Hat tricks in business: why change is an unwelcome guest

My earlier post about change management sparked a few interesting comments. Change isn’t always welcomed by the people who ‘ought’ to change.

Why do people treat change like an unwelcome guest?

Change: do you take things as they come? [Click to view on Flickr]

Change: do you take things as they come? [Great photo by Anders Young on Flickr]

People in a business environment are mostly employees, and a smaller part of the group consists of managers, senior managers…

You could argue that change in business means some can’t keep up, and dysfunctional employees or teams show up like a sore thumb. You could even add more (possibly quite cynical) reasons for individual employees to reject change.

Take an employee’s view of organizational change for a moment. Having change thrust upon you for no (apparent) good reason doesn’t help you embrace the process. Especially if you don’t see that there’s anything wrong with you or the way you do your job. But there’s more.

Hat tricks in business

Consider a magician’s classic hat trick in a business environment. Some enthousiastic individual bounces into your office, or cubicle, or wherever, and pushes the hat under your nose. A rather pungent animal smell wafts out. What can you expect? Will you find a cute (but slightly nervous) white rabbit? Or will you end up pulling an unkempt smelly goat out of the hat? Or… worse?

Keep this situation in mind. Now let’s push two distinct groups into the spotlight – call them ‘change advocates’ and ‘bean counters’ – and compare their actions and motives.

  1. Change advocates are convinced that changing [fill in favorite topic] will improve your organization.
  2. Bean counters are convinced that cost cutting will improve your organization’s balance sheet.
  3. Change advocates tell you to work differently in order to achieve more.
  4. Bean counters tell you to work more efficiently so they’ll need fewer employees.
  5. Change advocates believe that a tasty carrot will convince people to change, and say that working differently will make you (feel) better.
  6. Bean counters are of the stick persuasion and say:
    1. If you don’t work more efficiently we’ll fire you.
    2. If you do work more efficiently we’ll wait a bit longer then fire the other guy. Possibly. Unless you grow slack. (If this sounds like Dilbert: I think I swallowed the book a couple of years ago. Have been unable to locate its whereabouts.)

The rest of us are, in the average organization, probably somewhere in the line of fire between these two world views.

Change projects gone cost-crazy

One thing which happens to projects started with the best intentions is that they are interpreted as a way to cut costs by financial teams. Assuming you are in favor of a specific change: if you don’t prepare for this eventuality you could lose control over your project.

How on earth will you combine change and finance without forfeiting every last bit of trust? I would say by starting early and taking the financial side into account from before the word “go”.

  1. Your project plan or business case should show clearly what you intend to achieve and what is out of scope. Prepare a document listing potential side-effects and answer a couple of questions. How likely is it: that this side-effect will occur? That it will lead to a substantial cost reduction? How likely is ‘finance’ to pick up on this possible side-effect and treat it as a fact? How could this impact your project? Evolve a worst-case scenario and look for counter-measures.
  2. Double-check if your plan aligns with any of the plans laid out for your organization as a whole.
  3. Reality check. Meet up with someone outside the financial team, but with a similar professional profile. Risk aversity is a major requirement. Test your plans on this individual to make sure you’re prepared for attempts to hijack a project started with the best intentions.
  4. Make sure you get 1, 2 and 3 sorted out before you enter the bean counters’ den. Otherwise expect fur to fly and the result to be either
    1. some bit of shared Cheshire Cat wisdom on the lines of “if you don’t know where you want to go, you can pick any direction you like” – and your budget slashed, or
    2. your project turned into a cost-cutting tool. A rather ineffective one since you didn’t start your project with the intention to cut costs. And one that will leave any number of employees extremely distrustful of change initiatives in the future.

I hope you enjoyed this post – one triggered at least in part by the comments on my previous post. Have you encountered any ‘hat tricks’ in your organization – or have you seen business change at its best?

X is for Change. Making good ideas work in big organizations

This is a bit of an odd one out in view of all the knowledge management posts I’ve written lately. Yet there is a common background to them: change in organizations.

Apart from knowledge management, there is social business, and probably a couple of other great change initiatives I’m not aware of, but that you’ve witnessed from the enthousiastic launch right down to the moment when the last “new way of thinking” motivator turned their minds to different activities – or launched the escape pod to another company in hopes of finding converts there.

Change in Big organizations

Change for the better? – Image by HikingArtist.com

Big change is bad news in big organizations

Getting an existing company to change the way it does its work may involve changing the organization chart. It’s messy and people tend not to like that. Employees don’t like it because it could be their job on the line. Managers and the people with jobs that start with a C don’t like it because change, real change, could backfire in a big way. That would leave them looking rather silly in terms of return-on-bonus 😉

But they can’t do nothing. So they hire someone to handle the new project. This one person may even grow into a small team. They target groups of people at once, trying to make as many converts as possible.

After a while, budget is moved elsewhere and the expert or team may move along with it to another department. The bar may be lowered because things don’t go as smoothly as hoped.

Small change is… very small change in big organizations

In a big organization, small changes look like background noise. They may still be fundamental changes, but it takes a while for any change to come up to the surface to get some fresh air.

Most people who try to change the organization (or at least parts of it) are experts in their own field: knowledge management, social media in business, or anything else. Unfortunately it looks as though the cash cow is grazing on a different field: that of change management. Knowledge management, social business, and the like, give you something to aim for. Lack of knowledge and skills to help you get there frustrates your whole project.

Good ideas in big organizations need change management

What is change management? If done right, the recipe contains organizational theory, strategy, ideas about how to deal with the human resources side of it all, possibly some other herbs and spices, and psychology (quite a lot of that actually).

Suppose you’re trying to get someone to fly to the moon. Or to abandon their cart in favor of travelling by train. You need to convince your intended converts:

  • that the goal is worth working towards.
  • that your contraption won’t break up, explode, crash or simply grind to a halt in the middle of nowhere.
  • that they can actually operate the vehicle – that they will be trained thoroughly.
  • that they will get real help quick whenever they don’t know what to do next (I just got a flash of the Apollo astronauts calling the helpdesk…yikes!).
  • that they will benefit from their effort – not chucked out into the cold.
  • that there is no true alternative, even though they think they’re sitting on it – that there is no comfort zone.

Make any change look too insignificant, and people will be so slow in moving you’ll barely notice their progress. Make it look too big and scary, and people will freeze up and wait for you to leave and leave them alone.

Disruptive change? No thanks.

Steer clear of the organizational terminators if you really want to change anything.

X is for change

In the course of your working life you may have read articles calling for a CIO, a CKO, or a CMO – and I just remembered a CCO too. Some of them even exist in a couple of companies, though rarely on a par with the “big C”s: the CEO (boss) and CFO (finance).
Based on my own experiences my vote would go to a CXO: a change leader. Just to get the good ideas going on a strategic level. I can’t guarantee it’ll work – but I have the impression it might just make things that little bit easier.

Read more:

Have you ever initiated what would have been a welcome change (for the better) for your organization, or part of it? Or, have you ever wished a co-worker success with their attempts to change anything wondering how long they’d last?

Blogging impressions: how to change your journal into a blog

This post is about me. And perhaps it’s also about you… When I started blogging I refused to explore the question who I was going to write for in detail. So now maybe it’s time to make up for that.

Who am I trying to reach? Who is my audience?

Well, for starters:

  1. People who have a brain, and are not afraid to use it. If that’s you, consider it a compliment 😉
  2. People who like to learn, and who don’t mind reading stuff that’s about different topics so long as it’s written for non-experts.
  3. People who share one or more interests with me.
  4. Experts who like to extend their own thinking on various topics.
  5. In other words, I aim to blog for people with room in their heads for new ideas or new takes on things they know (although, if they read a lot, I may not always be able to surprise them). I blog for curious people.

Change your Journal into a blogI’m writing for people who are, in a way, like me. It’s quite possible that I’m writing for me. Which I reckoned was fine when I started blogging. After all, I’m my own best-known audience. I know what I like. If you blog for a specific audience without doing research into your intended audience, chances are that you’re blogging for you. If that wasn’t your intention, all I can say is: Oops.

Does all of the above mean you’re looking at my journal right now? Yes and no… So how do I write my posts for you on this blog of mine?

How to change your journal into a blog written for an audience

Unless my planning gives me a topic to write about up front (I’ll admit I’ve been too busy lately), I start out writing about something that’s either fascinating me, or frustrating me, or worrying me, or…
I start writing and keep writing for a while, exploring the topic as I go.
Until the bloggers’ inquisitor drops in. I keep this creature outside on a leash for my ‘raw’ draft so it doesn’t chew on the furniture or drool on my keyboard while I’m busy.

The blogger’s inquisitor is that nagging feeling you may know – that may creep up on you when you’re writing… asking:

  • Why would anyone be interested in your problems?
  • What’s in here that could actually solve someone else’s problems?
  • After all you’re not so unique that you could be the only person in the world who has this issue. Are you?

Turning…

At this point I snap out of journaling mode and start writing for YOU:

  1. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of pasting “you” where I was (yes, and the verbs too).
  2. Sometimes it means I look at the issue I’ve described in a whole new light.
  3. And I start describing details of what you might run into.
  4. Then I add tips to counter some of those issues.
  5. A key issue is that I can’t pretend to have an answer for you if I don’t have one. But as a part of my blogging activities I can look for an answer and present it to you in my resulting blog post.
  6. Or I can think about what might work for you, even if I don’t know if it would work for me.

Think about it for a minute. There’s a HUGE difference between a journal and a blog.

What is a journal about?

A journal is essentially about you. It’s where your write about stuff you run into. In the case of an online journal, it allows your readers to recognize, sympathize – sometimes have a lot of fun reading about your musings. Some of your readers may take heart in the fact that you’re experiencing the same problems they’re facing.

What is a blog about?

A (business) blog is – has to be – about your readers. Whatever you put in should be written to benefit them in some small way. That doesn’t mean you should leave out your point of view – that’s the point of it being your blog – right? I’d say it’s impossible to leave yourself out – but you can suppress your presence to the point of squeezing the last bit of life out of your blog. Please don’t.

Painting the picture more clearly…

Compare writing to painting. Turning from journaling to blogging doesn’t mean you stop ‘painting’. All it means is you don’t do self portraits anymore – most of the time.

Your work still shows your choice of topic, your structure, your style, your preferred colors and details. It’s just that your readers are no longer inspecting every pimple on your nose anymore (metaphorically speaking – I hope). Instead, your readers are exploring the world through the words you paint onto the canvas of your blog.

Read more storytelling and blogging:

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Blogging impressions. You may find previous episodes here and here. And finally, leave your thoughts on journals, blogs and (your) blogging audience in a comment!

The value of your (LinkedIn) connections

If you’ve read my earlier posts about LinkedIn you’ll know I’ve been on there for some time, but others – maybe including you – are getting started right now. One question you’ll want answered is: how are you going to make LinkedIn work for you? In this post I aim to give you at least the start of an answer.

Your LinkedIn profile, which I discussed earlier, will help you to keep track of:

  • the jobs you’ve had, the tasks you’ve performed
  • the clients you’ve helped
  • all of your courses

Oh, and people can read it if they like 🙂

(LinkedIn) Connections

Your LinkedIn profile’s not really something you’d get excited about. Why not? Simple – it’s all about your past performance. None of the above gives you any reason whatsoever to connect with people. If you’re fairly secure in your present job you may not see any reason to start connecting with a lot of people. After all, you see them at lunch, you get their e-mails…

You could connect with anyone you ever worked with. That means that your presence on LinkedIn also allows you to keep track of all the co-workers you ever worked with. Yay! … Nope. I’m still bored 😉

How to make LinkedIn work for you

The only possible way to make LinkedIn work for you is if you decide to join conversations and connect with people (including colleagues) with an eye on your future. Why? Because your future is unknown territory. Unless you did something really dreadful in a previous job, it’s not coming after you to club you on the head. But the future is a different place. One you haven’t visited yet.

Start by asking yourself what you want for your career in the next, say, 5-10 years. Now you may not be at all clear about the answer to that question. Scan the scenarios in the next few paragraphs. I’ll ask you questions in each one. Some of my questions are based on my own experiences at various points in my career.

You’re still studying (part time)

Will you be able to do parts of your study within this organization? Like getting an internship, or even working there as an employee while adding it as the job experience you would otherwise gain from an internship? Will you be able to write your thesis here? Is the company you work for part time likely to offer you a job after you graduate?

You’re looking for a career change

Does your current employer offer possibilities for your newly chosen career? If not, what organizations look better equipped to house the likes of you in the (near) future? What can you do by way of a hobby or as a volunteer that would qualify you (even at a basic level) within 4-10 months?

All you want is… job security

If you want, first and foremost, to keep your job because you’re happy where you are and you have a family and you don’t need the hassle right now: what do you know about the organization you’re in that might impact your chances of keeping your job? Are there other positions within your organization that you could move to if necessary? What skills can you learn that would make it easier to shift direction within your organization? Who else works in a team where you might end up if you had those skills? In other words, how can you make it more probable that a change will involve a new job in the same organization rather than having to look elsewhere?

Start by deciding where your priorities lie in real life

Suppose your organization is big enough to hold several positions you could fill if you wanted (or had to find another job) – it would make sense to get to know a few colleagues from different parts of your organization.

What if it’s not big enough? What if you’re in a tiny team that is more likely to shrink even further rather than grow in the future? What if there aren’t going to be any jobs after you graduate? In that case getting to know people in other organisations is important. But don’t forget the ‘network-happy’ people in your own organization who know absolutely everyone in your field of expertise!

What value can LinkedIn add to the connections you have in real life?

LinkedIn is a handy extension for real-life relationships. Connect preferably first in real life, then follow up by connecting on LinkedIn. Once you connect with anyone on LinkedIn, you can view their ‘updates’ which contain their every activity.

  • Some activities are alterations to their job title – you’ll know it if an ex-colleague starts in a new job, so you can send her a message about it.
  • If a connection who may or may not be in the category “companies/departments I wouldn’t mind working for” shares a great article about a subject you’re interested in you can comment on the article while also letting ’em know you’re still around.

All in all, the information you receive in the shape of LinkedIn updates gives you (extra) starting points for interacting with colleagues and other professionals – which is great if you’re NOT running into them twice a day. Your contacts on LinkedIn are not about instant results. They’re about staying in touch – and in the picture even though you, and they, are busy.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it. Or you may leave your thoughts about your (LinkedIn) connections in a comment below for me to read and reply to!

How to start your career on LinkedIn

Last week I read a post about LinkedIn that got quite a few comments. One of them was “this is all very interesting but I’d like tips that will help me get started”. I recently updated my profile so I decided I’d think up some tips that might actually help rather than frustrate your career without your even noticing. Today’s post is the short-cut for hasty people – if you want to know more, read my next (Friday) post.

How to best invest your time and effort on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is not where you’d start your social media ‘career’ today. Instead, you’re on Facebook or Twitter and at some point you’re told you need to be on LinkedIn for your career – or, at least, to make sure you don’t miss out on job opportunities because you’re not there.

My advice is to take the professional approach from day one. I have been on LinkedIn for over 4 years and all I can say is it probably pays to start even before you finish your education – in stead of switching careers 2 or 3 times beforehand, like I did 😉

Your career on LinkedIn: start here

Get your profile sorted first. To show you just how much this matters, I’ve written a separate post about it. If you want to get started today, but you don’t want to share your unfinished profile with the whole world just yet, sign up and then check out your settings – profile – Edit your public profile.

LinkedIn settings: Edit your public profile

In the next screen you can opt to share only the bits you’re happy about, or hide your profile altogether with this useful menu in the column on the right:

LinkedIn Profile Visibility

Here you can review your public profile and hide anything you feel is not up to scratch. If that leaves you with a minimalistic profile you know which parts you need to tackle at once.

Continue to work on the other parts and share those after extra thought and editing. After all it’s important information – based on this, a recruiter or a potential client may decide whether or not to contact you. They may check for your name elsewhere but let’s assume they’re human and therefore either too lazy or too busy.

Don’t forget to change your settings back when you’re done!

Tips to turn your profile into a career on LinkedIn

Try any or all of these actions. If you’re on LinkedIn but don’t have a clue how you should do any of it, just ask – I’ll write a post or two on individual actions I’ve listed here. My comments section below is open for business 😀

  1. Follow a couple of businesses you wouldn’t mind working for (as an employee or a business owner).
  2. Seek out recruiters who match your standards for social media usage. Some hide their networks from their connections, some don’t. Decide which kind you’re comfortable with.
  3. Connect with fellow students who basically face the same questions and consider teaming up to get the LinkedIn part of your lives up and running together.
  4. Find some active groups that are relevant to your professional interests. This way you keep up to date about your field of expertise, and these groups are shown on your profile (unless you hide them).
  5. Connect with a couple of teachers/professors. Criteria: depth/breadth of expertise, network, they teach your favorite topics, or you just get along with them well.

If you’re thinking of starting on LinkedIn and/or getting serious about your career, you’re welcome to share your thoughts – I promise to reply to any non-spammy comment 🙂

Life as we know it: the big deal about change

Every new generation in the past 50 years has been called, or has claimed, to be fundamentally different from the oldies. This tends to cause a bit of friction with parents (unless they’ve given up ‘parenting’ at an earlier stage) but notably not so much with grandparents because, and I’m guessing here, they’ve seen it all before in their own children.

The big deal about change

Change is the only permanent force in our lives. So what? Change is a constant, and yet we will draw people’s attention to it again and again saying: “look, this is different!” or “I’m unique!” The millenial generation is no different in its uniqueness 😉

One example of what is different for today’s students is, by the time they graduate, they’re all over Facebook already. If you’ve spent years on Facebook it seems a bit of a waste to start from scratch on LinkedIn.

Some months ago, Brian Solis interviewed the Co-founder/CEO of a platform called Identified.com. Viewing the information on the Identified blog I recognized a lot of stuff from my own career path (involving change). Perhaps you recognize any of the following?

Learn to change: learning curve ahead

Warning: Learning Curve Ahead

  1. Study, no job.
  2. Another study.
  3. Job doesn’t match expectations or strong points.
  4. Switch to different kind of job.
  5. Part-time study and job.
  6. New job, research or internship required by study.
  7. Keep job, build resume and ‘rest’ after graduating.
  8. New job, tasks shift.

It was about time someone figured out that people might like to re-use parts of their ‘personal’ network in their new career, and that they might find the contacts in their mailbox less useful than their contacts on social media 😉

What happens if I do this?

Young people living their lives ‘inside’ social media is just an example of what has changed – but the underlying issue of ending up in a place that doesn’t match your talents or ambitions (interests) is not exactly new. In fact, part of ‘growing up’ has been finding out more about yourself by trying stuff out.

Marketing trend or change?

Marketers’ strong point is spotting trends and giving them ‘big’ names. The actual change taking place may be less exciting (too slow or insignificant). One marketing action is giving generations different names and trying to find out what matters most to each generation in order to sell them more stuff.

Sometimes marketing seems a bit like calling your two-month-old kid “Godzilla” because he/she’s got a big voice. It doesn’t make your kid bigger but it sure sounds awesome. I checked Twitter recently, which never fails if you’re looking for Godzilla marketing trends. Here’s a couple of ‘trends’ I found (Godzilla doesn’t hide):

  • “going real time to right time” Rachel Happe Tweets #defragcon
  • “moving from transactions to engagement” @alanlepo
  • “After B2B and B2C the future is P2P” (can this get any worse?? I hope I made this one up…)*

My main conclusion is that there’s only one underlying change: companies are getting more interested in customers and trying the personal “customer-centric” approach.

Why?

  1. Because they can. They have the tools: social media.
  2. Because they’re afraid to miss out. Their competitors are doing it too.
  3. Because we, their customers are changing – we’re getting used to relevant content, and to replies within a day or so (preferably faster).

Change is the only permanent force in our lives. Treating every day as being identical to the last just because it looks identical on the surface is downright dangerous. One day there will be a stalled car just behind that bend in the road.

The big deal about change is that it is life as we know it.

* B2B Business to Business, B2C Business to Consumer, P2P Person to Person… they didn’t manage to squeeze F2F in – maybe I ought to thank Twitter for their 140-character limit 🙂

That’s it for this post. If you want to add your insights please add them in a comment. I’ll respond to any non-spammy comment about ‘the big deal about change’ or my writing skills 😉