Tag: Change Management

Improve Performance by Tapping into the Power of Collaborative Intelligence

Decisions drive performance. When making important decisions, take the time to consider multiple perspectives, facts, opinions, and feelings.

“If you rely only on your own knowledge and experience when tasked with deciding, you are missing an opportunity to get to an optimal outcome.  As smart as you may be, you can only gain by getting information, opinions, and experience from multiple sources with meaningful diverse perspectives.”[1]

Important decisions have both short-term and long-term impacts on your ability to meet objectives. The more important the decision, the more you want to combine analysis and intuition to come to the right one.

Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats approach is an example of a technique for looking at a subject from multiple perspectives, considering data and feelings with optimism, caution, and creativity, while managing the process.

Taking multiple perspectives on your own is powerful. Getting input from others increases the power. If you have access to knowledgeable people willing and able to give you the benefit of their intelligence, you augment your own intelligence.  You are still the decision-maker.

Collaborative and Collective Intelligence

Collaborative and collective intelligence are areas of study about sharing the intelligence of multiple people, machines, etc. to enhance the power of individual intelligence, with particular emphasis on decision making.  While there are differences, we will use the terms collective and collaborative interchangeably, with the focus being collaboration.

“Collective intelligence is the body of knowledge that grows out of a group. When groups of people work together, they create intelligence that cannot exist on an individual level. Making decisions as a group, forming a consensus, getting ideas from different sources, and motivating people through competition are all components of collective intelligence.”[2]

To make the power of collective intelligence a reality requires awareness, intention, sponsorship, and techniques to facilitate the sharing.

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Awareness

Being aware is the starting point. Often this awareness is so natural that there is no need to discuss it. Everyone thinks “Of course I will seek out information from others to better inform my decision making.”  People regularly and informally engage peers and subject matter experts.

Is knowledge management recognized as a critical success factor? And if it is, are leaders aware that collaborative intelligence must be considered when implementing knowledge management tools and procedures. For more on Knowledge management see the paper, Managing Project Management Knowledge[3]

Whether or not those around you aren’t regularly taking advantage of collective intelligence, some evangelizing, and a program to implement or better enable it may be needed to promote awareness of the power of collective intelligence and enable them to use it.

Obstacles: What gets in the way?

As intuitively sound it is for a person or team to seek out information from knowledgeable others when tasked with making a decision, it is often not done.

Several things get in the way. For example:

  • Know-it-all-ism: The belief that there is nothing to be learned from others; closed-mindedness.
  • The belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness
  • Lack of access to knowledgeable people who are willing and able to offer input in a constructive and well-facilitated way
  • Not enough time (and there may not be)
  • A sense that the decision isn’t important enough (and it might not be).

Creating a Sharing Environment

Collective intelligence thrives in an environment that values and enables, objectivity, knowledge sharing, and collaboration. In that kind of setting, obstacles are overcome or avoided.

The first two obstacles, Know-it-all-ism, and belief, operate on a personal level, often encouraged by cultural norms. Overcome these obstacles by candidly addressing them and changing any cultural norms that promote them. This implies that there is enough organizational maturity to engage stakeholders in meaningful conversations about behavioral change, mindful awareness, emotional and social intelligence, and the personal beliefs that influence performance.

To ensure access to the right people with the time to take part in collaborative knowledge sharing, create communities of practice, and use formal techniques, sponsored by senior leadership, and embraced by the staff. Assess the need for communication skills training and facilitation and inject them into your approach to promote useful and efficient sharing.

As with any improvement program, sponsorship and stakeholder buy-in are critical to success. While collaboration and collective intelligence can operate on a local level – like, within a project team – it is best when there is a wider organizational program. But don’t wait for the organization-wide program if you can work on the local level without it.

Techniques

Formal collaboration techniques provide structure to successfully address complex issues without being caught up in either-or thinking, competition over ideas, and common group communication issues such as going off-topic. Formal models include facilitation guidelines and standard agendas and questions.

For example, Wicked Questions can be used in planning sessions, retrospectives, and design sessions. It is used to address complex issues like conflicting design concepts, strategies, or “tension between espoused strategies and on-the-ground circumstance and to discover the valuable strategies that lie deeply hidden in paradoxical waters.”[4]

Mindful Life Mindful Work’s Co-development [5] brings people together in facilitated sessions to tap into the group’s collective intelligence. Groups may consist of members of an operational or functional team with a variety of roles, across different departments, and levels of experience. They might also be members of a practice group, for example, project managers or business analysts. The purpose is to enhance team members’ ability to address their issues, goals, or challenges. The group is not making the decision, which is the individual’s job. The group discussion informs the decision-maker.

o-development events might be part of a community of practice, or they may occur in the context of a business process, program, or project.

Managing Cultural Change

Managing the change in a collaborative environment can be a challenge. Particularly if there is a need to change cultural norms and values and cut through individual barriers.

If the environment is already collaborative, then collaboration can be supported and improved. For example, the skillful use of collaboration tools and methods better enables people to work together.

In any case, within your scope, promote knowledge sharing and collective or collaborative intelligence. Sponsorship and engagement at the working level are critical success factors in any change.

The next time you have an important decision to make, engage knowledgeable others to get the benefit of their perspectives and knowledge.

[1] https://www.mindfullifemindfulwork.com/2021/08/02/collaborative-intelligence-and-co-development-by-george-pitagorsky/
[2] https://www.organizationalpsychologydegrees.com/faq/what-is-collective-intelligence/
[3] Pitagorsky, G. (2008). Managing project management knowledge. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2008—North America, Denver, CO. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute. https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/managing-project-management-knowledge-6950
[4] https://www.liberatingstructures.com/4-wicked-questions/
[5] Mindful Life Mindful Work MLMW: CoDevelopmentGroups-HedyCaplan-9.25.19.mp4
Hedy Caplan MLMW  https://youtu.be/CPBr6hzvsV4

Change Management in Projects – The Overlooked Methodology

The Scenario

The decision to implement a new technology solution is a significant one and, in many cases, a project that typically an organization is unlikely to undertake often. It is a project that requires a significant investment of money, time, and effort and so, return on investment (ROI) represents an important set of metrics that an organization should keep at the forefront of their minds. In almost all cases, the primary ROI metric is in fact a question – “How many people are now using the new software?”. This basic question should never be overlooked and I recommend asking it at the earliest stage of the project and phrasing that question differently- “How do we ensure everyone embraces our new software?”. This subtle nuance is so frequently missed or undervalued, which is understandable as so much focus is applied to the traditional method of running technology projects; the priority is delivery and subsequently, user adoption does not get the attention it requires. Like a motor car, you can build the finest, most performant engine but if you only include one seat, only a select few people will choose to drive it.

The Culture

First and foremost, it is important to understand that having a perfectly designed and configured technology solution will not alone deliver a truly successful project. In the modern professional world, each of us has a significant level of autonomy in how we work and when using technology; we do not share email addresses or mobile phones and we typically undertake our day-to-day jobs differently from the next person. These examples are obvious when we think about them, so we should look at change through a similar lens; change affects people at an individual level.

The human mind is a complex thing; 1.4kgs of intelligence, hope, love, fear, and everything in between. We celebrate and promote our individuality in life, so we must consider everyone’s uniqueness when delivering a project. When we think back to previous changes we have experienced in our professional lives, almost always the same combination of positive and negative questions and remarks are made. Such examples include:

  • “Great! It’s about time we improved that.”
  • “Not for me. The current solution works just fine.”
  • “The last project was a nightmare.”
  • “Wow! This might actually make my life a lot easier.”

It is natural to respond negatively to change. Even as a Project Manager, in the past I have instinctively reacted with pessimism when I have felt a change was forced upon me! It is this realization that has driven me to adjust and develop project delivery methods to encourage people to embrace change.

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Delivering Change

We need to view delivering successful change as both a lineal and perpetual process. Embracing change starts at the onset of a project and continues throughout the weeks and months ahead until we reach ‘go-live’ and beyond. The sections below include suggested methods for embracing change and delivering a successful project.

1. Ignite Interest – 0-1 month of the project

It is important to start communicating with the user community as soon as possible. This is a vital step- addressing the common complaints raised by users that they were unaware of and/or not consulted about the new software.

Below are some ways to get you started on communicating and igniting interest:

  • Announce during any regular “Town Hall” style company-wide meetings
  • Send an email to announce and sell the benefits
  • If appropriate, force-out screensaver/ desktop wallpaper announcements
  • Print free-standing banners and place in communal areas of the office
  • If screens exist in communal areas, display messages of the new project
  • Utilize the Intranet

The key to these activities is to build interest, not provide copious amounts of information. View this as a method of igniting some excitement so focus on the key selling points of the product.

2. Develop Interest – 1-3 months of the project

It is now time to build upon the initial interest that has been generated in the project. We should now be at a point that everyone in the organization is aware of the incoming software; this initial interest needs to be developed. We must remain mindful that one of the most common complaints following a project’s implementation, is that the end-users have not been consulted or felt involved. If someone feels negatively towards an incoming change, it is often because they feel that change has been forced upon them. Here are some recommended activities you can undertake at this stage of the process:

  • Run demonstration Workshops of the software
  • Establish user groups from each business area and run “interview” sessions to develop an understanding of how they work and how the software will need to be optimized for them
  • Set up a small number of workstations for users to “play” with the software
  • Provide regular project updates – most people don’t want huge amounts of detail; they just want to feel included and updated so share timelines and high-level updates

3. Empower Users – 3-4 months of the project

Training users on the new software is not a new concept but it is vital. The training delivery method is of particular importance and tailoring the training to specific departments is something that is highly recommended. When planning the training, ask questions such as “How will this department use the software?” With the knowledge built from the steps in stage 1, you will already have this knowledge so let’s use it to develop tailored training sessions. Training can of course be delivered in many forms:

  • Face to face, classroom sessions
  • Training videos/ eLearning
  • Quick Reference Guides (one-page graphical guides)
  • Remote, web-based training sessions

4. Support Users – Go live

To reach this point of the project, a significant level of investment and effort will have been expressed by all parties involved. Users have been trained, informed, and updated, but now they need to use the software. The risk here is that if there is one small gap in a user’s knowledge, then that can spark negativity that spreads throughout their user experience and transfer to their colleagues rapidly. To counter this, I always strongly recommend floorwalking. As outlined in this document, floorwalking ensures users are supported immediately during the first few days of using the software.

5. Into the Future

Change- specifically managing and embracing change, is a perpetual concept. Think of it as sliding down a curly-wurly slide and landing on a roundabout! Each twist in the slide represents the steps required for effective change during the project, followed by the roundabout which is the ongoing process of ensuring the change continues to be embraced and enjoyed. Whilst a new piece of software might not be as enjoyable (or nausea-inducing) as a roundabout, it is important to continue to communicate with your users after they have started using the software. Be sure to give that roundabout a “nudge” every now and then to keep it spinning. These nudges are often best delivered as metrics. The good thing about metrics is that they are typically easy to generate and simple to communicate. Consider options such as:

  • Usage stats – share how many people are using the software and when
  • Tangible benefits – where possible, calculate the direct or indirect cost benefits that have been realized vs the cost of the solution
  • Speak to your user community – remember, most software solutions are to benefit the users so be open to their feedback and share it

Summary

I honestly believe that there is no perfect solution to implementing a successful change. The wonders of humankind and technology mean there are just too many variables to have a concise set of rules to follow, in order to achieve a successful change. The points I have made in this document are simply my thoughts and broad suggestions, not a roadmap for success. If I can leave you with one concise suggestion, it is to always put yourself in the shoes of the end-user; base your approach on one that you would be comfortable being a part of.

Best Practice Program Design

When managing major organizational change and improvement, programmes remain the most effective framework for achieving success.

The level of complexity and risk involved in shifting an enterprise into a new phase of development and operation – and the associated investment – means the process has to be managed properly and improvement measured.

However, programmes remain very challenging, not least because the world we live in has altered almost beyond recognition: the Covid-19 pandemic is a huge factor as enterprises try to catch up. But the demands of society are also changing, with people wanting things better and faster.

Change now happens continually and organizations need enterprise agility – the capability to pivot in response to their environment. And, in a typical programme timeframe of three to five years, a lot can happen.

This is why the design phase of a programme is so critical to get right and where a best practice approach provides the necessary level of focus and rigour.

 

Best practice programme design – setting up for success

Traditionally, programme design has been neglected. I’ve seen programmes where the organization has a pressing desire to just “do something”, so people run off and start doing things without taking time to formulate and agree the programme vision and future state for the business.

If you don’t design your programme properly it’s likely to fail and potentially waste a lot of money in the process. Therefore, there simply shouldn’t be any debate – design is compulsory.

This will set up your programme up for success by installing the building blocks for delivering the benefits, managing associated risks, and creating what an organization will look like in the future.

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP 5th edition) highlights four aspects of programme design:

  • Vision
  • Benefits
  • Target operating model (the new, future state of the organization)
  • Risk identification and prioritization

As each of these programme elements are happening simultaneously, they must be integrated. If not, the nightmare scenario is a target operating model that doesn’t align with the vision, affecting the adoption of the change and reducing the expected benefits.

Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle: the image on the box is the future state or vision you’re building; the individual pieces are contained inside the box and, when put together, they deliver on the original promise (in programme terms, the target operating model).

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Understanding and creating the programme vision

The vision reflects the future state of the organization; something that everyone needs to endorse to gain engagement and commitment for the change.

It should be encapsulated in a concise and easily understood vision statement (i.e. jargon-free), outlining why the status quo is not an option. This provides senior management with a driving force for the programme.

Whoever facilitates the vision statement (for example, via a workshop) must ensure it involves the stakeholders affected by the programme and not just the sponsoring group.

And the vision statement can be visual as much as written. For example, we once used a Chinese transformation puzzle as a visual that populated all communications with the programme team; reminding us constantly of what was critical for its future.

 

A bright future: the target operating model

What constitutes the move from an organization’s current state to its desired, future state is contained in the target operating model.

The sponsoring group decides what it wants the organization to look like in the future, enabling engagement with the wider enterprise, accessing resources, and guiding the programme team towards delivering the target operating model.

This can cover a range of elements such as technology, knowledge and learning, processes, culture, organization, infrastructure, information, and data.

 

Defining and designing programme benefits

Another aspect of programme design – the benefits – drive programmes, as their delivery supports the organization’s strategic objectives.

There are two main categories for benefits:

  • Efficiency – obtaining business results with fewer resources and reducing costs
  • Effectiveness – creating better results and improved adaptability.

Creating a “benefits map” establishes the connection between benefits and strategic objectives. Benefits are realized at various points during and after the programme’s lifecycle, with the detailed timing included in the benefits realization plan.

At this point, programme design must also address potential disbenefits. For example, if a programme involves merging two call centers the benefits could include streamlined processes and benefits of scale. However, disbenefits might involve customer call duration increasing for a period of time while the change is embedded.

 

Being ready for risk

Compared to projects, the scale of potential risk in programmes is far greater.

So, it’s necessary – at programme design stage – to introduce a risk management mindset and approach. Without it, your programme may not deliver the necessary benefits.

Starting up a programme is highly important and therefore you need to identify and prioritize risks from the earliest opportunity. For example, a significant risk might be the capacity and capability of the organization to undertake the programme at all. To mitigate that risk might involve recruiting more suitably qualified people.

Managing programme risk effectively requires a plan for how to mitigate the risk and then checking and acting on what you’ve identified.

 

Creating confidence through programme design

 What should programme managers and their stakeholders expect from focusing on programme design?

It gives them a structure that creates confidence to deliver what the stakeholders require. And, for the stakeholders, they should expect to see the benefits they signed off on day one.

Also, effective programme design feeds into projects: it helps to assess which projects are business-critical, ensures they are created, scheduled properly, and will produce the outputs that lead ultimately to outcomes and benefits.

Ultimately, programme design will ensure that the future state of the organization is clear. This means understanding the gap that will be filled to achieve the future target operating model as well as how to manage the associated benefits and risks.

Organizations tested positive or negative during Covid-19?

In the past few months, with deadly second wave of Corona virus in India, I have seen and heard of many cases that unveiled the Empathy and Apathy culture in different organizations.  I feel these instances can truly differentiate a good organization from a bad organization. So next time, when you look for that job change, also check how these organizations treated their employees during the pandemic. This could be another criteria to select your next dream company in the future.

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