January 19, 2018

Archives for March 2014

When making the case for something different, don’t forget…

Three people around a computer… that we probably need to keep some of the existing order too.

In our conviction that something different is needed, it’s easy to fall into the trap of advocating wholesale adoption of the new, whilst completely disregarding the merits of the old.

Usually, a bit of both is needed.

We’re so used to the benefits we gain from things as they are that they can be outside our conscious awareness. In other words, we take them for granted.

For example…

Yes, we need more bottom-up approaches to running our organisations. We need to harness more fully the power of the group.

But we need a bit of hierarchy too. We need some top-down direction. Many services on which we all depend couldn’t work without a bit of structure, usually quite a bit of structure.

In advocating something different, take care to include the good points of what you’re seeking to change—if you want to convince anyway.

Or you could say…

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath-water.

Sticking to the budget, or doing what you need to do?

Woman leaderWhich is more important?

That’s a serious question. Maybe it is more important to be in control of your business; for everything to be predictable.

It could be.

On the other hand, it might be more important to do what you now know to be right.

After all, you couldn’t foresee everything when you put the plan for the year together.

And maybe you want to succeed in as big a way as possible. Some people do.

If so, better take the action you know is needed.

Why do we resist help so much?

Three in discussionIt’s remarkable really, how hard we work to stop others helping us.

Why is that?

Is it because the help is clearly rubbish? Is it because the help doesn’t actually apply to us? Is it because the time isn’t right?

Or is it that we’re comfortable where we are? Things aren’t so bad really. We can afford to wait.

Perhaps there’s a loss of face involved in accepting help.

Or is it the loss of control required to let someone in? I think that might be the big one.

Perhaps we’d rather be in control and failing than out of control and succeeding.

What do you think? Why do we resist help?

And what do you do to overcome the reticence?

Demanding and accommodating

Three senior managers talkingIt’s good to be accommodating. It helps make a reality of collaboration and getting a group of people working together.

Sometimes though…

We need to be demanding.

Some roles involve directing an organisation on behalf of stakeholders of one kind and another. At times, that means asking clearly for what we want. That’s both the nature of the job, and the culture expected of the people involved—a shared value, if you like.

Different sectors have different expectations about the balance between being demanding and being accommodating.

Where’s the right point for you—soft or hard, or somewhere in between?

Good to be clear about this, perhaps even to flex a little, depending on the circumstances—on which tribe you’re with at the time. Or don’t expect to fit everywhere. That’s fine too.

The Swiss cheese model of success

Swiss cheese modelThe Swiss cheese model is central to thinking about systemic failure. The idea is that each potential factor, which, when combined, could create a condition in which an accident could occur, is like a slice of a Swiss cheese with holes in it.

All the factors are represented by slices, all randomly (or not so randomly) jiggling around alongside each other. If the holes suddenly line up all the way through the slices, then an accident occurs because all the factor are aligned—system condition, design weakness, temporary modification, operator error, supervisory weakness, external circumstance, and whatever else.

The system can operate without the slices lining up for a long time, years or even decades. Everybody thinks an accident can’t happen because it never has. And then suddenly it does.


It can be a bit like this with success. Lots of factors are needed for success, and some or even many of them may not be that well known. For example, we may not know which marketing will work for the new product, which positioning will be right, what will be the right price point etc.

Of course, we can test, and we should.

But still…

We may need the Swiss cheese slices of success factors to shuffle into the right alignment. How are we going to get them there?

It’s not a question of whether you’re interested or not…

Woman with clipboard…it’s a question of whether you need the knowledge.

Sometimes we base our choice of what to learn about by what interests us, but actually to succeed in our goals, we need to learn about what’s necessary, even if it isn’t very interesting.

Many worthwhile goals have lots of necessary but not sufficient conditions for success. We need to get all of these in place before the desired result will occur. Until then nothing much happens.

Some of the conditions for success might be boring, tedious, painful, difficult, complicated, inconvenient, expensive, or embarrassing to establish.

Too bad, unfortunately.

If they’re necessary, we need them.

Putting yourself out there to be judged

Man thinkingIf we hope to have influence—to stimulate something better happening—we have to put ourselves out there to be judged.

If we don’t, nobody will know we have anything to offer and nothing different will happen.

Of course, if we put ourselves and our ideas out there to be judged, we will be.

It’s not like launching a product. This is personal.

Are you up for that?

Is the status quo better funded?

The Wright Brothers First FlightInertia is usually better resourced than change—better staffed, better financed, and better organised.

It’s usually easier to get paid to do something that reinforces the status quo than it is to do the radical work needed for an overhaul of the existing order.

Much of what we do collectively actually holds us back rather than takes us forward.


In a position of responsibility, how do we support the change agents on whom we depend for our future success?

Radical change might require radical support.

In making plans for work…

Sir Winston Churchill…it is sometimes necessary to take into account the actions of other people.

It was a week of Winston Churchill quotes last week, though not, in fact, this one: “In making plans for war, it is sometimes necessary to take into account the actions of the enemy.”

So what do you do to get your own work done and still be available to other people?

(Not that they’re “the enemy,” of course.)

Just when you think you found a new quiet spot, they’ll seek you out. Family too.

They want your attention after all, and you’ve cultivated that really.

So how do you make them content and self-sufficient before taking off on your own?

What’s the reassurance they need?

How do you tell if you are over-contributing?

Mid sized audienceIt seems our fellow workshop participant thinks what she has to say is more important than the organised speaker’s material.

It’s a smallish group admittedly, but the rest of us are there principally to hear what the workshop leader has to offer. Some contributions from the floor are welcome, but not so many or so long that they dominate.

Unfortunately, our fellow participant doesn’t seem to realise she’s over-doing it. Not for the first time, one suspects.

Later it’s clear that the others present all have the same experience of the person. One says “I thought it was just me.” It wasn’t.

A danger for all of us…

So how do you judge when you’ve made the right amount of contribution—enough to be helpful but not so much as to get in the way?

Something about leaving others wanting more, perhaps?

You can tell that from their faces, if you look.