Stability

Consultancy & Training, Gender issues, Philosophy, Stability, Stakeholder Management

If change managers helped with.. babies


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We have change managers in business all the time. But in life we are somewhat lacking. If we had a change manager when a baby came into our lives – what would that look like?

I met a colleague this week. He won’t mind me saying this. He has looked better.

I took a small amount of pleasure in thinking about the last time we met. I had big bags under my eyes that time. Now those indicators of night time nonsense seem to have leapt across the room – right into his.

He is well versed in this by now though. I think it’s his 4th. He knows that this moment in time is fleeting. Amazingly, he seems to be enjoying the fact that he and his wife now have to play “whose bed is it anyway?” as his kids run amok at 4am.

So I have randomly googled a change management guru this evening to help us all in this tricky dilemma. In doing so, I have found 5 key themes that good change management call for. I then ask, “why, when we spend millions of pounds/ dollars in our work lives on investing in getting people to swallow the pill, do we not learn how to take the pill ourselves, during one of the most disruptive times of our lives?”

Let’s take each point in turn shall we? I take my change management steer from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_87.htm

  1. Sponsorship: Ensuring there is active sponsorship for the change at a senior executive level within the organisation, and engaging this sponsorship to achieve the desired results.

Okay.. hopefully you were both in on this. If one of you wasn’t in on it all I can say is oops and good luck!

2. Buy-in: Gaining buy-in for the changes from those involved and affected, directly or indirectly.

This is a wide one. All stakeholders. Well, that’s a long list. You know why? Because once you have a baby almost the whole world will be involved. I remember taking my first born out for a stroll in August (in the UK) and being told by a well-meaning middle aged lady to “be sure to put on a hat now”. Hmmm it was 70 degrees but even strangers have opinions on these things. Again, let’s hope both parties were involved in the decision. “Mistakes” might be hard to handle at this point as I’m sure each person blames the other for the “changes affecting them directly or indirectly”. Oh dear. Take cover. Mother-in-law/ Mothers are also very important at this point. Ignore them at your peril.

3. Involvement: Involving the right people in the design and implementation of changes, to make sure the right changes are made.

From decorating the nursery to what to feed ’em. Again, your stakeholder list will be very, very long. Involving everyone in these decisions is exhausting but better than the alternative. If you involve NO-ONE? They will laugh at your smugly as you struggle to attach the buggy on Sainsbury’s car park. Ask everyone for their opinion. Then ignore them all.

4. Impact: Assessing and addressing how the changes will affect people.

Oh dear. I really messed up here on my communications plan. My main aim was to set expectations early. My 4 year old found out about the impending cuckoo at about 6 month’s from blast off. BIG MISTAKE. Never tell people about a change too early. Often they don’t know enough and it bugs them. She bugged me for all that time because she just wanted to know what sharing me was like but I couldn’t really tell her. As a result she turned into the female version of The Omen until finally she realised what she was dealing with.

5. Communication: Telling everyone who’s affected about the changes.

Here is the question of WHEN to tell people. I am of the opinion that the 3 month rule is a stupid one. Mainly because anyone that knows me well, also knows I’m pregnant the first time I say “I’m not drinking tonight.” That aside, the 3 month rule leads any long suffering puker to have to suffer in silence. For the first 3 months what they really want to do is get as much sympathy as possible as they deal with (what feels like) the worst hangover they ever had in their life. One that no carbohydrates in the world can make better. Any men still listening to this.. you are having to deal with the worst individual you ever lived with and nothing you can do can ever be good enough unless you too are puking at the same rate. Don’t get drunk to try to achieve this. At least don’t be around when you do this. It doesn’t help.

6. Readiness: Getting people ready to adapt to the changes, by ensuring they have the right information, training and help.

So there are a number of people to get ready for this change that you are about to embark upon. Sorry.. let me rephrase.. A change that will happen to you. But the two people who are never made ready are the parents. Dads are not put into an SAS style, sleep deprivation setting that prepares them for just 4hrs sleep a night. They aren’t taught how to follow this up with a 4hr conference call across 4 time zones with people who think the words “plucking the low hanging fruit” are acceptable phrases in polite society.

And mum..

The new mum is not prepared for the biggest change of her working life. She was pregnant yesterday but at least she was still a teacher/lawyer/CEO/banker/entrepreneur/social work/ nurse/ doctor/ business analyst/ scientist/ blogger.

Now she isn’t pregnant anymore. But she isn’t the above anymore either. Instead she is a cleaner, cook, nursery teacher, swimming instructor, bottom wiper, nose wiper, poo sniffer, expert stain remover and her partner in crime is the worse deputy that ever lived. He hasn’t been on any bloody courses either!

But they are also both overwhelmed, amazed, blown away and happy beyond words. Love will sweep them up and take them on a roller coaster ride of epic proportions. No matter what. They will be

But if anyone had painted this particular picture for them – they wouldn’t be able to truly enjoy it. A paradise promised by a brochure is not half as sweet as the one we just happen upon.

Now, my major stakeholder is calling me. Best get off to see what she wants..

agile, Brexit, CIO, Investment Management, Leadership, Lean, Lean PMO, Politics, Stability, Strategy

A Nifty Article Fifty Breakdown


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If you are a UK CIO you have a lot to think about if June 8th takes article 50 to its natural conclusion…

Here is a nifty breakdown from CIO.com..

“The major milestones for CIOs to keep an eye on include the following:

  • U.K. parliamentary review of Great Repeal Bill (Late 2017): This will provide the first opportunity for an initial assessment of legal impacts on managed service agreements and other IT contract documents.
  • Royal assent of Great Repeal Bill (Mid 2018): At this point, any gaps in the legislation should be addressed, enabling IT organizations to confirm legal impacts and initiate contractual change activities.
  • Brexit negotiations wrap up (Fall 2018): This will create clarity the regulatory, operational, audit, and reporting impacts on IT services.
  • U.K. Houses of Parliament, European Council, EU Parliament, and remaining 27-member Parliament vote on deal (Early 2019): This will confirm IT impacts and enable CIOs to begin related IT change programs
  • Transition period begins (March 2019): CIOs can structure timelines for completion of IT projects to address necessary digital transition and transformation requirements.”

http://www.cio.com/article/3189040/it-industry/how-brexit-will-impact-global-cios-and-it-services.html

However, with all these (less face it) rather boring boxes to tick and cross there will be little resource to deal with the ever increasing pace of change within the wider economy.  As such, the threat of Brexit is not just one of legal and commercial wrangling (Although that will certainly feature heavily).  The real issue is going to be that already stretched IT departments are going to be hit with “Regulation, Regulation, Regulation” when they also have to deal with “Innovation, Innovation, Innovation”.

If Brexit goes ahead the latter is likely to be the biggest casualty.

So how can the CIO keep pace with this?

During this period 3 things will be key to the post-article 50 CIO:

  1. A razor sharp focus on investment in the biggest IT return.  Yes Brexit projects will HAVE to happen but others will need to be picked for their direct impact on organisational outcomes.  This might be revenue or reputation, either way it will be high on the agenda.
  2. Use of Agile to ensure that those BAU projects are kept on track.  Agile methods and techniques such as KANBAN will be needed more than ever to keep visibility high.
  3. IT departments will need to become product centric and better at marketing than the marketing department!  No-one will use your internal product let alone your external one if your team can’t break through the noise of Brexit.

Magic Milestones has a number of services specifically designed to give you maximum bang for buck in times like these.  Read more here.. https://magicmilestones.com/services/

Leadership, Lean, Lean Startup, Product Management, Project Management, Stability, Teams

Did you just build the wrong team?


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No-one goes to work to do a bad job.

Sometimes it may feel that way but really… they aren’t!
Some people may be in the wrong job, someone may be having a bad day, they may have a completely different agenda to you but 99.9% of the time they aren’t trying to fail.
So why do technology teams so often fail? How can we be so bad at ensuring that technology teams actually succeed?
Well my team and I have been pondering this for some time. We’ve been working on something called ‘Team Genes’. Looking at the genetics of what makes a good team so that we can replicate this for our clients. This is my current stance on the subject..

If we built software like we built teams we wouldn’t be so surprised at the outcome.

Organisations consistently go about building project teams with no purpose, design or thought behind them at all and wonder if they have built the wrong team later down the line. The usual process is this:

  1. Bill says he needs an X
  2. Jill is an X
  3. Jill is available to do X (sort of)
  4. Bill meets Jill
  5. Bill and Jill get along
  6. Jill joins the team!

So imagine the same in the software process:

  1. Bill says he needs an X
  2. Acme’s product is an X
  3. The organisation already bought 20 licenses of Acme product
  4. Bill uses Acme product for an afternoon…and he likes it!
  5. Let’s roll out Acme tomorrow!

So let’s break down where Bill went wrong on the product front and then maybe we can learn how he goes wrong on the people front..

  1. Bill’s assertion that he needed an X wasn’t really challenged by anyone.  (Ring any bells?)
  2. The organisation is already familiar with a product so it decides that’s enough to be a contender.
  3. Hence, no-one goes out to look for any other options thus assuming the organisation’s first choice of product was a good one.  Note that the requirements have had a cursory glance at best.
  4. Bill’s happy so let’s go!

The dangers of choosing a software product in this way are that:

  1. An organisation repeats its mistakes time and time again
  2. Politics tend to rule over substance
  3. There is no strategic relationship built with the supplier or investigation into common values and goals.  Hence, the organisation may find the vendor giving them less value over time.

And most CIOs would laugh at Bill.  Silly Bill.  Rash Bill.  And yet the product that Bill was assessing was worth maybe, 10K a year in licenses.  (These days probably a lot less).

But the person that Bill is assessing in the first example is going to cost the business between £200 and £800+ PER DAY!! People often cost between 10 – 20 x more than software does and yet we use MORE RIGOUR in choosing the former than the latter!

Here’s where you might be thinking the following..

This doesn’t apply to my company as we always create job specs for all roles

Newsflash.  A job spec isn’t a requirement.

Do we write a product spec when we go looking for software?  Hell no! We write user requirements.  We state the problem and not the solution.  (Well most of the time anyway).  A person specification would be something like this.. “My name is Bill.  I’m a busy Product Owner with a day job and I’m currently writing all my own user stories.  It would be great if I had someone who could reduce the team’s reliance on my time by creating user stories for me.  I could then spend the time I do have with the team answering their day to day questions about business processes.”   Yes the answer might be to get a business analyst in.  Or, it might be to utilise the test team differently.  Or, it might be that the Dev team lead is totally happy to help out here.  Unfortunately, because we are so used to the status quo we leap to the solution in the blink of an eye.  This is partly because we want our problem solved and partly because in most people’s hiring process, the quickest way to get your problem solved is to ring up an agent and say,

“I want a business analyst please.  For the rest of the project. 3 months would be good and I want them ASAP please”

Let’s look at the next part of the process.  Jill is available.  So Jill is suitable.  That’s the problem with hiring ASAP.  Suddenly there’s a drought for the thing you need the most.  So we look at who is available.

Are you now throwing things at your computer?

Of course I only hire people who are available!!  Why would I do anything else?

Well this point is kind of related to the last one.

Sure someone may not be available, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help you.

Being lean is about minimising waste and waste (when applied to people) comes in the form of under-utilisation.  But how many companies truly assess this ruthlessly before going off and hiring?

Finally, let’s look at the 3rd part of Bill’s process.

He likes her.  He hires her.

Well here’s where I can totally disagree with you.   We hire people using personality assessments as well as those for competency.

Okay not bad.  What if Jill hates doing X? Wants to move away from X and you are just making her do more Xing?? We rarely find out if people are interested in roles just whether they are competent enough.She might be good at it sure but is she passionate about it?

Last but not least, Bill and Jill may not even be working together to produce the same stuff. Jill gets parachuted into a brand new team and left to fend for herself. We used to let software out of the packaging to fend for itself but we soon stopped that. We realised it was insane to impose software on people without due care and attention and yet this is exactly what we do when we impose one person on a whole group of people and vice versa.

Doesn’t that sound a little insane?

How about we do this instead?..

  1. Write a problem statement not a job spec, rather like we do for products
  2. Let the team interview the person rather than their prospective manager or someone who ‘knows’ about the area in which you are hiring
  3. Test where Jill naturally sits in a team and assess if Jill would clash with anyone else or whether there is still a gap.
  4. Ideally do an assessment of your team before you hire ANYONE.  Then you can use this information to inform your choice of both role and the type of person you need.
  5. If they are costing more than around £8K per month, try them out for an afternoon.
  6. Be prepared to accept a failure has occurred – fast – and take action if necessary.  People are rarely fired for swift action provided it’s backed up by evidence.

But that sounds a bit of a long winded process.

Really?  How many hrs did you spend interviewing people last week?  You probably did at least 3.  That’s 3 hrs of your time.  That doesn’t include anyone else’s either.   HR?  Your boss?

We think life’s too short for endless interviewing.

So.. here’s the news.  Magic Milestones can set this up in under 24hrs and it saves time beyond just the first hire.  No-one gets near us without a competency check anyhow so that bit’s done.

To be a member of the Team Genes club our people are tested all year not just when you ask for their services.

Using a different method of hiring is brave.  We know that people’s habits are hard to change.  Why don’t you start the ball rolling and find out more here.

In the meantime, I’m just going off to help Bill out of a fix..

 

 

Consultancy & Training, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Lean Startup, Product Management, Project Office, Stability, Strategy, Teams

Why the “Intrapreneur” has self-discipline beyond any entrepreneur


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Eric Ries (the author of ‘The Lean Start Up’) has written that people can apply entrepreneurial principles within the corporate world.  “It’s not ‘intrepreneurship,’ it’s not ‘like entrepreneurship,”’  Ries says.  “Corporate entrepreneurship is regular entrepreneurship.”

In a recent Birmingham meetup we had a great conversation around this..  One of the things that came out of the discussion was that people in the corporate world actually face a set of challenges that largely come from over-resourcing.  If you think about it, there is a pattern, a path that many have already walked.  However, the intrapreneur needs to reject this path.  Why?  Well, because if they walk it, they just fall into the same trap as everyone else in their organisation.  They are unlikely to change the outcome by doing what everyone else has done before.  If a project manager, a product manager, a DBA, a front-end developer, a back-end developer, a tester, a designer, a UX specialist etc. etc. all get hired straight off, this is fishy to me.  Someone is hiring the Rolls Royce Team for a Fiat Punto job.  However, if the smallest possible team is hired and later skills are begged, borrowed or stolen then this is the equivalent to acting more like an entrepreneur would.  Sorry… I will amend that.  This is tantamount to acting like an entrepreneur should.

However, entrepreneurs are only human.  Just like everyone else.  People like people. Entrepreneurs don’t set up businesses to sit around by themselves.  They want a team around them.  In fact having met and talked to well over 100 of my fellow business owners over the years..  I’d even go so far as saying they NEED them.  So even entrepreneurs, with their tight budgets, cash flow constraints etc. etc. are prone to a little ‘pushing the boat out’ when it comes to hiring people.

But what about Intrapreneurs?  Well, I have to confess here that I haven’t ever been an intrapreneur but I have worked alongside many people tasked with the job of making something work.  Generally, something other people have failed at.  Although they all had the best of intentions I can think of more than a one or two who decided to hire based on the standard template.  And who would blame them?  Entrepreneurs are constrained by the fact they HAVE NO MONEY.  Much of the time it hits their own pocket!  Yet they still OVER HIRE!!  I have done this.  Many times.  It does not end well.

So who can blame the intrapreneurs for acting in the exact same way?  The only difference being that they have more money to waste.

Hence, the actions of an intrapreneur must be more measured, more calculated.  Their resistance to following the status quo must be second to none.  They must have the grit to be able to deliver on a shoestring with all the risks involved.

They are putting themselves in the line of fire by acting in the best interests of the organisation.  WOW.

To me, it kind of feels like an intrapreneur needs to be way more disciplined, way more entrepreneurial, than the entrepreneur ever was.

Stephanie Chamberlain runs Magic Milestones Limited, which is a Delivery Management Consultancy.  She is a serial entrepreneur, published author on Agile Methods and a visiting industrial fellow at Aston Business School.