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Change or Die!

If you were told that unless you made a lifestyle change you would die, would you change?

Would you, though?

Research shows that you're probably wrong.​

In this video, I report on some fascinating research first made known by Alan Deutschmann. The results are surprising but hopeful.​

What emerges is an unlikely but compelling story of how we are influenced much more effectively through our hearts than our heads.

One of my favourite quotes comes out of this research:

"Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear." Dr Dean Ornish

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Check out the video.

Ambiguity in a VUCA World

I’m very proud of my daughter, Sarah. She has made a name for herself in the very male-dominated world of historic building restoration and ornamental plastering. She uses all her skills as a sculptress and has developed a keen eye for the health of historic buildings. I was walking with her recently through the centre of Newbury, an old market town in Berkshire, UK, that boasts a fairly modern shopping centre. And she began to illustrate for me how ambiguity works in a VUCA world. (‘VUCA’ stands for an environment defined by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.)

Ambiguity is all around us. The trouble is, by definition, we don't recognise it. 

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So when Sarah suddenly moaned at the sight of this wall (pictured above) it got my attention. What was wrong with it? To my untrained eye, someone had been responsible for preserving this fine building by re-pointing the wall. That was a good thing, right?

Well, no. Sarah pointed out that the traditional material to bind bricks was lime. Concrete, though less perishable, does not absorb water.

I still didn’t get it. Not absorbing water is a good thing, right?

Again I stood to be corrected. A building such as this, Sarah explained, is a living system. When it rains, where will the water go? It will seep into the most porous – and also the most precious – element of the structure, the timbers, stay there and eventually rot away the wood. In about ten years time, these ancient timbers will be rotting and need replacing. And they are irreplaceable.

This illustrated a couple of things for me about ambiguity:

  • It's often experience and skill that will be the only way of recognising ambiguity in our work. I thought the repair was a good, responsible job; my daughter knew it was a restoration crime.
  • The frame of reference we bring to the world matters. In this case, do we think of a building as an inert, static structure or as a living system, a system that needs to flex and breathe? Our frame of reference is how we see reality, how the world appears to us.

Our worldview conditions how the world occurs to us.

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In the world of leading change, we make assumptions about people and their behaviour. For example, someone reacts with surprising hostility towards the changes we are trying to make. We can make the assumption that they are a trouble-maker, they dislike us, or that they are just a stubborn reactionary.

We need to look closer. My experience draws me towards that person, towards that conflict; it triggers exploratory, compassionate questions. And my frame of reference is that very few people are sociopaths, so there is probably another reason why this person appears unreasonable.

I look deeper, and I find that this person is going through a domestic trauma and that the only stability in their life right now seems to be their workplace. And I'm about to take away that last refuge of stability.

Suddenly their reaction begins to make sense.Now I can view them very differently. I can begin to work positively with that person.

Ambiguity in this VUCA world is all around us. The problem is, by definition, we don't see it.

The more we grow in experience and what worldview we bring to our work, the more we challenge our own initial assumptions, the more we are likely to uncover and recognise important ambiguity.

 

 

Has your change got a hope?

Have you ever found yourself influencing people to change and found that there was more than a lack of motivation, there was a lack of belief in the proposed change?

Next week I’m speaking at the BCS Business Change SIG in London to this title. I’ve discovered a real power in hope when it is applied to business change.

However, this kind of hope done not mean this:

  1. Wishful thinking in a pessimistic frame of mind. We often use the word hope in this way. “I hope so, but I fear otherwise.” This has little expectancy about it. This has nothing back it.
  2. Blind Optimism. I will be referencing the Stockdale Paradox in my presentation, that Jim Collins explores in his book, Good to Great. Sometimes unrealistic optimism ca be actively destructive.

No, what I will explore is something rarely mentioned in change management literature that I call resilient hope.

If you’d like to know more just enter your details here:

[reminder preface=”Question:”]Have you ever seen hope rise in a change you have been part of? How did that happen? Let me know.[/reminder]

You’re Not Crazy!

Sometimes it seems as if the whole world around you has gone mad. And then you begin to doubt that yourself. "Am I still sane?" you ask yourself. Sometimes that is what a dysfunctional culture can do to you. It makes you doubt what you thought you knew for certain.

I was talking with a client is who leading a major transformational change and she was beginning to see signs of it all unravelling. Even the people who were supposed to be taking the lead on certain aspects of the change were flipping between platitudes - “everything is fine” - and defensiveness. She needed to talk to someone sane, so she called me. In this example, our culture can be dangerous: it can blindside people to very real problems. If enough people agree, they can be denial until there is a disaster is inevitable. Culture can do that.

Sometimes culture can seduce us into acting like lemmings.

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Here are some common symptoms to watch out for:

  • Silo-working on a programme that would have a far-reaching impact.
  • Project teams being focused solely on the tasks and the technology.
  • Over-optimism about the results to justify their earlier case, the so-called optimism bias.
  • Under-resourced and over-extended managers who have just been given another 42 strategic goals.
  • Key early adopters in the change who still don’t know what’s going on only a few weeks from “go live.”

Another way of describing culture is a conspiracy of conceit. Culture can seduce us into acting like lemmings; we are about to rush over a cliff to our deaths and we all think we’re doing fine. We take false comfort in each other. An antidote is to listen to someone from outside, who is not in that culture. And that’s hard to do when your first reaction is to say, ”But you don’t know how we work here.”

I told my client, "You're not crazy!"

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I told my client, “You’re not crazy!” She needed to hear that, in the teeth of such huge cultural inertia. She is doing well but needs encouragement, support, and guidance, in that order.

Question: How do you support your colleagues when they are not going with the cultural flow? I’d like to hear how you do it.