February 24, 2018

Archives for February 2015

Are you associated with the problem?

Business People in a Board meetingI don’t mean are you causing the problem: I mean are you engaged with it; or engaged with the people who are dealing with it?

If not, you probably won’t have much impact.

If you’re dissociated from the problem or the people, chances are you won’t be able to influence what happens, however insightful your thinking is.

To be able to influence, we need to be in relationship with the people who are involved; to be connected. We probably need to be engaged with the problem itself too.

Can we be both engaged in the system and able to stand back and maintain perspective, if not simultaneously, then at least sequentially?

Do you have a method for doing that?

Are you associated or disassociated with the problems you care about? It does make a difference.

How fast can we go?

TeamTraditionally, we said “at the pace of the slowest man.” Nowadays, we’d say “person,” of course.

In times of change, is that really right? Do we need to go at the speed of the team as a whole?

Change does take time. We can accelerate it by providing suitable experiences, and instilling suitable tools and techniques.

But people need time to grow; time to process; time to come to terms with new information.

It’s not the same as figuring out something intellectual.

There’s a cooking time.

Allowing for it—within reason—will take us forward faster, not slower.

How do you decide the best speed?

Giving them (and us) time to think

Two businesspeople in slightly tense conversationIt’s tempting, if we have a point to put across, to be rather full-on about it; to give the other person “the benefit of our wisdom” in short order, in the hope perhaps that the very energy and pace of what we say will convince the other person we’re right.

The trouble is…

We all need time to think; and especially we need time to think in a challenging situation.

Otherwise we’ll just get defensive. That’s all we can do.

And so the other person in our scenario here, being no different, is likely to struggle to respond intelligently and unemotionally.


It might suit our purpose and lead to a better outcome if we slow it all down a bit, maybe taking it one step at a time…

And give them (and us) time to think.

Too much to do?

Exhausted computer userThen you might find this helpful…

This isn’t my idea at all and, in fact, I’m a student of it. The philosophy is Jim Benson’s and Tonianne DeMaria Barry’s and it’s written up in their book “Personal Kanban.” See http://www.personalkanban.com/pk/#sthash.kx80gfYu.dpbs

To explain…

Kanban is an approach used in manufacturing in which stock to be consumed is only moved to the production line when it is needed. The result is, therefore, a demand-led, pull system. For a simple example, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_board

The alternative, and in the West, traditional approach to manufacturing involves moving stock to the line to be processed i.e. it is a push system.

Most of us manage our tasks and to-do lists with a push approach. Basically, we pile it all in.

And the result is stress and reduced achievement.

Moving from a push approach to a pull approach to managing tasks makes a world of a difference.

The two key principles of Personal Kanban are: Visualize your work and limit your work in progress.

In other words…

Don’t move anything else into your “Doing” until you’ve moved something out.

As a former colleague said, more prosaically…

“When it comes to swatting flies, the important thing to do is swat one fly properly”—not very Buddhist, but there we go!

You might like to investigate. I’ve found this philosophy very helpful.

Do we know our own power?

Three people around a computerQuite often, it seems, we don’t know the impact we’re having.

We decide we need to make a point or express our dissatisfaction with something. Expecting that our message may not be received, we tend to transmit at full volume.

That could be far more than is necessary, and not conducive to good relations in the medium term.

Probably better to be more measured: We can always escalate if necessary.

Talk to people on both sides of an issue and it’s striking how often the protagonists underestimate the impact they are having on each other.


Could be good to control the strength of our actions, and to test for the impact we’re having.

It might be more than is apparent.

How do you assess your own power?

Blending the intervention

Four people speaking in front of a laptopWe don’t have all the answers. That’s true whether we’re on the outside of the issue looking in or on the inside looking out.

The leadership team knows its business, whereas the change agent knows something useful the insiders don’t currently have. Neither has all the answers, nor even all of the pieces available collectively.


The way forward needs to be a blend of both—both what the leadership team already has and what the change agent is bringing, but not usually all of either.

For the necessary co-creation to happen, both parties need to let go of something—to give up part of their model.

Are you ready to do that?

Buyer’s prejudice

Networking groupAre we discriminatory when we buy?

We’d all like to think we’re not prejudiced, in general terms, and no doubt we work hard to avoid that.


The reality is, however hard we try, we are likely to be more cautious with people who seem different. The more different we perceive a person to be, the more cautious we will tend to become.

When it comes to making buying choices, we are likely to act on these biases, whether consciously or not.

In some cases, procurement processes will minimise this effect, but on the whole, it’s the norm.

We are prejudiced buyers. We buy from people who seem like us.

We might prefer to buy from fellow citizens of our country, for example.

In so doing, we might lose out, of course.

When we’re the seller…

The reality is we need to seem familiar to the buyer. If we don’t, the barriers will be hard to overcome.

Knowledge-sharing as a social process

Three senior managers talkingWe often need to transfer knowledge from one person to another.

And yet, how effectively do we really do that?

Quite often our approach is to turn the knowledge into information on paper (or perhaps Powerpoint slides), usually in objective, dispassionate, businesslike terms—all very professional and proper.

The trouble is…

We’ve converted something we actually hold in direct sensory form—images, sounds, and other sensory experience—the stuff of real expertise, into something sterile—accurate, no doubt—but sterile.

And that’s hard to assimilate. In fact, we’ve created a barrier: We’ve interrupted the social connection through which information can flow rapidly and effectively.

Better sometimes to share knowledge messily, socially, and, yes, “unprofessionally.”

Worth pondering sometimes whether the paperwork is getting in the way.

Might be better just to talk.