers to individual growth and organisational development: for these to be worked on at least in parallel to leader development, if not earlier than that.

Only in this way will leadership development efforts have a real chance of success and, thereby, make organisations unstoppable in what they can achieve!

HBR article authors:

Michael Beer is the Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School and a cofounder of TruePoint Partners, a research and consulting firm specialising in organisational transformation. Magnus Finnstrom and Derek Schrader are directors at TruePoint.

About the editor

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 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 on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

About the author

Liz Mercer is an Associate with RiverRhee Consulting.  She is a Human Resources professional, with 30 years experience, mainly in Pharmaceuticals and Biotech and understands the challenges of leadership, management and team development. 

Liz runs her own business, Perla Development, providing training, facilitation and coaching, for individuals and teams: with a particular interest in the challenges for virtual team leaders. She is an accomplished facilitator and development coach.

She has a Masters in Organisational Behaviour, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and is accredited in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.