Are you involved in change management? Do you take part in conversations about change management? Do you ever find yourself questioning what exactly change management is? It can at times seem like a rather vague discipline to get your head around.
Every so often, pretty much every organization embarks on transformational change. This title may be applied to a major program of systems, process or organizational change, or the transformation may be driven by something less tangible – such as altering organizational culture. Whatever it is, the organization wants to be different in a significant way.
There has been a whole lot written about the levels of success of organizational transformation programs. It makes sorry reading, but that’s not my subject today. I want to explore in this post is the inherent tension between business-as-usual operational performance and transformation. At heart, this is a conflict between doing a great job today and being able to do an even better job tomorrow.
I have just published my latest book, called "Managing Your Team Through Change". I am certain there is space for another book on change management. Two reasons drive this certainty: most books ignore team leaders as a specific audience with particular needs, and most change books do not talk to the messy reality of organizations. If you are a team leader, line manager, or someone who works with, supports or advises team leaders on change – this is the book for you.
Middle management is a really unfashionable topic. But to run an efficient organization it is critical to help middle managers fulfil their roles. My book sets out to do this, in the specific context of change.
Ever since the leadership bandwagon started some decades ago, there has been repeated advice for managers to become leaders. One central piece of this advice is to avoid micro-managing. Give your team members space to do their work how they see best. Delegate widely. Set broad goals – leave your team to get on with the details. Focus your attention on building an environment in which your team can succeed, rather than trying to control them.
This is good advice. But like many simple pieces of advice – it can be interpreted in significantly different ways.
A few weeks ago, I sent the manuscript of my latest book to my publishers, (and writing this book is one reason I have not been posting so much recently sorry!). This will be my 11th book and possibly my last that will be published in the traditional format via a large publisher. In parallel, my 12th is already some way towards publication – but unlike my 11th it will only be produced in electronic format and is about a quarter of the length. The change between my 11th and 12th books marks the widespread, and probably easily predictable shift in publishing, commented on by many.
I spend my life involved in projects, programs and change initiatives. A part of most of these initiatives is doing some form of stakeholder management. The aim is to engage stakeholders in the work of the program, to get their support in achieving the program goals and in accomplishing sustained change. I have come to realise that stakeholder management is like charity. It starts at home. By ‘home’ I mean with those you are working closest to - the program team itself.
Have you ever been in one of those meetings in which the whole conversation revolves around definitions? Occasionally these sessions are explicitly set up as an exploration of definitions. More often a meeting becomes about definitions when someone says something like “what do you mean by that” or “I don’t understand what you are talking about”.
A few years ago I decided I would like to do another degree. In one way this was hardly a rational decision – it will probably not help my career in anyway, I am very busy as a consultant, helping to run two businesses and publishing on average one book a year. Spare time is scarce. On another level it was completely rational in that I undertook the degree just for the intellectual pleasure of studying a subject in depth. And what better reason to do something than for pleasure?
In this blog I will explain why you should take the blame for things that go wrong that were your fault - even if only partially your fault. The most common argument for taking the blame is an ethical argument. The basis of that ethical argument uses principles such as we should tell the truth and not risk that others take the blame for our shortcomings. Whilst I support this ethical argument I am going to ignore it for the time being. What I want to build on is the selfish argument for taking the blame.
A common side effects of successful project and program management in organizations is the designation of activities as projects or programs which are neither really projects nor programs.
I regularly interview and otherwise engage with lots of project and program managers. Sooner or later the conversation turns to how good they are at their job, and usually pretty soon into this conversation the response comes that they have a great track record. Their great track record is justified because they have repeatedly delivered to time and budget.
Frankly, I am usually a bit sceptical at this point.
Most large organizations have some form of project management and change management teams. In fact, lost of businesses have multiple teams running projects, delivering change and otherwise helping the organization to develop and improve.
There is lots written about project, programme, portfolio and change management – about increasing project performance, creating high performing project teams and so on, but there is less thought about the setting up and running of project and change management teams.
There is a trap it is easy to fall into and, if you fall into it, you will lose out on many opportunities in life. This is the trap in which you look at successful people and assume they are the lucky ones. You may think they get all their ideas right first time and never have had any problems in achieving what they have. Your impression may be reinforced by the media’s continuous portrayal of successful people leading completely perfect lives: they never faced roadblocks, they never trip up, and they are never bored. You could not be more wrong if you think like this.