The Five Daily Reflections of the Change Agent

Reading Seeds for a Boundless Life, a book on Zen Buddhism by Zenkei Blanch Hartman, I came across a reference to the Upajjhatthana Sutra’s Five Daily Reflections. The Sutra recommends daily reflections to help Buddhists to focus less on their attachments to ego & desires and more upon their actions.

Reflecting on these, I saw a parallel to common challenges for each change agent’s practice of bringing about a better world. Change agents are taking on difficult work, not for the benefits of ego or any personal desire. Change agents act out of a purpose to make an impact that helps others.  At the same time what surprises many who take on change is that the road is harder and more difficult than they ever expected.

Every change agent lives with these five daily reflections:

  • I can’t go back. There is no way to go back.
  • I can’t avoid obstacles. Obstacles are the work.
  • I don’t have forever. Time is limited.
  • Everything changes. Loss is part of that change.
  • My actions and my interactions are how I make the change work.

Five Reflections of the Change Agent

Once a change agent sees the need to make a change in the world, it becomes impossible to ignore. They can’t wish it away or pretend things are as they were. They can’t undo their commitment to purpose.

Embracing that commitment means accepting that there will be obstacles to be overcome. The obstacles aren’t inconveniences or distractions. They are the work to be done to bring about the change.

Time is always a constraint. Time demands we make the most of every opportunities to create change. Time means we must start now. Time means we must involve others.

Just as we must embrace the obstacles we encounter in our work, we must accept that there will be loss in bringing about change. Some things we lose will be important to us and to others. Part of a change agent’s role is to help others understand and manage that loss.

We have only our actions and our interactions. That is how we bring about change. That is how our change will be judged. Ends don’t justify means. The means are a key part of the change.

Change agents can and do wish it were different. Keeping reflections like these ever in mind helps us to avoid the disillusionment that comes along with unmet expectations and unfulfilled wishes. Change agents are pragmatic and realise that little changes without the hard work to make change happen.

The Fabulous Cannon Of Aha: You Should Know…Lois Kelly

In Change Agents Worldwide, we had a conversation thread recently about how we talk about each other, so that others might know us betterLois Kelly and I agreed to correspond. Now, I have never met Lois in person. So what am I to suppose?

Well, importantly, and this is pivotal to the ideas of social business practice, I do know her through the network, through others with whom I have high trust relationships. This trust, and the value one puts into it, passes between network nodes like a genetic marker. It resonates.

Honestly, this network value is enough for me to say I value Lois. It is an automatic recommendation. But what happens when I dig a little deeper?

Before our video meeting, I clicked her avatar and profile page in our Change Agents network. Immediately, I get something more, partially by what is left out.

There is a close up headshot photo of her welcoming smile and her kind eye (singular). Her photo is cut in half, we see one the right side of her face. This I like, because it makes me wonder: what else? What is out of frame, awaiting discovery?

This resonates. I have long used an avatar of the top half of my face, eyes looking up, searching for something. It is the look of wondering, of seeking and creativity. This is how I hope people see me.

Then there is her “descriptor”: Creatively uncovering, communicating possibilities.

Sure, I’m buying. 

In VUCA times, possibilities are all that are available to us. It is a great place to aim for. I am distrusting of those who have answers all the time. I do know that Lois is a driving force behind Rebels at Work, and I have read a lot of that team’s writing, used quotes in presentations, and been inspired by the simple, direct ideals.Her brief bio includes:

The answers are found by listening and discovering in new ways, with unusual questions.

Lois’ website even has a section called #365questions  – she clearly doesn’t lack for inquiry!

So, I have a start, and plenty of holes. What is missing, what is just out of shot? Turns out, plenty enough for one hour of video chat!

We are all multifaceted, there is always more to us than anyone can know. We should be careful to boil someone down to the bare essentials. So, I shall share what I feel about Lois’ competitive advantage – what I sensed in her that is rare compared to all the other geniuses out there in the world.

I am always looking for a balance in people, how they manage the necessary tension in being multi-dimensional, how they hold themselves in the dance of dichotomy. For me, Lois’ tension is between rebelliousness toward, and relevance to, corporate audiences.

I am naturally attracted to the rebellious side. What’s not to love about someone who

“gets shot out of a cannon every morning”!?

That is a simple enough reason to say “I like you!” Her Rebels @ Work driver is such personal work for her – she has been charging into work for her entire career asking “Why don’t we do it that/this way?”

Early on in her career, that creative, exuberant approach got her into tight spots, stepping on (or maybe laying) landmines, until a senior leader told her, “Get revenue attached to your ideas, and you will be successful.” Madison Avenue beckoned, and the rest is (her) history (to tell).

So, here we have an ideas person. I meet plenty of those, always interesting, often marginalized. Lois is different. She is relevant. She understands organizational politics, she knows when to push and prompt, and when to wait and encourage emergence.

emergence

She can act as an external rebel and she can work to cultivate the internal rebels to develop the processes need for change.  Importantly, she reads the executive to see if they want to engage in the profound underpinning discussions of change or if they want to keep things simple.

Often, the intellectual, challenging conversations (the ones practitioners cherish) will ‘bore them to death.’ So she instead works to unlock the ‘one thing to do to get things moving.’

She leans on her studies of positive psychology and behavioural science – 95% of our decision-making is managed in our sub-conscious, so unlocking that understanding allows leaders to have better conversations about why they like what they like and want what they want.

This search for, and understanding of, relevance in the workplace led her to write a 2005 book (on what we might today call “social business”, among many contentious monikers for the workplace changes we see happening in the 21st century,) about “Conversational Marketing.”

Making it safe for leaders to investigate emergent practices and ready themselves for change, one step at a time, is prescient. Many contemporary #SocBiz visionaries struggle to make their views coherent enough for big business to buy. Lois has it down.

This ying-yang of rebel and relevance is a beautiful thing to observe. It ebb and flows so naturally in conversation, it is a lullaby for change. Is that balance, that interplay, her natural genius? Possibly. But she is also a constant learner too, she is never satisfied that she is done. Hers is a work in progress.

I will finish with a weird and whimsical image, one which I hope Lois will enjoy. If it is spot on, then she takes the acclaim as someone who shares creatively and naturally. If it is off mark, put it down to my active imagination that she was able to stir quite delightfully in a video chat hour that flew by.

On her website she lists a passion for uncovering “aha.” It conjured for me an image of the Fabulous Cannon of Aha, with Lois, smiling wryly, lighting the torch paper. The customer has three choices at the start of every day:

  • Lois can fire you from the cannon,
  • you can fire her from the cannon, or
  • you can both be fired from the cannon, and she will hold your hand the whole way.

The choice is yours! But here’s the thing: no matter which choice, it will work and it will be fun.

In the person-to-person economy, really knowing people is critical. You should know Lois Kelly. And here are two other people you should know…Simon Terry; and Richard Martin.

This post first appeared on the ←This Much We Know.→ blog.

The Dizziness of Freedom by Diana Renner

Diana Renner and I were discussing working out loud this week when Diana mentioned that she had an unpublished blog post in development that I recognised as the feeling of the ‘trembling finger’ when I am about to work out loud. This guest post is a result of that conversation. It is too good not to be widely shared – Simon Terry

living-on-the-edge-844873_1280

It has been almost two years since I stepped into the unknown and became an independent consultant. Looking back, it feels less like a step and more like a leap. In a single gesture of defiance, I traded security for freedom, leaving behind a relatively comfortable, predictable role in a large organisation. I had never expected to end up working on my own. But the promise of freedom was alluring. It still is. At the same time freedom opens up possibilities that are terrifying.

In his book The Concept of Anxiety, Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard explores the immense feelings of dread that accompany that moment when we find ourselves at a crossroads in life. The moment when the choice to do something hangs in perfect balance with the choice to do nothing. Kierkegaard uses the example of a man standing on the edge of a tall building or cliff, from where he can see all the possibilities of life. As he looks over the edge, he experiences both a fear of falling and at the same time a terrifying impulse to throw himself intentionally off the edge.

Every edge I have stood on has provoked feelings of dread and excitement. Whether going into a first meeting with a new client, writing a few pages in my book, or facing a bored and unmotivated group, I have struggled with what Kierkegaard calls our dizziness of freedom. Just like Kierkegaard’s protagonist, staring into the space below, I have contemplated many times whether to throw myself off or to stay put.

However, what seemed risky and largely unknown two years ago rapidly has become part of a familiar landscape. It would be natural to relax and enjoy the view… Yet I have learned that it is at this very point that I need to become more vigilant than ever and exercise my freedom to choose in three key ways:

  • To rally against the safe but numbing comfort of the status quo. I need to keep reminding myself that the greatest learning is just outside of my comfort zone. I need to keep stretching myself to keep growing.
  • To resist the strong pull of the crowd. I have found perspective on the margins, not looking to the outside for approval or acceptance, not following a trend just because everyone else is following it.
  • To interrogate the world’s criteria for what is good or successful. I am suspicious when I am being offered a formula to quick success or many riches. It is powerful to be able to question mainstream expectations, and carve my own path with courage and purpose.

The responsibility that comes with the freedom to choose is terrifying. But the cost of not choosing is even more so.

We need to welcome this dizziness of freedom as a sign that we are, in fact, just where we need to be. A sign that we need to slow down and reflect on the risk, then step off the edge anyway.

Diana Renner – Leadership consultant, facilitator, author of ‘Not Knowing – the art of turning uncertainty into opportunity’, Chartered Management Institute Book of the Year 2015, UK.

www.notknowingbook.com
www.notknowinglab.com
Twitter: @NotKnowingLab

The Unbearable Lightness of Being [a Network]

Like an amoeba, networks have the resiliency to change their shape at will.
Like an amoeba, networks have the resiliency to change their shape at will.

When we launched Change Agents Worldwide back in January 2013, we wanted to experiment with a new kind of organizational model.  We wanted to create a commercial enterprise that was effectively, a network.  Many of our original charter members saw the efficacy of working together in an egalitarian system of shared values and were eager to experiment with new ways of working.

Over the course of time, we shape-shifted on our original business model, yet still retained the values that brought us together originally.  Of course, the network gained new nodes and lost nodes, but in balance, our members are still tightly aligned inside and outside on the social web in philosophy and practice.

As the key founder and “big idea” conceiver originally behind Change Agents Worldwide, I have taken immense pride in the work all our Change Agents have contributed to growing our brand and achieving the worldwide recognition we now enjoy today.  Over the summer of 2014, I decided to turn my attention to using this newfound knowledge to solve an important societal problem.  With that decision, I realized we needed to reshuffle the back-office deck within the network in order to continue our journey.

Our founders met in January 2015 to discuss a few new models for the company going forward. Simon Terry, one of our partners, presented an interesting new model for the business going forward that we all loved.  We came to an agreement as the original partners to transfer ownership of Change Agents Worldwide to Simon Terry, as a result.

Simon has demonstrated an uncanny ability to take these new messages about working in a network, succeeding as a leader in the network era, and how organizations can benefit at every level of the maturity scale by working socially to a whole new dimension.  All of us who originally conceived Change Agents Worldwide are thrilled to see Simon put his energy behind the brand and continue to bring our story to an international audience.

The best news is – we are a network.  We’re not going anywhere.  All the founders, charter members, new members are still an active part of Change Agents Worldwide.  Wiser, older, stronger, and looking to the future.  You might say, we are under new “un” management.

Congrats Simon from all of us!  

Leadership in Transformation

flash-55045_640 A common topic of debate in the Responsive Organization movement is whether an organization can become responsive or it must be born that way.

Undoubtedly many of the leading case studies of future of work organizations are organizations created or rebirthed from near death by charismatic founders. Some use this as evidence that the elements of a responsive organization must be present from the beginning. In a previous post, I pointed out that we cannot rely on transparency alone to make change occur for us. The power structures in a traditional organization will prevent most radical change.

I am unambiguously in the optimist camp here in Change Agents Worldwide and the company in the optimist camp inspires me. I have seen organizations change enough to not recognise their former selves. Change to more responsive ways of working is possible. The question is how.

What gets in the way

Chris Argyris’ classic article Teaching Smart People to Learn is a rich source of observations of what gets in the way of a Responsive Organization transformation.  In particular, Argyris notes that:

… There seems to be a universal human tendency to design one’s actions consistently according to four basic values:

1. To remain in unilateral control;

2. To maximize “winning” and minimize “losing”;

3. To suppress negative feelings; and

4. To be as “rational” as possible—by which people mean defining clear objectives and evaluating their behavior in terms of whether or not they have achieved them.

The purpose of all these values is to avoid embarrassment or threat, feeling vulnerable or incompetent. In this respect, the master program that most people use is profoundly defensive. Defensive reasoning encourages individuals to keep private the premises, inferences, and conclusions that shape their behavior and to avoid testing them in a truly independent, objective fashion.

These hidden values in most organisation get in the way of the transparency-led transformation that many hope to see. The Responsive Organization poses a threat to control, a threat of losing and negative feelings. Importantly the delegation of authority in a Responsive Organization may cause people anxiety as to objectives and rationale for action.

The role of leadership is to act as a counterbalance these natural human values and shift the behaviours to that of a Responsive Organization. We need to create rationales for action more powerful than embarrassment. We need to create community to generate trust, support and connection. We need to enable learning through conflict and experimentation.

Purpose:

Leaders must create a strong rationale for the transformation. In cases of crisis, startup or near death of organizations, this rationale can often be imposed by a charismatic individual. The external circumstances enable a threat-based narrative to bind people together in a defensive rationale for change.

However, most organizations are successful to their own terms. As Argyris notes, we want to feel successful even if our results don’t pass external muster.

Leaders need to leverage two elements to create a strong rationale for change in this context:

  • The Purpose of the organization: a purpose is the ultimate rationale for why people come together in an endeavour. It defines the common impact the group of people wish to have on the world.  As a higher agenda, it is the perfect rationale for change for even the most successful organizations.  Purpose is a mastery quest. Very few organizations have the capability to completely fulfil their purpose. They can however strive to better realise it.
  • External orientation: No closed system will find a rationale for change. External orientation is where organizations find the challenges and opportunities that define the purpose into specific improvement opportunities. Leaders need to relentlessly focus the organization on its customers and community to see transparently the challenges and opportunities that exist for change. Well defined external impacts in this community will be what can drive the autonomy of teams in the organization.  Using customer and community data in line with Purpose, also enables change agents to overcome embarrassment-based resistance in the organization.

Community:

Individuals will need support to take on the risks of a Responsive Organization. The role of leaders is to create the sense of community that will support an individual through that change. At the heart of that community will be engagement with others and a growing sense of mutual trust.  Leaders set the tone for any community. They must also work hard to reinforce these key community behaviours

  • Engagement: Engagement begins with transparency and connection. I cannot truly care about the others in my community until I know who they are and understand their purposes, concerns and circumstances. Leaders need to create the conditions to enable people to be more social, to connect, to solve and to share their work challenges together.
  • Trust: Engagement will build trust as it builds understanding. Transparency will reinforce trust. However, leaders need to take on the role of fostering responsibility and accountability as engines of growing trust in the organization.  When people see that individuals and teams are accountable for driving change then they will have greater trust in the change agenda.

Learning:

This post is deliberately not titled like a listicle e.g. ’The 3 or 6 things to transform an organization’. Even a basic familiarity with change highlights that formulas will work only up to a point. Leadership needs to be adaptive to enable any system to change in a sustainable way.

To be true to their purpose and stakeholders, to leverage the potential of their community, each organization will take an unique path through change.  The role of leaders is facilitate the individual and organizational learning required:

  • Experimentation: creating a culture of rapid iteration to address challenges and opportunities will accelerate the cycle of learning in the organization. Leaders must help this experimentation culture to overcome the resistance identified by Argyris and also to spread and have a wider influence in the organization. Lessons learned must become new truths which will take a sense-making role for leaders in the wider organization and mean leaders must champion new ways of working when they arise, whatever the personal costs.
  • Conflict: The biggest reason that organisational transformations fail is an unwillingness of the leadership of the organization to allow uncertainty and conflict. Conflict will happen. The uncertainty associated with conflict is inevitable. Efforts to suppress this will either undermine transparency, the rationale for change, engagement or learning. Failure to embrace conflict takes many names: politeness, bureaucracy, politics, corporate speak, history, culture, etc. Failure to embrace conflict is an unwillingness to learn and improve. There will always be resistance when change comes and it must be addressed. Leaders need to create and sustain the right kinds of constructive conflict – driven by purpose, based in facts from an external orientation & experimentation, mediated through an engaged community.

Change is Coming. Lead.

I have seen the potential of purpose, external orientation, engagement, trust experimentation and conflict to drive change. Supported by leadership these are the elements of each organisation’s transformation. These elements are critical to a Responsive Organization.

Throughout this post I have referred to leaders and leadership. This need not be hierarchical leadership. Change takes change agents. Clearly it helps if leadership and power are aligned in an organization in reinforcing the need for change. However, the changes described above are not capable of being implemented by top-down edicts. These changes must come as individuals and groups discover their power and are influenced as a result, This kind of leadership relies on influence and can begin bottom up or even from the middle management so often scorned in organizations.

Change is possible. Change is coming. Smart people can learn. Your people and your organisation can better realise their potential and their purpose. A Responsive Organization transformation will occur if you are prepared to lead the change.

Lead.

This post was first posted on simonterry.tumblr.com

 

What Does it Mean to be a Change Agent?

Over the summer, our network went through some rocky reverberations.  Conversations cropped up that forced us to think carefully about what we’re attempting to do here at Change Agents Worldwide.  The process, although difficult, was healthy, sobering… cleansing.

We divided into three international regional teams and set about to examine who we are and what we’re interested in achieving.  Key to that introspection was a focused exploration into our values.  Individually, every professional executes against personal goals and ambitions, but collectively – within the network – we needed to capture the essence of what it means to be a change agent in our network.  Scripting our values became the pedestal upon which we’d build a new business model that served our greater purpose.  As a startup, we’d been experimenting with a new model for management consulting.  The disruptive nature of what we were attempting to do, combined with competing ideas of how to go to market, resulted in difficulty convincing potential clients and network members to embrace the new model.  It was obvious we were headed for that dreaded startup pivot, yet we resolutely agreed we would not pivot on our values or what we wanted to achieve.  We, in the purist sense, meant everyone in the network.  Not just the founders, everyone.  At Change Agents Worldwide, every individual has an equal voice and the ability to course correct, question, or object to any aspect of our business.

From the very beginning,  we’ve been focused on a single goal: to Change the World of Work. It occurred to us that although there are many thought leaders in and around the social web who believe the same things we do, and who teach, write, and speak brilliantly about these same concepts, they may not self-identify as a change agent.  Going forward, we agreed we needed to create a manifesto, a credo that would define uniquely what we believe and who we are as participants in the network.  We crowdsourced this credo over a period of weeks.  From here, we’ve crafted a refreshed understanding of who we serve, how we will serve them, and who rightfully belongs as a member of our network.  Every existing member of our network signed the credo.  And going forward, signing the credo is part of our on-ramping process.

If you see yourself in the description above, consider joining us.  We have an incredible team working on leading-edge projects and breakthrough ideas in some of the largest institutions in the world. We are, in fact, changing the world of work every day.   In subsequent posts, I’ll be writing about some of those advancements and achievements.  There’s never been a better time to be a Change Agent in our network.

 

Change Agents Go to Washington!

b4fszcDrowning in paperwork?  Demoralized by endless meetings where you sit and sit and sit, and have no voice?  Tired of performance management reviews that have little to do with your potential or passion?   Frustrated by knowledge that buries itself in graveyards of  email thread coffins?

Then, we have a workshop for you.  Come get rejuvenated in November and learn how your work experience can be joyful, interesting, and rewarding.  Changing behaviors at work is challenging, but results in greater productivity, innovation, job satisfaction, and loyalty.

For the first time, a crack team of our Change Agents will descend from the cloud and lead you through a discussion of how you too can “work in the future.”

Where:  KMWorld 2014, Grand Hyatt, Washington D.C.

When: November 4, Tuesday morning, 2014

Workshop Description:

W9: Flexible & Agile Workstyles & Processes for the 21st Century Organization
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

 

Susan Scrupski, Change Agents Worldwide
Joachim Stroh, Change Agent, Change Agents Worldwide
Catherine Shinners, Founder, Merced Group
Carrie Young, Principal, Talk Social To Me

 

The Future is already here and evenly distributed among the global members of the Change Agents Worldwide (CAWW) network. This half day workshop shares their secrets: how they work, their values, how they adopt/adapt/exapt new ways of working with their global team. A team of Change Agents discuss leading organizational concepts such as: new models for organizational design, the power of self-organization, social and organizational network analysis, and more. They’ll talk about the cornerstone of what makes their networked organization work: transparency, trust, authenticity, and a culture of sharing and cooperation. The CAWW network exemplifies how social and operational integration yields iterative improvements in responding to customers, working collaboratively with partners, and creating value in the marketplace. The workshop also talks about what supports their work: SWARMS, Pods, Cookie Jars, Green Rooms, and other new processes based on agile and self-organizing principles.

The workshop will review our philosophical principles, explain the practical application of these principles and demonstrate how they’re exercised in a network-based organization.  We’ll also lead audience members through a series of hands-on exercises to experiment with putting these ideas into practice.  It will be an interactive day of learning and sharing. We’re looking forward to cooperating and collaborating with new friends of the Change Agents Worldwide network.

We have a special conference registration discount for anyone wishing to attend KMWorld 2014 too. The discount will get you $100 off the early-bird rate and $200 off the regular rate.  Please let us know if you’re headed to KMWorld in the comments.  See you there!

Smarter Innovation: Road Map to the Future

Last spring, we were approached by the Academic Director of Columbia University’s Graduate Information and Strategy program, Katrina Pugh.  She had received word about the innovative way our Change Agents work out loud in the cloud.  We were asked to contribute to a management book published recently by ARK Group, “Smarter Innovation: Using Interactive Processes to Drive Better Business Results.”

The goal of the book is to shed light on insights that have been growing in our knowledge space – tacit knowledge sharing, conversations, collective intelligence, applied analytics – but which have never been wrapped together in a coherent way to address such as pressing problem. As our global economy steps out of its long slumber, it will be the innovators who expand opportunity and prosperity for their employees, customers and societies.  – Kate Pugh

smarterOur chapter in the book resides within the topic focusing on social and operational integration.  We go into great detail about how we work, our values, our innovative business practices, and the strength of our network-based decision-making when it comes to modern organizational design and methods.  Authored primarily by three of our Change Agents, but collaborated on by our whole team, the chapter defines how Change Agents Worldwide “works.”  And, of course, the way we work is a reflection of how our network wants to work.  Every change agent in our network believes in the principles we espouse, so it should come as no surprise that we actually work this way.

The book is fascinating. It’s available today on the ARK Group web site.  Contributions by leading consultants and thought leaders who hail from Columbia, Deloitte, Emory University, 3M, Motorola, Pfizer, Intel, and many others have presented cutting-edge examples of how large and small companies are innovating with customer service, supplier intelligence, sales, knowledge retention and discovery, inventory, and open patent alternatives.

If you just want to read our chapter, Innovation by Design, you can download it today from our web site.  For all of those who’ve pre-ordered the chapter on our web site, you will be receiving a notification shortly that it’s available for download.

Feel free to download our first e-book as well, Changing the World of Work.  One Human at a Time.  We are currently working on new book ideas, so make sure to subscribe to our newsletter list to keep up with our new products and services.  Lots of good stuff coming from our worldwide team of Change Agents.

Change the Conversation

Ravens in Conversation

A large part of the history of our technology has been the effort to use technology to control human behaviour. Technology transformation is often sold on the potential to better make humans do things that they should be doing. The failure of so many transformational technology programs is proof that human behavioural changes are a subtler and more elusive challenge. Changing the conversation is as important as changing the process.

The Business Case for Technology Transformation

Leadership mindsets from the industrial era often lead to the management question:

“What can we do to make people do the right thing?’.

Technology transformation is sold on a promise of offering the answer. Too commonly management will choose a new technology system or process as delivering a way to make people ‘do better’. For example:

  • Customer Relationship Management systems will deliver better conversations with customers and better sales force productivity
  • Human resources systems will deliver better talent, engagement and performance conversations and better compliance with required processes
  • Business Process Management systems will enable better and more granular control of the processes that people use to do the work
  • Enterprise collaboration tools will make an organisation more collaborative
  • Knowledge management tools will make organisations better informed
  • Better analytical tools using big data will deliver better decisions in organisations

However, these technologies are usually only an infrastructure to support new behaviours and new conversations. Their capabilities underpin human behaviour. New processes will encourage change. New data capture and reporting may help measure activity. Without a willingness to change to new behaviours from users, the systems alone cannot make change without risk of major disruption or disengagement.

Technology rarely can require a new behaviour or a new conversation. Human creativity enables remarkable ways to cling to old ways in the face of new technology. Even to the extent that these technologies deliver better measurement of human activity, organisations are often frustrated to discover that the ability to measure and target activity simply generates activities to solely meet the measures, not behavioural change. Quantities are achieved as the cost of both productivity and quality.

Change the Conversation 

Changing the leadership question can have a dramatic impact on how an organisation makes decisions. Here’s a different question for management to ask about a transformation of technology:

‘What do our people need to better deliver our goals?’

There are a number of advantages that flow from changing the conversation around change and transformation in this way:

  • Engaging your users: Instead of assuming management or a technology vendor has the answers, the question opens up a conversations for people who do the work to contribute and learn. Treat your employees as skilled knowledge workers and respect their creativity and opinions. These people will have the best context on what is causing the issues and what support they need.  Engaging their input will be the most powerful element of change in performance. At the end of the day, the behaviours that need to change are theirs.
  • Change the leadership conversation: Shifting from a control mindset to one that is about realising the potential of the team is a powerful change in an organisational conversation. A transformation can be a key way to help accelerate this change in mindset. If employees feel trusted and are free to share, many people will highlight the way that the leaders themselves may need to change as part of that transformation too.  The best change begins with those seeking to drive change.
  • You may not need new tools or a new process: How many systems have been implemented to solve issues which were simply a lack of clarity of purpose or objectives of work? Do people need new skills or capabilities instead of new systems? Do people need new freedoms, approaches & leadership support to respond in an agile way to market needs? Consider alternatives and additional elements to enable the behaviour changes that arise.
  • Inconsistent demands on people:  Engaging your people in change will highlight areas where you are being inconsistent. In a siloed organisation systems often work at cross purposes. Are you sure that all the other elements of your systems & culture reinforce the right goals? For example, it is common for people in sales and service roles to experience that their time is used up with low value compliance tasks. As a result high value customer tasks will get pushed from the system. Forcing additional compliance will only make that worse. If performance management systems and the real leadership conversations in your organisation work against your new system, it is dead before it is even deployed.
  • Engaging outside the organisation: Do your customers want to give you the data that you need for your new CRM or analytics system? Does the change in sales approach or work process improve their experience as well? Will great talent be rewarded by working in your performance management system? Are you sure you can articulate the value of these changes to external stakeholders? Your people will need to do so. Your people’s reluctance to do your view of ‘the right thing’ might be saving you from broader issues with customers or other stakeholders.
  • Pace of change: Changing systems takes time. When will the system need to change again to adapt to a rapidly changing market? Are your people holding back because they can see the next change coming? Are you better to focus on your ability to change behaviours in more agile ways than through changing technology systems?

Technology transformation can be a powerful enabler of organisational change. However, it is merely an enabler. Changing the leadership conversation is often the critical element to ensuring the success of a transformational change.

This post has been cross-posted from simonterry.tumblr.com

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The Future of Work is The Future of Leadership

An insight about the future of work dropped this morning as I discussed leadership in the network era with Harold Jarche and Jon Husband, my colleagues in Change Agents Worldwide.

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The Future of Work is the Future of Leadership

The future belongs not to the leadership of technology. The future belongs to the technology of leadership.

Our opportunity is not incremental improvement in the leadership of change to implement network technologies. Our opportunity is a much more important transformation of the critical human technology of leadership for the network era. Only new leadership capabilities & concepts will enable us to realise the potential of the future of work

Realising Human Potential is What Matters

If you are one of the thought leaders, consultants or vendors working to bring about the adoption of social collaboration technology, you know there is a raging debate about what changes in social and network technology means for organisations. However, there is much that is unclear in the debate about the future of work.  Social Business is deadnot dead or even not enough. The biggest challenge is adoption, lack of executive buy-in, return on investment or even organisation’s success. You need a collaboration layer, you need purposeful collaboration or you need cooperation instead.

If you are a manager in an organisation trying to achieve outcomes in a rapidly changing business climate, you most likely missed this entire conversation. The debate about the impact of social collaboration technology is not even on your radar (unless a consultant or vendor has caused you to reflect on it for a moment before you returned to the daily challenge of running your business).

What matters most to managers is more effective human collaboration – collaboration that improves the performance of your business for your customers and delivering better work experience for your people. Managers everywhere wish there were better ways to tap the talents, innovation and engagement of their people to help deliver better outcomes. That is at the heart of the discussion of employee engagement in our organisations.

The technology that engages people and realises potential is called leadership. That’s why so many investments are made by organisations in leadership development and in a push for leadership in every role. Leadership is the most effective technology to solve for the management wish.

Network Era Leadership Realises Human Potential

Work is a human task. Leadership is the work of mobilising others to action. Leadership is how we help people to realise their human potential. Much of our network and collaboration technology is just an infrastructure for the work and leadership required. The network can magnify the culture of the organisation, but we need the right leadership models for managers to realise the potential of a network era of work.

Traditional management & leadership approaches inherit many of their concepts from process models borrowed from the industrial era. In this mindset human potential is measured in productivity terms.  The command and control culture focuses on using the right processes to drive human productivity and align that productivity with the right tasks. The engines of human potential (engagement, knowledge creation, experimentation, innovation & enablement) are driven out as sources of volatility & waste. What many call leadership is better described as a process of command of people with an efficiency mindset. That is not leadership at all.

These traditional management concepts also get baked into organisational systems. We have built much technology to explicitly or implicitly reflect these industrial models of management and work. Look inside any organisation and you will find plenty of systems designed from the top-down that reinforce hierarchical command and control. Pull out your system process maps and look for your employee’s ability to do exception handling. In many cases there is no exception process. Exceptions are handled in hacks.

Transparency, responsiveness, the ability to work across silos and effectiveness are often surrendered to tight control of process, narrow measurement of process outcomes, compliance and efficiency. Critical systems in customer management and human resources systems offer some of the most striking examples of these constraints and are widely copied from organisation to organisation. To the frustration of everyone, managers and people must work around these systems to collaborate and cooperate effectively while managing waves of top down change management to bring them back to compliance with process.

The disruption of the networked era is evidence of the scale of change that networks are bringing to our lives. ‘Kodak Moment’ has an entirely new meaning today. This pace of change focuses our attention on a need for change in the concepts of leadership & organisation to support a changing world of work.

We need not focus much on the threats of this era. The opportunities of new models of work and leadership are greater. New network technologies give a glimpse of the potential for leaders to better leverage the people of organisations for work and innovation.  However, realising the potential of human collaborative and cooperative knowledge work in networks demands new leadership models.

We Know How to Start Leading in the Network Era

Each new era brings social changes and requires new more effective concepts. We updated the concepts of leadership and management at the birth of the industrial era, leveraging existing concepts from the military and other spheres of human life. Now people need to work to develop new models to leverage the infrastructure delivered by networks and collaboration technology.

The good news is that many of these concepts are already clear and have been developed by practitioners to the point where they are capable of application in everyday work. These practices now work highly effectively and can be taught. Managers now need to pick these up and build the capability in their people to lead in new ways, using:

  • Deeper self-awareness and understanding of human behaviour and drivers of high performance
  • A greater focus on systems and a wider view of outcomes and stakeholders
  • Purpose & Trust to enable leadership & followership in every role
  • Experimentation & Adaptation
  • Collaboration & Cooperation
  • Network models of work organisation like Wirearchy, Pods and Swarms
  • Social work and learning, such as personal knowledge managementworking out loud.

However, we cannot expect managers do to all the work alone. We will need to support them with learning, coaching and the opportunity to practice the new skills and mindsets.  We need to change the organisational systems and processes that hold back this opportunity to better leverage human potential.

Making these changes is the great challenge of leadership is in the new network era. It is the work I will be focused on with my colleagues in Change Agents Worldwide as we help others to navigate these changes.

The future of work is the future of leadership for everyone in organisations. Building a better more effective model of leadership will help realise the human potential of this future. Join the effort in your organisation to build a new technology of leadership to make this possible.