Adaptability solutions finessed by different ‘mixes’

Working in the change sector, I’ve come to brace myself whenever someone I hear someone has come up with THE BEST ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE MODEL – yes, all in capital letters.

After a cursory look I generally see a simplistic solution that is easy to sell, and completely unworkable when it comes to implementation or long term success.

Adaptability is not a simple field with one-size-fits-all solutions. It’s an old saying, but one worth repeating every time someone offers a simple bromide to fix what ails you – when something sounds too good to be true, it really is.

There are no prepackaged change solutions that work because no two organizations are alike. But the allure of a simple solution to a complex problem is nearly irresistible to many.

But you don’t start with  the  simple stuff and then get complex. The very first step is to to understand where the levers for change exist within a very complex environment.

I go back to my analogy of blending instruments in a recording mix.

How do you find and isolate which instrument is creating the noise within your mix? What is the person hearing that is making them play the way they are and making them perform out of step with the rest of the players?

Of course it could be incompetence. But let’s assume all the players are highly skilled professionals. In that case the reason for the problem isn’t the player, but rather the information that player is working from.

The problem is upstream and so is the solution.

In business it’s easy to drown out the problems by pushing them down in the mix while turning up the volume of something that seems to be working well.  But that doesn’t mean the problem is gone – we just don’t hear about it.

And it continues to bang away in the background.

Adaptability: the view from the mixing board

As a musician I understand what happens when the individual elements of a recording sound perfect, only to fall apart when played together.

It’s always a matter of balance: less bass, more guitar, keyboard strong but not predominant, drums present but not overbearing.

All musicians can be playing their hearts out but in the end, what makes it a coherent and successful piece of music is the mix.

Working in the change field, I’ve come to see workplaces in much the same way. The instruments are the various departments and the manager is in charge of getting them to create a third thing: a successful product.

But unlike a studio recording, you can’t simply find the perfect mix in isolation and lock it down. What you need to do is think of how your pieces come together in an organic way like a live performance. There has to be room for improvisation and every player must be ready to adapt to how an audience (your customers) are reacting.

But like any great band the individuals have to be ready to pick up the slack and help everyone around them so the performance, produce or service results in a “wow” from those on the receiving end.

Aside from the mix, we have to look at how each instrument, each department, is working. In music, it’s the graphic equalizer that makes sure  individual instruments sound good regardless of their placement in the mix.

And it’s the same with business. If the departments aren’t finely tuned, they can destroy your mix quickly. HR are one of those knobs, your Measurement System is another. You have to get the right balance between them so you are producing what your customers want.

And this is the same across all industries, just as it is across all genres of music. Each line of business or department needs its own EQ and the organization as a whole needs to have its master EQ – the goal of what it’s trying to achieve.

Finding the right mix for your organisation requires understanding your operations, goals customers and the marketplace that you work in. And it’s just not something you are going to get from an out of the box change program.

Lloyd Parry are ‘sound engineers’ for organisations going through adaptive change. We can tell immediately if its one instrument (department) that’s out of tune or if the balance between all the instruments (departments) is not working to create a good sound (product).

We are in a unique position to listen to the whole mix and, most importantly, teach organisations how to develop their own perfect mixes.

Adaptive business: what it is and why you need it

In recent months most conversations I’ve had with business leaders start with two questions about adaptive business: what is it and why do I need it?

An adaptive business is about creating a workplace where continuous value creation is the norm. It’s not about creating one product for the customer but a raft of them, all based on customer input.

When followed correctly, this process leads to the development of  a series of different value items, products and services- which in turn shows the real rationale for growing an adaptive business: differentiation in the marketplace.

Is it magic? Do your people just start putting out these new products without prompting?

Well, yes and no. An adaptive business is based on the ingenuity, creativity and willing contribution of staff. Without that level of employee engagement, it doesn’t work. It’s not a tool, it’s a way of building a culture where constant improvement comes from the ingenuity of employees.

Of course this is not a model that easily fits with the the industrial make-and-sell workplace as it requires a level of staff autonomy and confidence that only comes from a secure and challenging workplace. It’s a very, very dynamic organisation, that accepts inputs from every level of customer contact and then responding continuously to client needs.

I’m a big fan of measurement. But the current measurement systems for work can actually hold back innovative thinking. Staff need time away from the grind.  But modern workplaces can sometimes resemble work camps with an intense and unrelenting focus on getting more done with less. This work overburden chases its own tail: with all the running to keep up, there’s no time to think, to create. Just getting through the work is enough for many.

This is typical silo culture, where the rapid work pace discourages workers from looking beyond their silos and finding improvements that not only make work better, but also result in better products and happier customers.

This grindstone work culture also has another cost: increased errors and diminished quality control.

The goal of an adaptive organisation is  to establish a blame-free culture where silos are not blaming each other, and where there is an intradepartmental focus on customer outcomes.

Adaptability transformation and the end of silos

People often ask me how adaptive workplaces are different from the one in which they work.

It’s a decent question. We become so blind to the current set-up, it can be hard to imagine another way. My job is to describe where I see the business currently and paint a picture of where it would be if it were to become truly adaptable.  

Departmental silos are also rigidly enforced, which leads to resource hoarding and unnecessary internal competition between teams, departments and even divisions that discourage knowledge sharing and ending up with a business of mini-companies opposing from within. Instead of fighting our competitors we end up fighting ourselves.

Siloed thinking has little to do with thinking at all. It’s merely a system where managers are encouraged to spend too much time looking within the silo rather than seeing the customers and how they can combine forces with their colleagues and beat the competition.

After an adaptability transformation, the silos disappear, why? We refuse to think in the old way anymore. Sharing resources between departments is not argued over by department heads. That discussion happens at the level where the work gets done, much lower down by the people who endure the pain.

And whereas before business units fought to protect their territory and assets, in an adaptive environment, rewards come to those who collaborate and share resources to meet the needs of customers and the business.

Further, the decision making doesn’t have seventeen different levels of approval up and down the corporate food chain, again, it happens at the level the work gets done.

But there’s a snag; this means managers must trust staff and just as importantly teams must trust managers especially when things go wrong, we must all learn by brain-storming and resist the temptation to blame-storm.

Only knowing how your own team and department runs prevents everyone seeing how the whole organisation works and collaborates and how you can contribute to the big picture. You must also learn how all other parts of the operation work to enable cross-functional collaboration and problem-solving. The efforts of other departments are your concern, not just another box on the org chart.

As an outcome, a more expansive view of the organisation emerges for all to see. There are still organisational structures in place, but often they become transparent, with the work taking much more importance than under whose hand it is.

The so-called progressive management thinking of decades past used to talk about thinking outside of the box. In an adaptive organisation, we must now work outside of the box.

To start the discussion about transforming your organisation into an adaptive one, please contact us.

Adaptability in progress: an account

My presentation at the Business Agility conference in New York in February was a great opportunity to talk adaptability on a large scale.  But it also yielded secondary tangible benefits.

Specifically, I had an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with some fellow travellers in the change field.

Sometimes I think I’m the one that gets the most from such one-on-one talks. But then I receive a message from a colleague that makes it clear my ideas have left an impression.

One such note that recently popped into my inbox described what can happen when a spark catches fire.

Here are some highlights….

“Here are some of the key work elements which I have been able to put in place since we met.”

  • Introduction of Work-Climates:
    • I brought forward the concept of Work-Climates, to help with our transformation from mass production to lean/agile, as it fits very well in our situation. It has helped with teams/people who are active in changing our culture keep their motivation and drive.
  • Making the customer part of the transformation:
    • Validating with the customer is one of our biggest issues. Up until now, we have demonstrated epistemic arrogance for what the customer wants without even checking or validating with them. From our discussions, and your talks, I have been able to reposition how valuable this is.
  • Moving from vertical metrics to horizontal metrics
    • This concept had opened key individual’s eyes to move away from “how I am doing” to “how is the customer doing”.  This is in line with “You get the behaviour you design for, or fail to design for”. If we truly want to change our focus and include the customer throughout our process, then we must define and promote what is valuable to the customer.

There was more, but what was exciting to me was how this person  took my ideas and made the process his own, shaping it to the realities of his workforce.

If you would like to talk to me about how to make your workforce into an adaptive dynamo, please contact me.

Planview webinar to focus on Adaptive Enterprise

Since I spoke at BusinessAgility2017 in New York last month, it’s become very clear to me there is a great deal of interest from upper management in my work in creating adaptive organisations.

In recent years I’ve sensed how large organisations are struggling with how to survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Now, it’s become clear to them that it’s time to do something about it.

To that end, Planview invited me to host a live webinar on March 29th titled Power Your PMO with the Adaptive Enterprise: Increase productivity with continuous planning.

This webinar is aimed squarely at those who head up large projects and programs in an organisation and the importance of the PMO in creating change makers.

It’s important to note the distinction between Change Makers and Change Agents.

Change Agents are usually tasked by those in upper management, taking orders without much collaboration with regards to what is being implemented and why.

On the other hand, Change Makers conceptualise, design, integrate, initiate and find new ways of delivering value, driving solutions upwards and downwards.

The webinar will discuss how Change Makers and Agents are crucial to lasting organisational change.

Turning an organisation into a dynamic changeable environment requires a different skill set that command control management. An adaptive organisation is one that is constantly renewing and reinventing strategies as part of its DNA.

To register for the webinar, click the link here and sign up.

If  you  want to talk to me further about how to make your organisation adaptable, please contact me.

Adaptive Enterprise: Increasing productivity with continuous planning

Since I gave a presentation at Business Agility 2017 in New York in February, there’s been a definite spike in interest for my work in making organisations adaptive.

To that end, I’ve been invited by Planview to do a live webinar on March 29th titled Power Your PMO with the Adaptive Enterprise: Increase productivity with continuous planning.

The notes describing the seminar point to how adaptability, not productivity is the goal of good Project Management Offices. It’s a key issue, in that structured processes can often lead to results that are indeed predictable but lacklustre. Getting it done right is the key, not just getting it done on time.

Specifically, I’ll be talking to the following points….

  • How to create an adaptive PMO that flexes at the speed of change
  • How to build a PMO that is responsive to business needs
  • How to promote executive confidence, even in times of uncertainty
  • How to create budgets, plans and resource maps that deliver the strategy while also being responsive to reality
  • How to partner with business and become an Enterprise PMO

The webinar, hosted by Amy Hatton will also include Carina Hatfield Senior Product Manager at Planview. It is offered free but registration is required by clicking here.

I’m rather excited to do this for Planview as it is a further vindication of many years of research and practical applications with clients making organisations adaptive.

As a colleague told me at Business Agility 2017, many large organisations know that to survive and thrive they have to do something. And up until now they had no idea what that something was.  

So please register for the webinar when you get a moment. And if you want to talk to me about how to make your organisation adaptive, please get in touch.

ELLI: changing your organisational climate

ELLI is important in my organisational transformation work.

It’s the acronym for the four factors I look for in any organisation I’m working with.

Engaging. Learning. Leading. Improving.

To develop ELLI, It’s important to understand what the type of organisation we’re looking at.

Only when we know this can we determine the path our journey is going to take. Like any journey, this depends on the internal climate we’re dealing with.

The organisational landscape is determined by the climate. It’s a metaphor I’ve used for years to describe how the overlay of climate influences landscapes. Take away the snow and ice and add some sunshine and the landscape changes drastically from season to season. It’s the same with organisations. The foundations may be strong. But if climate is off, those foundations are buried in an inhospitable wasteland.

Now keep in mind that climate itself isn’t culture. Weather, the specifics of the internal climate, actually are.

We use Climetrics to determine the climate of an organisation. Why the climate?  Because what happens on the ground and how it happens is determined by the work climate of the organisation.

The goal is to change the internal climate so that it’s conducive to producing good work – whatever the day to day changes in the weather.

People respond to these changes and that’s why it’s important that we change work climates. In many organisations people spend all their time “hunting and gathering” for survival, instead of actually trying to look ahead and anticipate the needs of the customer.

With ELLI we change the climate so organisations can leave the frozen wasteland behind and build truly adaptive workplaces.

To talk to me about transforming your organisation with ELLI, please contact me.

Perspective is everything when it comes to your business climate

In the days following my presentation at BusinessAgility2017 in New York in February, I found myself being tagged with an unexpected nickname by attendees.

Three separate people approached me saying ‘Oh, you’re the ‘climate man’. It was amusing but not entirely surprising. It was clear to me by then that the part of my presentation that struck many of them had to do with the importance of climate in an organisation. I was the ‘climate man’ who changed the climate of organisations.

Management can’t ignore the storms below

Using the metaphor of the sky, land and the space in between, I noted how what happens in the climate directly affects what happens on the ground / workplace. If the workplace climate is welcoming, then that’s reflected in the work being done on the ground. If it’s cold, then that frigidity will likely adversely affect the workplace.

When I was talking about the concept during my talk, I heard approving murmuring from the audience, which was entirely understandable. In their working lives, I’m sure all of them had experienced the effects of both hostile and welcoming work climates and knew the impact on their ability to produce.

How do you know what needs changing in your business?

When working with an organisation on a change program, one of the first steps we take is the Climetrics survey.

We map out the many microclimates within the organisation to understand the root conditions of that climate and by doing so, find the best way forward.

Although it’s been presumed that the climate of an organisation is determined by the management at the top, we’ve actually found that not to be case. It’s a lot like taking a plane on a rainy day.  The weather changes to endless sunshine when the pilot brings the aircraft above the clouds. So it is with management. They are so far above the storms raging below them that they easily miss the turbulence at other levels of their organisation.

Does this sound like your organisation? If so, please get in touch to discuss how we can change your internal climate and make your business more adaptive at every level.

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The Change Field: Separating the wheat from the chaff

Working in the field of adaptive change means that one has to consistently assimilate new information and adjust strategies accordingly. To some the very idea that concepts and approaches are fluid because of our hyper-evolving business landscape is terrifying. But for me, it’s business as usual and I love the challenge.

Avoid Snake Oil Salesmen

I work with clients who are committed to real change. They want to make their organisations profitable, now and into the future. It’s something a lot of organisations say they want in theory, but are scared off by the work involved. So obviously the market has responded with numerous off-the-shelf change solutions that are easy to implement but can actually cause significant long term harm to the organisation they purport to help.

People want to achieve big results for as little effort as they can. It’s human nature.  But this has resulted in simple solutions that may seem like the real thing – but only in the way fast food smells better than it tastes.

The bottom line is there are no shortcuts to making successful organisational change at the deepest level. And anyone who claims otherwise is either lying to their clients or to themselves. Change is work and it requires commitment. You can always lose a few pounds to fit into a bathing suit for a week in the sun. But it takes real lifestyle changes for those pounds to stay off once you get back to your real life.

Those few pounds may give you the illusion of fitness, but it’s not real. I understand the allure of easy solutions to managers on a budget who want to be aligned with the change brand and can shed a bit of weight in time for their next quarterly update.

Some don’t really want real change in the first place and even the failure of a look-a-like change program provides the temporary illusion of effort.  They tried – a good optic for them – and that it failed – an out that allows them to avoid actual change.

This is where Lloyd Parry comes in. Our organisational change doesn’t come in a box. There aren’t a series of specific steps to follow to bring change to your organisation. Real change is like a bespoke suit. We institute change in organisations by using Climetrics to assess work culture and then crafting a change process based on what we find.

To learn how Lloyd Parry can bring real change to your organisation, please be in touch.