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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.

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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.

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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.

Redefining success with Adaptability a sea change for some organisations

When working with clients as they strive to build more adaptable organisations, I’ve found that it often takes time to realign their view of IT to fit the new dynamic. It’s almost like learning a second language.

Consider the case of a police service I was working with. They had an IT department and when they did upgrades, they were very focussed on how the technology worked –  which was ostensibly their departmental mandate.

But we saw the technology very differently. We looked at it through the lens of how it would impact service delivery levels, policing stats and ultimately, how it affected their customer: the public. That vision was quite a drastic shift from simply making sure the equipment was working!

We saw that when the department was setting their targeted strategies for three-years out, five-years out and even further, the technology they were implementing wasn’t aligned to meeting those goals.

They would look at a new piece of technology and talk about how it’s going to save X amount of money in the budget, or save X amount of time in productivity.

Those are valuable considerations of course, but only to a degree. Doing a project, for example, that would save 100 man hours a week of policing time wasn’t enough in our eyes. We needed create a linkage between the technology and how it could make a real difference in their stated goals – whether that be an increase domestic abuse prosecutions by 10 percent, or reduced night crime in under 18s by 15 percent.

We also needed to make sure they understood the need to adapt and change as crime rates rose or dropped.

We worked to get them to appreciate the outcomes of an adaptable transformation in terms of having a very tangible impact on service to their customers. Once they came to see how this expanded view of how technology connected with their stats and public perception of the force, we’d made a breakthrough.

Getting this – and other – organisations to appreciate the positive impact of Adaptiveness on both service levels and financials continues to be an inspiration.

To talk to Lloyd Parry about how we can transform your organisation through Adaptiveness, please get in touch.

Organisational transformation: handle with care

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I’ve seen user warnings on all manner of chemical products from floor cleaner to hair spray. And for good reason. You have to ensure the products are used the way they were meant to be if they are to work properly. If not, people can get hurt, or property can be damaged.

img_7373Wouldn’t it be great if the same cautions were given when it comes to implementing management methods?

There are countless off-the-shelf management programs organisations put in place – but with no clear direction. The problem may be with the methods themselves. But just as often the problems come from people not implementing the way they are supposed to.

I’ve walked into organisations that have invited us in to talk organisational transformation and the suspicion among staff is almost palpable. I understand why and appreciate the caution. They’ve likely been through a ‘change’ before, which fit their organisation like an off-the-rack suit –  complete with amateurish alterations.

When Lloyd Parry works with an organisation on an adaptive transformation, we assess the work climate before we do anything else. Why the work climate? Because, put simply, the quality of a work climate is a predictor of an organisation’s long-term profitability.

The work climate reveals the thinking, feelings and perceptions of staff, managers and leaders. Taking all that in, we then work to determine the change route map, an informed choice of the methods we will use with the organisation. Most importantly, we ensure all staff and managers are fully informed as to how to use the methods and approaches we teach to good effect.

We don’t have a warning label on our change transformations because we don’t offer our services in a kit with instructions. We oversee every aspect of our work in making a workplace adaptable.

And that’s what sets us apart.

To find out how we can transform your organisation, please get in touch with us.

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.

Adaptability is the new core competency

It used to be that management skills were passed along from superiors, well aware of how an organization worked based on established institutional knowledge. The formula was simple:  Take past management strategies, tweak and adjust for current realities and then manage. It’s an approach that was packaged, taught and executed with ease.

But we all know that approach just doesn’t work anymore.  The past doesn’t matter as much as it once did. And for very good reason. Traditional management strategies are based on a very different business and organizational reality.

It wasn’t that long ago that the pace of change was such that any response to shifts in the marketplace was executed with a slow, thoughtful, and considered approach. Contrast that to the sense of urgency that comes with improved data monitoring that shows customer satisfaction ebbing and flowing in real time.

Improvements in technology will only continue to accelerate. And if an organization tries to go forward by embracing the strategies of its past, then it is setting itself up for a slow decline to obscurity.

Today’s successful companies don’t view adaptability as a ‘nice to have’ business strategy. For them it is an essential element to business success and longevity.

An organization must recognize, respond and adapt to challenges on an ongoing basis, if they are to succeed and thrive.

That noted, adaptability isn’t just something that can be overlaid on an organization. The organization must learn to make adaptability its core competency, woven into the work culture in a meaningful way. It must be the instinctive first reaction when faced with external challenges.

Lloyd Parry have worked with many types of organizations on transforming their work cultures into adaptability marvels.

Please get in touch to talk about having me speak to your organization or conference about adaptability as a core competency.

Stephen Parry to brew up some agile in Gothenburg

There are roughly two parts to my work in Agile and Adaptiveness. One is working with organisations on transformation. The other is recharging my creative batteries by engaging with colleagues and peers on agile and adaptiveness techniques.

Biog PhotoThis week I will be taking a creative deep dive in the latter category when I attend the Brewing Agile conference taking place in Gothenburg, Sweden.

And while I will be presenting at the conference, it’s my co-presenters that I’m most keen in hearing and catching up with.

These include:

  • Vasco Duarte who transforms product design organizations into product development organisations.
  • Luis Goncalves, co-founder at Oikosofy, Agile Coach at HolidayCheck, author, speaker and blogger.
  • Hilary Johnson, a product manager with Pivotal Labs where she develops software for startup and enterprise clients while also enabling agile and collaborative practices with client teams.
  • Marc Loeffler, an agile coach, author and trainer.

For my part, I will be speaking on The Journey from an Agile Workplace to an Adaptive Business. My presentation will delve into the importance of creating the right work-climate for Agile to manage work more effectively and ensure organisations become highly adaptive to their customers and their marketplace.

Work-climate is a key part of this in this as it is a proven predictor of long-term business performance.

In examining ‘work-climate’, I’ll explore the following questions:

  • What are the best choices for managers and staff to make?
  • What needs to be eradicated?
  • What needs to be redesigned?
  • How do we put the customer and our employees at the heart of the business?

What I hope to do in my talk is persuade my colleagues in the agile and lean world to upgrade the foundation of their thinking to adaptive. It’s about liberating thinking workforces to realise their potential while redesigning the organisations they work in. The knowledge work in the creative environments they develop will change the world of work into a sustainable productive environment. And as goes the world of work, ideally, so goes the entire world.

To read more about the Brewing Agile conference, click here.

If you would like to have me speak to your company or conference about an adaptive transformation, please get in touch.

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.

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How to do Shared Services the right – LEAN – way

So you’ve got duplicate internal services in your organisation. Simple enough to just share them with others in the company, right?

Great thinking! Too bad it’s not that easy to execute in the real world.

The upside is really impressive: you get to cut costs significantly while improving services. And it can be done. It just takes excellent leadership and an ability to change your organisational culture.

However, there are a number of errors and assumptions that can cause a shared services implementation to fail.

Our Sense and Respond 3.0 Adaptive-Lean Shared Services masterclass looks closely at how to use Sense and Respond – Lean and Adaptive Thinking as a framework for shared service implementations.

We draw on our recent experience implementing LEAN service transformations at Lego and SAP to help organisations get the most bang for their buck from streamlining and improving shared services.

We use the REAL challenges faced by companies as they made radical improvements to provide real-life context for attendees. The result are takeaways and implementation strategies that can save thousands or even millions in lost or wasted revenue.

Despite the currency of the cases we draw from, we continually adapting Lean service because customer and business needs change rapidly in today’s market.

Although the masterclass is designed for Senior Leaders in HR, Operations, Finance, Customer Service, IT and Senior Teams, it is invaluable for anyone interested in successful shared services transformation.

Key Learning Outcomes:

  • What exactly is LEAN  and why does it matter for people planning shared services – Lean is now a familiar concept to many business leaders, but do we all have an accurate and complete understanding?  It’s not about cutting costs, it’s about delivering value to customers
  • How to create a clear line of sight between what you and your staff do every day, and what the customer actually values
  • Measuring the right things in the right way – CORE LEAN principles – how to use the principles and tools to keep you focussed on what matters to your customer, and why this is especially vital when planning/running shared services
  • How to collect the information that you need to make good quality decisions, and how to tell the difference between quality, robust, reliable information and the rest of the stuff you’ll get
  • Managing resources during the transition to shared services – do you have enough people are they doing the right things – LEAN is likely to radically transform what people do every day, how do you manage this?
  • Measuring internal and external customer outcomes and using this information to keep evolving

Please read more about the masterclass here and then get in touch.