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.

Adaptability: Don’t Implement – Grow!

While at the Business Agility 2017 conference in New York recently, I met many wonderful people, all eager to engage on the issue of adaptability in organisations. The work I pioneered in my 2005 book Sense and Respond: The Journey To Customer Purpose has found its moment. Organisations know they have to change now and adaptability is their preferred method.

SolutionsIQ tracked me down at the conference to talk with them about my work and I was only too happy to oblige.

As I say in the interview organisations are paying attention to the work we do now because we are speaking to their point of view. Why is this important? Well as I’ve discovered, while many organisations have common purpose, that purpose is lost because the different levels are not speaking a common language. We’re not talking the differences between languages like German and English – but the internal language of company where instructions mean one thing to a manager and quite another to a team member. That lack of common language can lead to communication issues – that kill productive change and slow down innovation.

Of course, these issues can be fixed through the implementation of an adaptive business. But the real struggle is to bring this structural fault to upper management and have them understand why it needs to be fixed.

The managers and leaders at the top of the business are very busy, pressured, and have insights into market share and trends that seem a world away from the people on the frontlines.

It’s an interesting clip and I hope you’ll find it interesting enough to share with colleagues.

If you have any questions or would want to talk to me about how this applies to your company, please get in touch.

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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BusinessAgile2017 Redux: Change or die

Before last week’s talk at BusinessAgility2017 in New York City, I told some of my confidantes that I sensed something shifting in the change and transformation field.

I wasn’t able to put my finger on it at the time. But it became clear to me after I talked about my work in adaptability that transforming organisations to become more adaptable is needed more now than ever.

You can read the synopsis of my talk here.

I heard from many in attendance that large organisations know they have to do something – but didn’t know what “that something” was. For some time, many have experimented with supporting agile and adaptive teams in their command and control environments to good success. The problem is that it was limited success. The muddleware linkage between agile teams and their managers was unfortunate and led to an increasingly adversarial relationship between the two.

I think the reason organisations only embraced agile methods for teams was two-fold. They wanted to believe that if necessary, it could scale up. Despite what some agile purveyors claimed, it did not scale up. Change at that scale required an adaptive climate for the entire organisation. And second, they didn’t want to let go of their command and control roots.

But now they do. I heard it from conference attendees. As one put it, “they know they have to do something” because market and tech changes are happening so fast that they have to adapt to thrive.

Surviving is no longer enough

When I wrote Sense and Respond ten years ago, I outlined what organisations needed to do to become adaptive ones. At the time, I was very optimistic that many companies were seeing the same increasing trend for rapid company adaption that I had seen as Head of Strategy and Change at Fujitsu Services.

Unfortunately, while many recognised a need for change, many felt they had plenty of time to do so. The market-place has now changed. Businesses are clamouring to find organisation structures and effective approaches to deliver adaptability.

In any case, it’s encouraging that a great number of organisations are now seeking ways to the Adaptive Organisation. The good news is that while Sense and Respond was published over ten years ago we at Lloyd Parry have continued our research into what makes organisations adaptive and created our Adaptive Business Framework (™) to take into account not just the mechanics of adaptability but also the all-important dynamics.

Transformation times for adaptability ten years ago would typically take five years, with the new Adaptive Business Framework TM approach now down to eighteen months.

To learn how your organisation can transform through an adaptability process, please get in touch.

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Adaptability in motion: a simple small example

How does adaptability work? How does it make a business more profitable? I get asked those and related questions almost daily.

Let me give you an answer by way of an example. I once worked with a parcel shipping company looking to find differentiation on their core business: package delivery.

Working with them, we came to realise they needed to start having different conversations with their customers.

Here’s how their business was run. Staff would typically drive to a customer who’d called for a pickup. The customer hands them a package that has been estimated in weight and cost. The courier would then bring it back to the office where it would be weighed again. If it was different – and it often was – they had to call the customer to find out how to proceed. If they couldn’t get in touch with the customer, they drove the parcel back to the customer to talk in person. About 24 hours was wasted in this process as well as a lot of the customer’s patience.

We did some research and came up with some solutions. The customer errors in calculating weights for their parcels was due to their lack of a weigh scale. So we gave the couriers scales to bring along when picking up the packages. We also had the couriers show customers how to properly pack items to get the least expensive rate. If the customer didn’t have the appropriate materials, the driver would bring in packing materials to assist.

They basically turned the driver into a customer service specialist. Pretty soon they would see other packages with the customer and ask why they weren’t shipping with their company. If the reason was shipping cost, they would source pricing for them often to find they were cheaper. They would even offer to do the complex import / export paperwork if necessary.

The courier took our recommendations, implemented them and increased their local revenue by 25 percent overnight.

Further, their proactive courier customer contact ended up growing the account.

They had underestimated their couriers. Originally hired to drive from location A to B, they more than rose to the challenge of their new customer-focussed roles.

Is that how all adaptable change processes work? No, not at all. They are as different as one business is from another.

To talk with Lloyd Parry about how to transform your business into an adaptable one and increase profitability, please get in touch.

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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.

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Talking about Adaptive Design in New York

On February 23rd, I’ll be in New York City engaging in one of my favourite professional activities: speaking with and to my colleagues in the change management world. It’s always interesting to hear the divergent, and sometimes conflicting, viewpoints around management theory and implementation.

The Business Agility 2017 conference on February 23 – 24 will be an opportunity for me to speak about radical organisational change, specifically shifting the culture of a company from an industrial one towards an Adaptive Design.

This is a fundamental but crucial shift, bridging adaptive teamwork in organisations with a management model that is built to support it. That this results in greater profitability is a given, but it also allows an organisation to respond quickly to rapid changes in the marketplace and to smaller, more nimble competitors.

My involvement is with the Agile Organisational Design part of the day. I will speak to workplace design, and job design as it relates to decision making.

I intend to explore how organisational design can inhibit or promote self-organising teams, collaboration, transparency and devolved decision making.

Accepted organisational constraints on decision making will be critically reviewed with a specific focus on evolving role definitions and how shifts of authority can impact organizations. .

By analysing those issues, I intend to explore how organisations can create the proper structures and people development strategies for an agile business.

Increasingly organizations are moving past supporting adaptable teams within a command and control environment to changing the very culture of their leadership structures.

How this will be received is going to be very interesting. But it is only through the free exchange of ideas and the rigorous intellectual vetting that goes with it that one can truly take something theoretical and make it truly implementable.

If you would like to talk with me before or at Business Agility 2017 or have me speak at your conference, please contact me.

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Business Agility 2017 Conference brings even more change to New York

Although most of my time is spent working on adaptability and change with organisations, conferences are like professional vacations to me.

Discussing change issues with colleagues is an invigorating way to spend a few days. And of course presenting ideas as a speaker to an audience that may be unfamiliar with my work is always a great opportunity.

The upcoming Business Agility 2017 conference in New York City looks to be a particularly good one given that its focus is far-ranging.


Sessions include:

  • Introducing Business Agility:
  • What does it mean to be an agile organisation – you’ve heard the buzzword and seen the articles, but what is Business Agility?
  • Leading the Transformation:
  • How do you lead the change? How do you get 1,000’s of employees to align to your vision of an agile organisation?
  • Business Innovation:
  • How have agile organisations used their agility to continuously adapt in an unpredictable, VUCA, market?

All of them can be seen here.

The one I’m presenting on is Agile Organisational Design.

When I spoke on a similar topic at a conference in Stockholm late last year, I came to appreciate that discussing adaptability as it relates to organisational, rather than team, dynamics resonated more with those who are currently looking to create a culture of change within their businesses. I look forward to expanding on that in New York.

To learn more about the Business Agility conference, click here. To get in touch with me before the conference to discuss organisational change, click here.

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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.