Tag Archive: change

No No Nancy Strikes Again

Season Two, Episode Six. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

Podcast Recap: Season 2, Episode 6

Every Office Has One

This week on the podcast we tackle that one person in the office that makes everyone groan. No, not Peter with all his horrible Dad jokes. No, we gave Peter the week off.  Instead we are talking about “No No Nancy”.  She’s negative. She hates change. She’s a downer. She doesn’t like new things.  She doesn’t even like old things.  She definitely doesn’t like you.  She says “No” a lot  – and her behaviour is a drag.

As always, our guiding principle here at Whiteboard is to seek to understand, so we should probably start with trying to uncover why some people have that negative style and others don’t.

Is the negativity a result of  personality preferences?

According to Myers-Briggs theory, people with a preference for Sensing (S) typically need factual, real, observable data in order for them to consider it trustworthy information.  Their personality opposites, those with a preference for Intuition (N), tend to trust information on the big picture and possibilities.

When our big picture thinkers (N) bring ideas/concepts/changes to our fact folks (S), the latter typically respond with a barrage of questions. These questions, used simply to get more data, information, and facts, are commonly interpreted by N’s as REALLY NITPICKY AND NEGATIVE: What’s the cost per night? Whats the weather that time of year? What was the data from last year? etc etc.

They aren’t meant to be negative, but that’s how they sound to their counterparts. As Ruth, Whiteboard’s resident S says, it’s “No for now, until you can prove otherwise”.

Similarly – S’s might start off proposals for change and meet with a similar perception of negativity from their N counterparts: What’s the big picture? How does this link to the strategy? Have you thought of other ideas? etc. And the perception is the same – a negative response that is a huge drag.

How to Deal?

If you’ve identified your No No or Negative Nancy as someone who just needs more data, BRING MORE DATA. As I (Nicole) mentioned, I deal with my seemingly super nitpicky, annoying husband who loves facts, data, and observations (love you babe) by always bringing facts and data with my ideas about which I want him to make decisions.  You know, like spreadsheets of vacation options with a zillion columns.

If you are the data driven realist trying to appeal to a big picture seeking N, can you give some thought to strategy and future possibilities to accompany your data and appeal to their thinking style?

This is all fine and dandy – but what if this isn’t a personality issue because there seems to be more going on?  Is it possible Nancy’s No’s are the result of some past experiences that are triggering a negative behaviour response? Or said differently…..

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

So this particular negativity comes from people who are impacted by past history/experience. Now the big question is how do we differentiate between the two sources of negativity, and more importantly does it matter? Let’s use Neville (Ruth’s Harry Potter obsession is really taking over…) as an example.

Every time Neville hears about a project he rolls his eyes, mutters under his breath, and is just generally grumbly.  Is he just being difficult because of past experience? Is he looking for the data? How can we find out?

Use open ended statements like:

Tell me more…..Help me understand…

to “peel back the layers of the onion” and find out.

You might hear:

  • I don’t understand it.
  • I don’t see the logic.
  • I don’t see the research.

Tell me about a time when this did work?

This is an Appreciative Inquiry technique that helps people focus on the art of the possible.

Either you’ll hear some positive ideas that you can work with, or, you might hear:

  • This always happens.
  • This never works.
  • I’m tired of all this.

This sounds like change fatigue, or previous examples of change that haven’t worked well or caused some workflow issues.

In this case you might want to find out where the person is in their journey for change? Maybe set some expectations about your topic.

But wait there’s more (like a great infomercial).

What if you hear:

  • I’m really mad about [insert unreasonable scenario that no one should be mad about here].
  • I can’t stand [insert really nice person who seems to just be driving Neville nuts].
  • Can you believe [insert really normal story that shouldn’t be alarming at all].

Sounds like maybe this is just a case of the MONDAYS. Sounds like this is just a grumpy day and will probably pass. Might be a good day to let someone just vent and be grouchy and not worry about this type of negativity bringing down the office culture too drastically.

BESPOKE COACHING

At the end of the day. Who’s on the “Bus to Change” with you? Who’s slashing the tires? Who’s grumpy in the back? And who’s gleefully singing songs at the front of the bus?

Deal with your negative Nancy’s/Neville’s/Nanette’s in respective order to their potential damage to your bus destination.  Before you come to a solution:

  1. Seek to understand,
  2. Then give info (if required), and/0r
  3. Then coach, and/or
  4. Give advice/support, and finally, if all else fails:
  5. Be directive.

The moral of this episode is….just because the symptoms sound the same (negativity), doesn’t mean the solution is the same.

You have to investigate and find the source of the negativity in order to deal with it effectively.  Listen to the podcast for Ruth’s Dog Bark/Tail analogy.

Next week on the blog we fire Peter.  Well not exactly – but we tell you what firing Peter might be like and how to prepare.

And we give you a sneak peek on Season 3 of the podcast! So keep on listening.

Until next time….

Nicole

 

The Risk of Being Too Comfortable

Last weekend I found myself listening to Stuart MacLean‘s “Vinyl Cafe” on CBC Radio. I was driving north for a few hours, and prefer to listen to a talk show or podcast so my brain stays active and I stay awake – always a good thing when driving solo. If you have never heard a Vinyl Cafe podcast or listened to Mr. MacLean tell a story about the fictional Dave and his wife Morley, then you are missing out on a good piece of Canadiana and the opportunity to enjoy a full belly laugh.

The podcast I listened to was called “Summer,” and was the story of how Dave and Morley rented a cottage in the Laurentian Mountains (north of Montreal). Instead of paying for the rental, they agreed to do some work around the cottage, including removing a wall and tearing up the lawn. Sadly, they stayed in the wrong cottage and disaster ensued. It turns out this cottage owner liked things to remain the same in all ways, and his cottage hadn’t changed in over 50 years. Of course Mr. MacLean tells the story much better than I can – suffice it to say, the moral of the story is that change can result in good things, but you should try to avoid being surprised by it.

During the telling of the story, Mr. MacLean used the phrase “The Cathedral of Constancy” in reference to Jean-Francois’ cottage. He said that although nothing had changed in 50 years, we mustn’t assume that it is in disrepair. Oh no – it is well maintained, neat and clean. “It’s been kept up perfectly,” he says, “but not updated.”

That got me to thinking – isn’t this avoidance of change the way we often get into trouble?

Our computer gives us a notice that we have an update to do, and we don’t do it because it’s a pain. We keep clicking “remind me later” and suddenly a quick update becomes a huge deal when we finally get around to it. Or worse, it crashes.

We refuse to get a new phone until the old one breaks, bypassing several new models and operating systems, and then realize the differences are so enormous from our old phone that we have to learn a completely new way of communicating.

We keep things the same in our organization, relying on efficient processes that work just fine, thank you very much. We don’t modernize or innovate – because we don’t see the need – and then someday we realize that the business world has passed us by, and we have a whole lot of catching up to do. Never mind the principle of staying “ahead of the game,” we aren’t even keeping up with “the game!”

“But Ruth,” I can hear you thinking, “aren’t you always saying that consistency and repeatability are good things? That they ensure efficiency and effectiveness?”

Well, yes. Yes I do say those things, and I believe them. And I also believe that there is a danger in becoming complacent in that efficiency; that the desire to avoid change, stay comfortable, and rely on what we know may cause us to miss out on things that are even better.

It is just as important to maintain vigilance on efficient processes as it is to completely shake up the whole system and innovate. (Click here to tweet that statement.) The trick is to do both at the same time, and to ensure that changes to the processes are properly planned, communicated, and implemented.

Is your organization a “Cathedral of Constancy?” Or are you and your team on the lookout for opportunities to modernize and improve? How do you balance consistency with innovation?

Leave us your thoughts in the comments below – we’d love to hear them!

Until next time,

Ruth.

PS – you can find the podcast called “Summer” in iTunes. It first aired on May 6, 2016, and the story of Dave and Morley begins a few minutes into the recording.

Happy Birthday to Us!

bday

On March 28th Whiteboard turns 4 years old. 4 years! This is a big deal – according to Start Up Canada, only 70% of the more than 100,000 new small businesses that open each year actually last to year 2, and only 51% to year five. These are pretty daunting stats, and we are really thrilled to still be here, loving what we do.

What’s our secret?

Besides persistence and patience you mean? Well, the other day Nicole and I were talking about how our business has changed and grown in its short four-year existence. We started out as a company focused purely on process improvement consulting, determined to help businesses become more effective and efficient using our own methodology, The Whiteboard Way©.

We soon discovered that people didn’t just hold up their hands and say, “Oh pick us! We need process improvement!” No, in fact a lot of people don’t even know what the term means or why they should care about it. So we found ourselves trying to explain our business to people, most of whom nodded politely or stared like a deer in the headlights.

We found our work shifting to training and facilitation, knowing that what people REALLY need is a culture shift that will encourage innovation, inspire creativity, and allow people to try, fail, and try again. It is only by developing culture that organizations can attempt a massive (or moderate) change and hope to be successful. As the saying goes:

We started focusing on proving training on things that are most likely to help organizations be successful at implementing change. Things like:

  • Learning how (and when) to have rewarding conversations with people at work. Yes – conversations. It’s not as simple as you might think, and our coaching course helps people-managers build their skills in this area. It’s probably our most popular course.
  • Understanding the difference between leading and managing, and why that’s important in building an effective team.
  • Becoming self-aware and realizing how that can lead to truly effective communication.
  • Knowing how to set goals and understanding why measurements are important (hint: people like to know when they’re winning).
  • Helping teams understand the flow of work through an organization, and how gaps in process can cause frustration and inefficiency.

So now we don’t do process improvement? We teach?

Uh, no.

Don’t misunderstand me. We “do” process improvement. It happens to be one of the most amazing tools there is to help organizations improve business results. It’s just not the only tool.

We now describe ourselves as Change Management consultants who help uncover hidden opportunities to improve business results. And we do that by seeking to understand our clients, our course participants, our partners, and – always – ourselves.

  • Through our coaching program, we seek to understand you – the person – and help you get to the root of whatever barriers are in your way.
  • Through our process improvement work, we seek to understand the organization, and uncover hidden opportunities to improve business results.
  • Through our psychometric assessments (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) we help you seek to understand yourself and the people around you.
  • Through our speaking, training, and facilitation, we seek to understand our participants, and by so doing we ensure our workshops are dynamic, fun, relevant, and valuable.

And for our 5th year?

Not only have we added new services to our repertoire, but this year we are also excited to be exploring a new associate model which will allow us to expand the Whiteboard brand to other cities! This is going to be awesome, so stay tuned for more on that later in the year.

Thank you to all our clients, partners, and supporters who make it continually fun to do what we do. We couldn’t – and wouldn’t – do it without you!

Until next time,

Ruth.

 

The Process of Managing Change

This week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Lisa Chicules, a brand and strategy expert, for her radio show “Chat With Chicules” on the Voice America Radio Network. Lisa is a real expert and leader in her field, unearthing the brand potential for organizations of all shapes and sizes. One of my favourite quotes of hers is “uncover the right insight and don’t stop until it’s brilliant.” She may not know it, but with thoughts like that, she’s not only a brand expert, but also a process thinker!

Needless to say I was both honoured and excited to be on her show. It was a first for me – talking isn’t a problem, but having a big shiny microphone in front of you is a whole different ballgame. We had a blast, and I really enjoyed our topic: The Process of Managing Change. (You can listen to it by clicking here.)

Because everything is a process, right?

Right. If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know that we believe a process is a process is a process, whether you are making a martini, filling out your tax forms, or implementing a major new project or change initiative in the office.

And yet, as Lisa pointed out, so many organizations struggle with the process side of change. They focus on the “Big Shiny Goal” and forget about all the little things that go in to making that goal successful. “Why is that?” Lisa wondered.

Well, frankly, it’s because the Big Shiny Goal is more fun. It’s sexier, it’s what gets noticed, and it’s where a lot of Senior Leaders spend their time and energy. Then when they’ve developed this latest and greatest thing, they pass on their idea to someone else, say “Make It So,” and then move on – you guessed it – to the next Big Shiny Goal.

The problem is that “Make It So” doesn’t even begin to convey all the information required by an implementation team to make the Big Shiny Goal a reality. As it turns out, there’s quite a bit of context required in order to support the process (yes, process) of managing the implementation (or change) effectively.

John P. Kotter, business guru and best-selling author, developed a model that shows the 8 Steps of effective Change Management. Thankfully, I’m only going to focus on the first one because in my humble opinion, it’s the most important.

Kotter

The first step in our process is to create a sense of urgency. In other words, provide the context that is SO STRONG, that people will understand the reason for the change and why it has to happen right now. They may not love it, but they’ll get it.

For instance: let’s say you have to move your office to a new location. There are two ways you can announce this to the team:

  • The usual way: “Hey everyone, in three months we will be moving to a new office location on the other side of town. Now before you get excited, let me tell you how amazing this new building is – first of all, it’s all floor to ceiling windows, so it will be really bright and you’ll all have a window seat. Secondly it has a fully equipped kitchen, a Starbucks in the lobby, and gym membership is included. And finally, the elevators are all brand new so you won’t have to wait for ages like you do in this ancient old building. Ha ha ha. Isn’t this great?

What they hear: “Hey everyone, in three months we will be moving to a new office location on the other side of town. That’s right, an extra 30 minutes commute for you, and a completely different location from your wife. You may even have to get a second car. And you know your kid’s daycare that’s right across the street now? You probably won’t be able to pick them up by the 6pm cutoff any more. Oh and one more thing, there is no public transit, and it’s $6/day to park.”

You see, people don’t hear benefits right after a change announcement. They are overwhelmed by the impacts on their personal lives, and they they start to think – what the heck are they doing this for? This is awful!

Now let’s try to re-frame using the “hot problem / cool solution” concept, in which we state a problem that EVERYONE wants to avoid, and then provide the solution. This creates a sense of urgency that people can buy in to.

  • The better way: “Hey everyone, we have a fairly urgent issue to deal with, and I want to share it with you and tell you what we’ve come up with. As you know, budgets are being cut, and we’ve had to come up with $1.2 million in cost savings over the next three years. As you can imagine, there are a few ways to do this and we’ve been trying to figure out the way that will have the least impact on this team. In order to keep this team and its operations whole, we are going to have to move to a different office on the other side of town. I know this is going to have an impact on some of you, and I want to discuss it with each of you personally and see if we can come up with a solution.

Only then is it ok to start talking about benefits.

The second step in our process involves setting metrics so that people know if they are winning. Stephen Covey’s The Four Disciplines of Execution talks about the need to have a scorecard that is displayed in a public place so that everyone knows if they are meeting their goals. It sounds simple, yet so many organizations miss this piece and fail to set their goals in a measurable way at the beginning of the change or strategic implementation.

What are your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)? Note the word KEY. If you have more than 5-7 KPIs in your organization, then they are not the key metrics. Do you have a big spreadsheet with 20+ measures that are tracked regularly and reported to a large group?

Yes? Well that’s too many.

Many operational areas must track dozens of measures. That’s normal. But don’t call them Key Performance Indicators and share them with the whole organization – it’s not relevant, eyes gloss over, and the important story is lost.

Business analytics is all about telling the story, helping people understand what they are measuring, whether they are winning (on track), and if not, what some possible root causes may be. It is imperative that these metrics are set out at the beginning of any implementation.

Finally, the third process step I discussed with Lisa was effective communication. If you have ever participated in an employee engagement survey, then you know that communication is almost always in the top 3 things to improve. Why is that? Why can we never get it right?

communicate

I believe that too many of us communicate with others in the way that WE like to be communicated to. That is – I like eMails, so I send eMails to everyone and think I’ve done an awesome job communicating.

The problem is, many people don’t read those emails, so I haven’t communicated with them at all.

But that’s their fault, right? Shouldn’t they have just read the emails?

Yes. And by saying so, I’d be right. I’d also be really ineffective.

The great leader considers the people to whom he/she must communicate – all their differences in language style, medium preference, and even cultural concerns – and adjusts their communication accordingly. It might mean an email to some, a phone call to others, and even a quick face-to-face with a few others. It may seem like a waste of time, but it really isn’t.

Easy peasy, right?

Well maybe not. This is an awful lot to think about, even though it’s only three steps. And yet these things are absolutely essential in implementing a successful change. Miss out on any one of these things, and the best project plan in the world will not save you.

Remember:

  1. Set up the right metrics at the outset.
  2. Use Change Management theory to ensure you have set the context.
  3. Communicate to be effective, not just right.

If you’d like to listen to the radio broadcast I did with Lisa on this topic, click here and it will take you right to the recording. You can also download it from iTunes as a podcast if you search “Chat with Chicules” and look for the episode on The Process of Managing Change.

Until next time,

Ruth.

Sometimes the Flavour of the Month is Chocolate. And It’s Good.

flavour2

If you work for anyone other than yourself, you have probably lived this phrase in some way:

“Ugh – this new initiative is nothing other than the new flavour of the month. It’ll never stick and next year they’ll roll out something else.”

Sound familiar? These words have probably assaulted your ears (or crossed your lips), when the organization is trying with best intentions to make a change or an improvement. The person who is responsible for the change is excited about the initiative, and is frustrated beyond believe with this blasé response from the team.

So why do people say it?

First, a little Change Management theory for you – we know from Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross‘ work that people experience grief in an emotional roller coaster. When Kubler-Ross pioneered the concept of the 5 Stages of Grief, people became aware that grief impacts us all the same way and yet differently too.

In other words, we all go through the stages of Grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance), but we may go through them differently. Some may linger in one stage or another, and some may fly through a stage so quickly as to appear to bypass it. The way in which we go through these stages is greatly impacted by our personal resilience, the amount of stress we are dealing with at the moment, and our experiences with grief in the past.

The same is true with change. In fact, Kubler-Ross’ model has been adapted to create the Change Curve, used by Change Management experts, teachers, and coaches. There are several different variations of the curve itself, and we like this one the best:

change curve

You can see the similarity to the 5 Stages of Grief – in this model we have Denial, Anger, Exploration, and Acceptance.

Imagine then, an employee who is not only experiencing change at work, but also at home (spouse has been demoted, child has moved out, parent is ill). This employee, we’ll call him Rob, has been a good worker and has been around for about 15 years. You are Rob’s manager, and very excited about a new program to create a more efficient process for doing the work of Rob and the entire team. When you meet to discuss it, Rob breaks open the “Flavour of the Month” remark, and the team snickers.

This is because Rob has been around for a couple of business cycles. He’s seen change implemented, re-implemented, de-implemented, and implemented again. He’s tired and his resilience is low – he feels that change is a pendulum, and that people should just make up their damn minds and stick with something.

Well, here’s the thing…

The United States’ National Bureau of Economic Research states that since 1945 the average business cycle has been just less than six years. That length of time may also be impacted by your industry, budget issues, technology advancement, and general business trends.

So in other words, every few years the business world changes. And in order to be relevant in that world, an organization must change with it. The change the organization is implementing is probably the right thing, for right now. In a few years it may no longer be the right thing. So yeah. It might well be the flavour of the month, and there’s nothing wrong with that (unless an organization is making change for change’s sake – and that’s a whole different discussion.)

The trick is to implement the “new flavour” carefully, using change management best practices from the outset and communicating the “why and why now” message in the most effective way for the team.

If that’s all done correctly, then the answer to Rob is as easy as, “Yes Rob, it IS the flavour of the month. It’s chocolate. And it’s good.”

Until next time,

Ruth.

 

How to use process tools for anything. Even moving!

Moving is a Process.

Think of your last move. You and your spouse/partner giggling hysterically while you pack boxes.  Flirtatiously throwing bubble wrap at one another while you pack? Then after a smooth experience with your moving company, arriving at your new home, giddy with excitement, settling into at least 10 glasses of champagne next to a cozy fire.

If you just snorted or guffawed- you aren’t alone.

What does a living hell look like?download

The first thing I did when we bought our new house was open a bottle of wine (it wasn’t going to open itself was it?).  Then, being the process geek I am, I began to map the current state of moving that I had experienced in the past. I won’t bore you with the VISIO document. But it sort of went something like this:

Step 1. Buy House

Step 2. Start Packing random stuff.

Step 3. Stop packing for a while because have run out of Cardboard Boxes (so has nearby grocery store).

Step 4. Unpack most of things packed in Step 2 because I needed them.

Step 5.  Nearly murder partner/spouse because they have to date packed nothing.

Step 6.  Pack frantically and angrily for a number of days.

Step 7.  Stop packing.  Realize move is still 3 months away.

Step 8. Unpack 90% of Step 6 items while looking for yoga mat that have not used in 3 years but need for “Girls Yoga/Brunch” on Sunday.

Step 9.  Realized have not booked movers.  Panic.  Call first movers that appear on The Google after searching “Movers Toronto”.

Step 10. Begin frantically packing again. Rip 7 boxes because I overpack them and everything falls through the bottom.

Step 11. Stop packing because it is Les Mills Release week and I have to go to every gym class ever.

Step 12. Begin frantically packing.

Step 13. Cancel girls indoor rock climbing date because “I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THE #&$^#% MY ROCK CLIMBING SHOES ARE.

Step 14-18.  Slight wine induced blur of packing, crying, fighting with spouse irrationally, and scramble packing.

Step 19. ARRIVE AT NEW HOUSE!! Look lovingly at spouse/partner and sip champagne for about 13 seconds.  Immediately proceed to next step.

Step 20. Unpack frantically trying to get house ready for guests.

Step 21. Repack 70% of items as realize new house does not have closet space.

Step 22. Frantically look for that black top for girls wine night. WHERE THE &#&^#^#^#^ is that TOP?????

Step 23. 6 months later feel settled and have shit together.

So pain. So pain.

So this time, older, wiser, armed with process tools out the wazoo I vowed that this time my move would be better.  So first I focused on what I felt were the key pain points  (or for us process geeks, two Lean Wastes) for me during this process:

lean

  • not being able to find one blasted thing before or after the move, causing packing and unpacking again (OVERPROCESSING)
  • running out of  boxes/ripping boxes due to overpacking and having dead time where I wasn’t doing anything. (INVENTORY/WAITING)

The first thing I did being the consultant I am – I outsourced.  I rented reusable, stackable boxes that come with little labels  from (no kickbacks or anything for me, I just found these guys awesome and fast). No running out of boxes. Check!

The next thing I did, was made some space in my garage, and I used huge post-it notes to label each major room in the house (Kitchen, Living Room, Master Bedroom, Master Bathroom etc.)

Next I started packing things that 100% would not be required (i.e. Summer clothes, clothes that no longer fit me yet I am very hopeful that one day I will look like I did when I was 22, shoes that I paid alot of money for however never wear because I work from home in workout wear 98% of the time).

I packed one to two boxes a day.  Every day I brought them down to the garage, put them beneath the room they were assigned to, and labelled the box K1 = Kitchen box 1.  I then quickly wrote on the post it note on the wall, K1= dehydrator, stand mixer, and baking supplies. This way – when I nonsensically needed to make jerky in a hurry or bake homemade bread for the first time before we moved, it would be simple to find which box it was in.

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams.

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 3.03.53 PM

Fast Forward 3 months later this was me on moving day.  Ha. It was great.  The easiest move ever. Check me out with my feet up on moving day!

And then when we arrived at the new house and got ourselves settledd my husband turned to me and said – “Sweetheart, do you know which box the Apple tv is in?”. I gleefully pulled out the post-it notes I had collected from the garage, and promptly announced: “LR11!!” with a huge boastful/gloaty smile.  He replied: “Gosh you are an amazing woman!”.  We quickly connected to the internet (that I had arranged installation for weeks in advance)and were cozily catching up on our favourite documentary. *

We laughed and giggled, clinked our champagne glasses together, and smiled.  Life was good. **

Notes:

*I forgot to to order internet installation. So we didn’t have internet for about 3 days.  I’m the worst.

 

**Actually, I collected the post it notes from the garage and randomly jammed them into an ottoman as the movers were putting it into the truck.  I didn’t find the post-it notes until 3 days later.  When husband asked for them and I couldn’t find them he may have replied something along the lines of:  “You are a total bozo.”

Moral being – there is ALWAYS room for more process improvement – in ANY process.  Just imagine using this in a more formal way at the office and you can only imagine the reduction in stress, overtime, and rework!

Tell us about your favourite day-to-day process improvements especially moving @Whiteboardcons #movingisaprocess!

Until next time,

Nicole

The Structure That Lets You Be Flexible

structure

Last week I had a consultation meeting with a potential new client. They are a digital marketing agency, and are the epitome of funky, professional, fun, and creative. I very much enjoyed my conversation with them, as I always do when learning about a new (to me) industry.

Consultation discussions always start out casually with the usual small talk and commentary on what is going on around us (this group works in a shared creative work space, and the energy is palpable). As often happens with people who are interesting and interested, the conversation morphed naturally into questions and answers about what they do and where they want to grow and how Whiteboard can help.

This client came to us via a referral from a previous client. As such, they already knew a bit about what we do, and yet they still weren’t sure what we could or would do for them. They just knew they needed us. Why? Because they wanted to build the processes they needed before they needed them.

I thought this was genius, and through the course of our conversation a phrase came up that I’ve already reused a half dozen times since then. “We want to have fun,” they said. “Our clients have to see us having fun. So I guess we are afraid that processes will limit our ability to be flexible and have fun.” I responded, “so what you want is the structure that will let you have the fun.”

“YES!” they replied, smiling as if to say, “By George, I think she’s got it!”

This idea of flexible structure is an important one for all businesses of all sizes, and particularly those that are on the tipping point of growing to a new level.

What’s a Process Again?

First let’s revisit the concept of a business process. Essentially, everything that you do with some repeatability is a process. At a high level it may involve things like this:

  • Sales
  • Developing a quote or proposal
  • Establishing scope or business requirements
  • Project management
  • Customer service
  • Invoicing

You may not think you have a process. Perhaps you are a small or medium organization for which things happen organically. Maybe everyone does everything and does it their own way, and it’s working out just fine, thank you very much. But guess what? There is a process. There are many processes, and they are all different and they all accomplish the same thing slightly differently.

This is usually just fine for a while. Because it’s a small team, you can roll back your chair and shout down the hallway to your partner and solve issues easily. Customers know you all by name, and although things go wrong once in a while it’s no big deal because someone is always able to fix it.

But here’s the thing. Before you know it, this will NOT be ok. You will hit a tipping point in your growth, and suddenly things will be confusing and chaotic and you’ll be stepping on each other’s toes. You won’t be able to outsource anything because the roles and responsibilities you have defined (or not defined) are unclear and difficult to chunk out into trainable units. You won’t have clear expectations for outcomes, customers will start getting annoyed, and you will be limited in how fast you can grow because you simply can’t handle everything on your own anymore.

This is when the structure becomes important.

By taking the time before you hit that tipping point, you will set yourself up with just the right amount of structure to ensure you present yourself as clear and capable, while remaining flexible enough to grow, change your minds, and yes, have fun.

How to Define Your Structure

The structure I’m talking about does not involve your org chart, and does not require a huge amount of work. Rather, it involves three things:

  1. Goals and priorities: Take the time to define your Mission & Vision statements, and settle on your goals for the coming period. You may have this locked down in your own mind, and it’s just as important to ensure it’s documented and visible for others so they know what they are trying to impact.
  2. Roles & responsibilities: Document the various roles in your organization. This doesn’t mean write down what everyone does (e.g. Ruth handles the sales process). Rather, it means document the person-agnostic roles that are required to run the business well. (e.g. Business Development, Outside Sales, Project Manager, Customer Service) One person can of course do more than one role, but the roles must be distinct.
  3. Key Corporate Processes: Note the key processes that your organization needs, and that must be done in a certain way in order to achieve a quality outcome? This definition allows you to outsource and train new people to a given standard. It also allows you to modify and be flexible as needs require – a process is just written on paper. It can always be changed!

Once you’ve set out your goals, roles and process expectations, you’re ready to grow. Everyone knows what needs to happen and (perhaps more importantly) HOW it needs to happen. Standards are clear and timelines are defined. You have structure, and you also have the option of changing that structure as required. Why? Because good processes are flexible.

Until next time,

Ruth.

After Leading Process Change….

Did you miss us?  Ruth and I were saying that this is probably the longest we haven’t blogged. Don’t worry, we are back and in full force now!

In today’s blog I wanted to share some highlights of our 2-day course, “Leading Process Change,” which we delivered on November 5 & 6. We had a a great diverse group of participants, from the Ontario Government, Telus, Blackberry, and two web development firms, just to name a few.  It was a total blast.  We shared our experiences in change and leadership and learned basic process improvement skills too.

Day 1

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 9.03.23 AM

On day 1 we whizzed through the Whiteboard Way. It was a lot of material to cover, and using a business case, we helped our team of participants to:

1. Define It – Define a specific problem in an organization, without assumptions, without solutions, and using specific data to isolate the issue.

2. Draw It – Use basic process mapping techniques to visually represent a process clearly.

3. Analyze It – Look for opportunities to improve (like bottlenecks, duplication, and roles & responsibility conflicts).

4. Imagine It – Imagine a future state using brainstorming techniques.

5. Prove It – Use data to ensure that the new process performs better than the original process.

6. Sell It – Use excellent communications and stakeholder engagement skills to ensure that the process change is communicated effectively.

 

Day 2

On day 2 we covered a wide range of leadership topics to help participants learn how to guide a change – from embedding process improvement within strategic plans, to using emotional intelligence to increase people’s buy-in, and even how public relations plays a role (care of our excellent guest speakers)! And as well we covered basic communication, relationship building, and change management skills too!

We were really pleased to get some great feedback from participants:

“Love it. I will definitely bring the knowledge back.”

“Great back and forth engagement.”

“Great idea to combine change (of any kind!) with leadership —> practical tools & advice in simple, accessible language. Love it.”

Now it’s on to new and exciting projects to come….what do you want to learn next?

Let us know on Twitter @whiteboardcons!

*Special thanks to our awesome photographer Sara Beasley @Sarabeesphotography, www.sarabeesphotography.com

Until Next Time,

Nicole

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog Post – OMG! Emotions in the Office!

linda hillsLinda Hills is a seasoned Learning & Organizational Development practitioner whose mission is to help leaders, teams and organizations create emotionally intelligent transformational change. Over the past 20 years, she has designed, developed and delivered learning and organizational development interventions while working in software, financial services and the not-for-profit sector. Linda has a Master’s degree in Adult Learning and is a certified Emotional Intelligence, and Vital Signs Assessor with Six Seconds, a certified Change Practitioner through Connor Partners CIBC program, and is also certified as a Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI) Facilitator/Coach.  She is currently an Executive Director in the not-for profit sector, leading her organization through an emotionally intelligent transformational change.

Linda will be offering The Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment (SEI™) at our upcoming course, Leading Process Change, in Toronto Nov 5 & 6. Find out more about that and about Linda HERE.

Linda over to you:

 

OMG! Emotions in the Office!

I’m with Linda North on this one:  Process isn’t my favourite thing.  But there are two other words in the title of Ruth and Nicole’s upcoming course (Leading Process Change) that strike a chord with me:  leading and change.  Why?  Because both of these concepts are deeply rooted in human emotion, and helping people build emotional intelligence is my “raison d’etre”.

We first heard the term “emotional intelligence” in 1995, when Daniel Goleman wrote his groundbreaking book of the same name.  Since then, much has been written, many versions of it have come along, and yet it remains largely conceptual, if not absent, in most organizations.  Emotions are still seen as soft and disruptive, and are unwelcome in a professional environment.

And yet therein lies a critical misunderstanding about emotions.  In a work setting the word conjures up images of someone losing their temper and yelling at colleagues, or storming out of a meeting.  These are perfect examples of emotions that have not been managed, and that fuel the aversion to them.  So in the business world, we prefer to “leave emotions out of it”.

This couldn’t be more wrong!   Emotions are assets.  They give us information and energy1. Not to mention they are automatic and pretty hard to hide2 (even when you think you are doing so masterfully, that twitching eyebrow gives you away :).  Think about fear for a moment.  It is seen as a negative emotion, but what is it telling you?   If you guessed that it’s telling you that soEmotional Intelligence Imagemething could go wrong, you’d be right.  And how might that be a good thing?  It can protect you from dangerous situations.

So what is emotional intelligence?  The model I use was developed by Six Seconds, so named after the amount of time it takes for the chemical reaction in our brains to settle down after we react to something.  The model comprises eight competencies that allow us to use thinking AND feeling to make optimal decisions.   These eight competencies are divided into three main categories:

  1. Know Yourself:  This is about awareness.  It’s being aware of your emotions, and recognizing the patterns of behaviour that they produce
  2. Choose yourself:  This is about management.  It’s navigating your emotions, thinking about the consequences of your actions and behaviours, exercising optimism and engaging internal (vs. external) motivation.
  3. Give yourself:  This is about direction.  It’s developing empathy for others, and pursuing a “noble goal” – a purpose greater than yourself.

These are easier said than done!  It takes reflection and effort to build these competencies, but they can all be learned!

If you aren’t sold on emotional intelligence, consider this:

  • Harvard Business Review called it the “key to professional success”3
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says that “…in the long-run, EQ trumps IQ…”4
  • At the US Army Training Centre, the saying is that “…Leadership is a lifelong journey of just 18 inches – from head to heart…”5

And if that isn’t enough, take a look at the bottom line stats:  when leaders practice emotional intelligence the impact on outcomes is clear; it is predictive of6:

  • 46% of Customer Service
  • 28% of Performance
  • 45% of Retention

With the last Gallup Engagement survey (2013) showing that 63% of employees worldwide are not engaged, and 24% actively disengaged7, it’s time for leaders to up their game.  And that means developing EQ to (at a minimum!) match their IQ.

Looking forward to seeing you on November 6th!

Linda

 

References

1At the Heart of Leadership:  How to Get Results with Emotional Intelligence, Joshua Freedman, Six Seconds, San Mateo, California, 2007

2Vital Organization Field Guide, Joshua Freedman and Massimiliano Ghini, September 2014

3 HBR “Breakthrough Ideas for Tomorrow’s Business Agenda,” April 2003

4 Times of India, “Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella tells students, fall in love with what you do,” October 1, 2014

5 The Vital Organization Field Guide, Joshua Freedman and Massimiliano Ghini, September 2014

6At the Heart of Leadership:  How to Get Results with Emotional Intelligence, Joshua Freedman, Six Seconds, San Mateo, California, 2007.

7 http://www.gallup.com/poll/165269/worldwide-employees-engaged-work.aspx, retrieved October 22, 2014.

You Should Come to This Course. Yes, You.

Leading-Process-Change

Our regular readers will know by now that Nicole and I are upbeat, positive people and we get excited about a lot of things. So, when I tell you that we are SUPER EXCITED about our upcoming course in November, please trust that it is not hyperbole.

Why are we so over-the-top and ridiculously excited?

Well, because we believe this course is innovative, and innovation is a good, positive, wonderful thing.

You’ve heard us talk about The Whiteboard Way© before (click here or here). We believe that our method of Process Improvement is what organizations need in order to take the first step into a Process Improvement culture. Often organizations hear about the buzz words – continuous improvement, process improvement, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, TQM, etc – and they go bananas implementing a new program.

And so many of them fail. I’ve seen it happen in three major organizations in both the private and the public sectors.

They fail because they haven’t set themselves up to succeed – they have not considered the importance of change management, culture shift, and stakeholder engagement. It’s as bad as if someone all of a sudden decided they want to be a farmer, and so they bought a big field and started sticking seeds in the ground, without tilling the soil, removing rocks, adding fertilizer, and ensuring the earth is rich and ready to receive the seeds.

Enough of the analogy. You get what I’m saying, and hopefully many of you are nodding your heads and saying, “yup – been there, done that.”

Our new course, Leading Process Change, offered Nov 5 & 6 in Toronto, examines the intersection of Process Improvement and Leadership Principles and enables the learner to influence change and develop a process-based culture. Everyone can benefit from this course, especially if they are responsible for, or thinking about, process improvement in their organization. (Click to Tweet)

You need to come to this course. Yes, you.

What? You don’t think you’re at the right level in your organization to attend? To that I say, pfftrespectfully, PFFT.

Whether you are an employee on a team in an organization who wishes you knew how to influence change so people would listen to your ideas, or a VP trying to figure out why you can’t make process improvements stick, (or somewhere in between), this course is for you.

We have designed the course in two modules, so that people can come to one or both.

  • Module 1 – is all about The Whiteboard Way©, and focuses on the basics of Process Improvement without getting all fancy shmancy and needing expensive software or textbooks.
  • Module 2 – examines essential skills in making sure that change sticks. We have expert speakers on how to communicate & promote your change initiative, how to work process improvement into your strategic planning, and how to be aware of your own emotional intelligence and its impacts on others.

More information is here in this link. I encourage you to read it, and then sign up and bring anyone else who needs to be there (which is everyone, so…). We have discounts for Earlybirds (before October 18th), former students, members of BNI or Verity, and employees of the OPS. And discounts can be combined!

I hope to see you at our course. I promise it will be fun – our past students have rated our training consistently in the top box! (Oh, and the lunch will be fantastic!)

Ruth.

PS – if you have any questions, just shoot us an email at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

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