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Wanting to change is the first step to surviving and thriving

Although working with organisations on change programs is never less than invigorating and challenging, there are some that stand out for me.

Specifically, organisations with very big problems and no obvious solutions. These are generally the clients most consultants would rather avoid. They see them a just too much work.

Change Same Keys Showing Decision And Improvement

But when an organisation finds itself in this kind of situation, I’m eager to get involved. They are more likely to not only listen to what I have to say, but follow through with the implementation plan.

Organisations don’t get to this point over night. It’s typically an environment where underinvestment in people, processes and technologies have brought them to a critical turning point.

Processes and technology are usually at the core of such problems but not investing in people is also a crucial factor. Companies are not inherently adaptable so they tend not to modernize technology solutions or their workforce until they absolutely have to.

However we are experiencing business change at a rate that we’ve never seen before. And in order to survive companies have to be more nimble and adaptable than their competitors every day.

The scope of the average employee’s role is far bigger than ever before.  So unless an organisation keeps its workforce engaged with constant learning, improved skillsets, new ideas from the outside, decline is inevitable.

I understand if that sounds a bit dire but truthfully if I work with an organisation open to change, that can be inspiring. Because wanting to learn how to build adaptability in their organisational culture is the sign of a business that wants to survive and thrive.

To find out how Lloyd Parry can transform your organisation into one built to last, please get in touch.

Stephen Parry

How an organisation redesign saved a company and doubled their staff

I once worked with an organisation who for three years were one of 12 shortlisted companies providing IT Services for home users and businesses for a large US technology company. They suddenly, and without any warning, found themselves bidding to be one of the tech company’s three remaining suppliers.

Stephen ParryMy client was now forced to provide a compelling reason to be one of the final consolidated three companies  – in return the outsourcing USA tech company expected to pay less for the overall service. The US tech company assumptions were that by giving the three successful bidders more business they would have more ‘synergies’ and ‘critical-mass’ and therefore with the higher volume they would be able to operate a much reduced operating cost. The US Tech company intended to get at least their fair share of their suppliers cost reductions.

It didn’t work out that way because the company didn’t appreciate an underlying issue. While their way of measuring the end-to-end service seemed logical enough by splitting the end-to-end measure by each supplier they assumed the real delivery to the customer would be the same.. you guessed it, the reality was far from the functional company measures would have you believe.

The real end-to-end service delivery metrics were falling well short of their promised service levels to customers but they were disguised by the functional metrics which made it all look good. A case of the feasible parts making an infeasible whole. And who would know? because the US tech firm had set up their own people to monitor how each company was performing Individually without understanding how everything combined to provide the end user with a seamless service.  Microscoping management methods used when telescoping ones were needed.

So here’s what we did to help our client leverage a sticky situation into a growth opportunity.

First we spoke to company that was looking to reduce the number of suppliers and listened carefully to their plans to reduce the operational costs of running it’s end-to-end service provision    

When faced with the US tech companies selection panel our client’s COO did something most unexpected. He said “actually, we want to put the price point up.”

He quickly followed with an offer to show how his company could knock two days off overall product delivery time across North America. He also highlighted delays in the technical diagnosis centers, the inventory planning, the five logistics transportation companies and the five engineering companies who tasked engineers to problems.

Intrigued, his client asked him to explain.

Before we go any further let me explain how we got to this point. It really is odd for a supplier like my client to propose a solution that was outside of their core competency.

Indeed, when I first started working with the COO’s company, they were in a bind. They couldn’t afford to cut their margins enough to make it into the top 3 providers. They also knew that not landing the contract would throw 2,000 people out of work.

They needed to change their business model.

Our solution was to give them a new way of thinking, and a new way of competing.

Instead of competing as a diagnosis centre we decided to compete as a whole value chain. Monitoring and measuring how all the downstream activities including their own met the customer’s needs.

The result? They discovered that while all the companies in the value chain were meeting their functional goals the end to end service was nowhere near where the measurement system was telling them they were.

They went further and were able to devise a system where they could predict the actual end-to-end repair service down to zip code and product type and highlight the companies that were causing the delays.

It goes without saying that this client already knew about their dissatisfied customers. They just didn’t know how to drill down to find out why this was happening. Our client’s company did know because we taught them how to do it.

And because they offered something their competitors couldn’t, they got a contract despite the higher costs. As a footnote, nothing succeeds like success: their company not only kept their 2,000 employees but also doubled that number shortly soon after.

The key to this was looking at the end-to-end business as a whole including all other companies in the value stream and making the decision to compete on a value stream basis not just an outsourced functional basis.

In order to do this they had to become more adaptable and highly inventive and make it a core competency. It was clearly time for them to not only think outside the box but work outside ot it.

If you want to learn more about how Lloyd Parry can work with your company to stay competitive, please get in touch.

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The “why” behind a career in adaptability and change

I was asked by someone recently about what it takes to have a career in organisational change.

The question challenged me a little because it made me think about my own reasons for choosing to work in this area. Adaptability and change is a very ambitious, complex and demanding path to follow.

And anyone who chooses this line of work has to be prepared for rapid learning and study. It requires patience and a the ability to look behind the surface behaviours of those individuals and organisations you are trying to help.

One has to intuitively know when strategies have to shift in response to unexpected obstacles, opinions and behaviours. Add to this a combination of diplomacy and honesty that is necessary to forge productive working relationships and alliances.

Many times it feels like you are jumping from the plane without a parachute. So you have to be courageous because you leading from a position of literally no power other than your expertise and reputation.

I’ll say it now, you can’t truly manage change. The only change you have any power over is in how you respond to situations. And sometimes that means being brave enough to change your mind  – even if it means losing face.

Change is overcoming your fears using new knowledge and experimentation. If others are not changing then we must change ourselves to create opportunities and set examples for them to follow. When you lead from within you touch, move and inspire others to be courageous and make their own choices, choices you have made clear to them through your own leadership.

I can’t say that what I told the person who asked the question helped them make a decision about getting into the field. But I reminded them to keep asking questions. Because those lead to better questions and yes, better answers as well.

To talk to me about making your organisation adaptable and profitable, please get in touch.

Radical-reorganisations

Stopping an Adaptable change program a dangerous proposition

Putting an Adaptability program in place in an organisation is a bit like a farmer planting seeds and tending to the fields over the summer in anticipation of a great fall harvest. There’s a starting point and an end point. But a lot of things have to happen in between.

And if halfway through the growing season the farmer suddenly decides they don’t want to grow the crop they planted and pull it all up, all the preparations are wasted with nothing to harvest in the autumn.

Of course no farmer in his right mind would rip up his field halfway through the growing season. But unfortunately when it comes to change programs, organisations are notorious for plowing under programs before they’ve had a chance to bear fruit.

I recall working with an organisation during a change transformation when seven out of eight senior managers were dismissed from the company.

That in itself shouldn’t necessarily spell the end of a change process – but it usually does.

It generally comes down to egos. The men and women brought in to take over instinctively presume that projects championed by their predecessors are part of the reason they they were let go. As such, the first order of business is to take things in the opposite direction.

To be fair, new hires are almost always expected to make changes. Unfortunately, in the haste to make an impact, they often set forth on a campaign of destruction to distance themselves from the previous regime.

It’s the modern equivalent of defacing the statues of the last pharaoh – and just about as thoughtful.

But halting an Adaptable transformation during implementation can be disastrous on two fronts.

Adaptability programs are about growing people and if a new management regime halts a program midway through, the achievements that have occurred simply wither on the vine.

It also breaks the social contract  organisations make with the employees during the change. That unwritten contract stipulates that management will look after staff and invest in their future in exchange for the employees investing their careers with management. And if that contract isn’t kept the employees will leave.

Some of them have almost no choice. Because once change agents in an organisation find themselves back in a command and control environment without a change agenda, they leave.

To learn how Lloyd Parry International can transform your organisation into an adaptive culture using our Adaptive Business Framework please get in touch.

transformational-leadership-practices

How the blame game ruins adaptive cultures in command and control environments

Working with adaptive teams embedded within command and control organizations, I’ve noticed an unfortunate and entirely unnecessary phenomenon.

Adaptive groups rail against their management betters while those very managers eye their adaptive teams with a wary eye.

It’s a brutal cycle that breeds mistrust and anger at all levels and poisons any change effort championed from above. So I often find myself in the position of telling the adaptive teams to stop blaming the managers. Why? Because managers are just as trapped in the command and control culture as they are.

It’s simply a matter of perspective.

It’s not a shock that an adaptive team inside a mass production organization would see the world very differently from a manager that doesn’t understand where they are coming from.

Regardless, what is needed to get over the inherent mistrust is a blame-free approach from all parties.  Adaptive teams shouldn’t blame managers and management should allow the teams to experiment and learn.

When I point this out to adaptive teams, a figurative light bulb goes off as they recognize in themselves a small bit of hypocrisy. They blame management for criticizing them while being almost reflexively anti-management.  

By blaming managers who are stuck in the same system, these teams are simply perpetuating the negative and reinforcing unhelpful attitudes. And the only real way to get beyond it to recognize the bias and work to eliminate it.  

To continue to rely on the middleware / muddleware which connects both cultures is no solution. It just gets in the way of the organization’s mission and disrupts the overall work climate.

Since adaptive teams are generally those driving innovation within an organization, changing the management structure to that of adaptivity is usually the logical solution

To learn how Lloyd Parry International can transform your organisation into an adaptive culture using our Adaptive Business Framework please get in touch.

When middleware becomes muddleware

How many times have you fixed something with an improvised solution? Probably more often than you might guess. It’s amazing how useful a paperclip or safety pin can be when repurposed to hold together things other than paper or a piece of cloth.

But we know that eventually that paper clip is going to give out and we’re going to have to address the problem with a proper fix.

If using a makeshift solution to solve a problem seems odd to you, consider how it happens in our professional lives.

How many times have you tried to communicate with someone’s Mac using a Windows computer? When it works it’s because of something called middleware.

Middleware acts as a software patch that allows these two technically incompatible technologies to communicate with each other – and help us get our work done.  

I see the middleware approach fairly often in organisations that have agile or adaptive working areas within them. The organisations themselves are command and control in management style but have divisions that are agile or adaptive. These areas need to work within the larger corporate structure so they employ a ‘middleware’ approach to make it happen.

The problem with this approach is the same as with the paper clip analogy. It isn’t a solution so much as a workaround. In the end, the middleware becomes what I call, muddleware.

Invariably a solution to this botched communication and organisational interaction is attempted which adds to the muddle. It’s a wasted effort because energy is being put into building a better paper clip, not a real solution.

The only real solution is to make the entire organisation adaptive. But this is easier said than done. When faced with the need to change an organisation to an adaptive or agile footing, management generally prefers to stick with organisational middleware, like a tattered security blanket.

And of course this never works. The real solution comes into stark view the more its avoided.

Talk to Lloyd Parry about how to uninstall the muddleware in your company through ‘Adaptive’ business and organisational design.

The change agent’s dilemma: should I stay or should I go?

When working with an organisation on an Adaptive transformation, one of the most important decisions has to do with who is going to be the change agent.

Change agents are chosen out of the ranks of an organisation by those involved in Adaptive training. Once chosen, this role will have a very long-lasting impact, not only on the organisation, but also their career.

I’ve seen this first-hand whenever I return to organisations I’ve worked with and speak to the designated change agents.  And what I’ve discovered is the role often becomes career defining.

What happens is they become so inspired by the ideas and strategies they develop with Adaptive that it changes the way they approach work. It changes their perspective in a way that influences everything they do.

For many it’s turning point in their career. If they are supported and stay in the organisation, they become leaders. If they aren’t, they find themselves unable to remain and move on to another role where their talents are respected. As Adaptive “true-believers” they seek out organisations and roles that dovetail with their new skill set. And because of these skills, they are highly sought after.

A common worry among some of the change agents I’ve known is how to deal with their company if management doesn’t want to change. If that seems odd, consider that talk of change is cheap. It’s easy to love the optics of change until the process starts impacting day to day operations in a very real way.

For those with concerns about not being supported, I tell them “Look, your job is to make your manager successful. Your job is to give your manager choices they currently don’t have. Your job is to help your manager make an informed choice. That’s what we’re training you to do.”

And if the manager decides to ignore their advice?

I tell them, “If you’ve given them an informed choice and they choose not to do something, then it is time for you to exercise your choice on whether to stay or move on.”

For those that choose to leave, the organisation they are leaving often has more problems than just losing talent. By not supporting change management effectively sets the organization on a course for decline. So one way or another, the exit becomes an inevitable outcome.

To talk with LloydParry about the power of transformational Adaptive change, please get in touch.

Radical-reorganisations

Stopping a Lean change program is a dangerous proposition

Putting a Lean change program in place in an organisation is a bit like a farmer planting seeds and tending to the fields over the summer in anticipation of a great fall harvest. There’s a starting point and an end point. But in between a lot of things have to happen.

And if halfway through the growing season the farmer suddenly decides they don’t want to grow the crop they planted and pull it all up, all the preparations are wasted and there will be nothing to harvest in the autumn.

Of course no farmer in his right mind would rip up his field halfway through the growing season. But unfortunately when it comes to change programs, organisations are notorious for plowing under programs before they’ve had a chance to bare fruit.

I recall working with an organisation during a Lean change transformation when seven out of eight senior managers were dismissed from the company.

That in itself shouldn’t necessarily spell the end of a change process but it usually does.

It generally comes down to egos. The men and women brought in to take over instinctively presumed that the projects championed by their predecessors was part of the reason they they were let go. And so the first order of business was to take things in the opposite direction. To be fair new hires are almost always expected to make changes.  Unfortunately in the haste to make an impact, they often set forth on a campaign of destruction to distance themselves from the previous regime.

It’s the modern equivalent of defacing the statues of the last pharaoh – and just about as thoughtful.

But halting a Lean transformation during implementation can be disastrous on two fronts.

Lean programs are about growing people and if a new management regime halts a program midway through, the achievements that have occurred simply wither on the vine.

It also breaks the social contract  organisations make with the employees during the change. That unwritten contract stipulates that management will look after staff and invest in their future in exchange for the employees investing their careers with management. And if that contract isn’t kept the employees will leave.

Some of them have almost no choice. Because once change agents in an organisation find themselves back in a command and control environment without a change agenda, they leave.

To talk to Lloyd Parry about change for your organisation, please get in touch.

The dark and the light of being a change agent

Occasionally, at speaking engagements, managers approach me with questions about being a change agent. They see their business falling behind and / or apart and want to know how to effect the change necessary to stop it.

I don’t have a list of actions to offer them. Nor do I have a prescription. But I do give them the advice they need to be a change agent.

To be an agent of change, they need to develop an almost unflinching honesty along with the courage necessary to speak the truth to power. But it’s not about finger-pointing. What I tell them is that they need to cut through the culture and find clarity about what the real issues are that are killing the organization.

Fear of causing waves and disturbing the corporate status quo may give some pause. That’s understandable. But they must be fearless if they really want to help their organization overcome its ingrained problems.

The challenge is to get organizations to see what is working and what’s not, assessing problems without getting caught in the irritating dance of balancing reality with a dollop of ‘good news’, to soften the blow.

If it seems like the above requires less tact than politesse, you would be mistaken. Delivering the message requires using the A3 structure as an objective framing device to present an improved and balanced ‘complete picture’.

The point is to focus on the issue, not those who might perceive the analysis as an attack on them.

There is also the matter of stamina, of sustaining that A3 focus in the face of a corporate culture designed to prevent any light from being cast on the organization’s problems.

Facing reality is never easy, all the more so in an environment with a history of denying it.

And its possible that your newfound role as a change agent could derail your career in a company.

But ask yourself the question. Do you want to stay with an organization living in a  bubble so airtight that it suffocates all within it? Or do you want to be known as the one who sounded the alarm before the ship sank?

You know the answer. I know you do.

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How Nokia’s cellphone fumble grew Finland’s start-up culture

The urgency for businesses and organisations to become adaptable and agile is growing.

A large organisation can succeed and lead but they must be able to continually respond to new challenges and changing customer needs. Absent such an organisational strength they will find themselves struggling to compete against new startups looking to eat their lunch.

Nokia faced such a challenge almost ten years and they failed in reacting to that challenge.  The result was an unplanned and perhaps unexpected legacy.

Nokia was ubiquitous in the cellphone market in the early 2000s, its flip phones going head to head with Motorola in the flourishing portable communications market.

Unfortunately the company culture was so volatile and insular, that when Apple announced the first iPhone in early 2007, Nokia dismissed them as a competitor.

Nine years on, Apple and Android device manufacturers, such as Samsung, own the smartphone market. Nokia’s flip phones are sitting in junk drawers around the world, right next to Blackberrys and PDA devices.

While the fall of Nokia is a fascinating story of corporate failure, what happened in the wake of their collapse is even more interesting.

Nokia’s retrenching as a business, put hundreds and perhaps thousands of Finnish IT professionals out of work. Unsurprisingly many of them started up new companies and IT projects. And while Finland always had a solid start-up culture, Nokia’s decline boosted it by significant degrees.

If Nokia had been nimble enough to respond to the reality of the rise of smartphones, they might still be a major player in the computer device market.

Instead, many of their finest minds are working on their own initiatives with no formal connection to the company that gave them their start.

To be certain, the startups in Finland are a good example of how Nokia should have reimagined their company to compete in the fast changing digital device landscape.

Nokia could have had it both ways. But an inability to respond to an evolving competitive threat left them floundering.

The takeaway from this is that although this story is almost ten years old, the need for organisations to be responsive and adaptive is more pressing than ever.

If your organisation needs to get in good business shape, please get in touch with us at Lloyd Parry International and we’ll show you how to compete and win in an increasingly demanding marketplace.