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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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An Adaptable organisation: sensing deeper and responding sooner

Although I often talk of how adaptability and creating and fostering an agile environment help organisations keep up with external change pressure. But I’ve also seen these same approaches used very effectively in managing a company’s internal affairs.

Consider the issue of staff recruitment and retention.

I recall a time, some years back, when Blackberry security software was the gold standard for business clients. The emergence of the iPod and its appeal to youth created a conundrum for companies seeking to lure the best and brightest to their fold. Young recruits wanted to have their shiny new Apple toys with them in workplace and many balked at the notion of having a Blackberry ‘for business’.

A friend of mine, who was an IT manager for a security company at the time, lived through this clashing of tech cultures. To reduce the ‘two phones’ grumbling among increasingly frustrated employees, they bought a company that specialized in email security and developed an inhouse solution that allowed staff to use their iPhone for work AND personal use.

Did they do it as part of a public corporate strategy? No, they did it to make themselves more attractive to potential employees and encourage retention among current staff members.

Were they able to do it easily without reinventing their entire IT department? Very easily.

Could they have done it easily without having an adaptable environment in place? No.

Ironically, a lack of adaptability in Blackberry itself, was partially responsible for their decline over the following years. Further, an inability to properly assess the threat of the iPhone to their business model, left them floundering.

If using adaptability and agile to resolve a seemingly minor internal issue seems less than an ideal use, you’d be mistaken.

The IT company in question knew very well that in a competitive marketplace, the acquisition of good talent is crucial. As such, they were able to respond to employee demands and adapt their processes to make everyone happy.

To learn more about creating an agile and adaptable workplace, please get in touch with us at Lloyd Parry International.

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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.

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A3 thinking guides managers from thinking to doing

One of the more popular workshops I conduct has to do with the A3 decision making process

It’s popularity isn’t surprising. Many managers at all levels know well how challenging it can be to manage a steady flow of data and information coming to you from a myriad of sources.

A3 thinking pulls that info apart separating the noise from the really useful information. Adapting an A3 process provides a structured problem-solving mindset to guide you and your staff to the best solution.

First developed at Toyota, A3  Thinking is a process is now applied to just about any management conundrum. However It is especially effective at helping understand and solve complex, cross-functional, and chronic problems.

The A3 Thinking process helps you:

  • Make rapid, iterative steps toward improvement and problem solving
  • Surface issues and problems in a way that avoids blaming individuals
  • Cut through the noise and/or misleading information to get the facts
  • Be clear with your team about priorities and responsibilities
  • Quickly develop a problem solving mindset in your staff to take responsibility for improvement

At Lloyd-Parry, we engage with companies at all levels to demonstrate just how effective A3 is in empowering management environments to move ahead smartly and quickly when sourcing solutions.

If you are interested in A3, Lloyd-Parry is interested in talking to you about workshops and educational sessions. Please be in touch by clicking here.

 

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Championing failures the best way to succeed

Someone told me recently about Pixar Studios cofounder Ed Catmull and how he said that you had to embrace failure to succeed. I hadn’t heard that particular story but I smiled in recognition. It’s no wonder that PIxar as a studio produces so many hit movies and collects numerous Oscar trophies.

Environments like those found at Pixar are very much like Lean / Agile workplaces. It’s a much more entrepreneurial model, filled with experimentation, lots of failure and rare successes. By my estimates a good ratio is about one in 20. But the results of the successes are  so beneficial they quickly make all the failures vanish down the “memory hole.”

Traditional organizations don’t tolerate failures and go to great lengths to lock everything down. The cruel irony is that for all their anti-failure measures, they’re not very successful.

It’s not just the work culture at fault. It’s also the the methods, the engagement, the collaboration and all those human attributes that typically enable people to work together effectively. The challenge is that traditional ways of designing, building and operating organizations come from an industrial model that doesn’t really work for people.

The great thing about failure is that sharing it with helps others avoid making the same mistakes. Someone once said that every time a bridge falls down anywhere in the world, it makes it better for every other bridge.

We learn from a failure, update the specs and then make certain we don’t make that same mistake.

But people don’t usually want to talk about their mistakes. And that’s a huge mistake.

I have a saying which says whatever hurts me makes my colleague stronger. I’m currently using Lean / Agile methods when working with companies to get their staff to talk about errors and mistakes. But I find myself pushing hard against the shame culture surrounding mistakes that is pervasive in most organisations.  It takes courage, and a collaborative and blame-free environment.

Collaboration isn’t about egocentric people looking better in front of their colleagues, it’s about helping each other when things go wrong.

It’s a brave thing to do and I wish there were awards for brave failures. Because like Pixar, the company that turns brave failures into huge successes, it’s the only way to forward.