Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Feeling Fatigue? Reload Your Accumulator

Are you running on empty?
It is probably time to reload your accumulator.
Our good friend from Germany, Wolfgang, once recommended that we take a vacation. He wrote: "...you need some time to relax and to reload your accumulator, and I know from my own experience that it is far the best to do it away from home."
Never having heard the phrase "reload your accumulator" before, I plugged it into an online translator and converted it to German: deinen Akkumulator neu laden.
Question to my German readers: Does that phrase make sense to you?
As the Summer passed, Wolfgang's recommendation went with us. At each place we visited, we would recall his admonition to "reload your accumulator" and we would do our best to live up to it.
Did we reload our accumulator successfully? Yes, I think we did. We got away from home. We went to new places. We enjoyed nature. And we relaxed with friends.
For you who are tired, stressed out, and experiencing change fatigue, perhaps it is time for a getaway to refresh and recharge.
Travel brings power and love back to your life. - Rumi
Terrence Seamon helps his clients to reload their accumulators. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Planning to Change? Simply BEGIN

Thinking about making a change of some sort...perhaps a personal change? Or maybe an organizational change?

The secret is...to simply BEGIN.

Break it down - Many say that "change is hard." It is. But change is also huge. Or at least it seems so before you start. Change often seems overwhelming. That's why we often fail even before we get going.

So the B in BEGIN stands for "Break it down." Chop it into chunks. Lay out the steps in the roadmap that will get you to the goal.

Energize yourself and others - Another reason we often fail at change is inertia. "An object at rest will remain so unless acted upon." So the E in BEGIN is Energy! You've got to energize yourself and others.

What can help you energize? Perhaps a sense of urgency. Perhaps a sense of competition nipping at your heels.

What about your vision? What is the change about? Why are you making the change? What will the result of the change be? 

Get going - Southwest Airlines' founder Herb Kelleher was once asked what the strategy was. He answered:  "We have a strategic plan. It's called doing things."

Kelleher's wisdom says Get Going. Do stuff that matters.

Empower everyone to take action. That's what Tony Robbins means by "massive" action.

Invite and Involve others - Get everyone fired up by inviting them into the conversation, asking them for their share of the wisdom, and enlisting them in the various chunks of the change that need to get done.

Never stop - Change is never ending. Don't fall into the illusion that it's over. Once you have reached one milestone or one goal, the question always is, "What is Next?" The N in BEGIN can also mean Now, as in "What can you do Now?"

Here are some added words of wisdom:

To begin, begin. - Wordsworth
Begin with the end in mind - Covey
Every new beginning, starts with an ending. - Bridges
The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. - Disney

Terrence Seamon helps his clients to "get going" on changes they desire to make. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Does This Make Any Sense to You?

A frazzled cowboy once said,
"I'm so busy, I don't know if I found a rope or lost my horse."
Clearly that dazed and confused cowboy is trying to make sense out his situation.
How often, in your life, can you relate to that?
Organizational psychologist Karl Weick wrote some very interesting stuff about human behavior and organization. In one piece, he wrote about a team of smoke-jumpers who were dropped by parachute into a major forest fire. Though highly trained, some things happened that they were unprepared for. As a result, they became disorganized and sadly most of them died.
What happened? Weick wondered if there was a failure of sensemaking.
Sensemaking is the process by which people give meaning to what they are experiencing.
Weick's concept of  "sensemaking" refers to the mental process of interpreting and constructing the reality we find ourselves in. So defined, we are sensemaking pretty much all the time as we go about our daily lives. Most of the time, stuff makes sense to us. Sometimes, we find ourselves in challenging circumstances where we may not understand what is going on so we have to actively try to make sense of what is happening.
In my field of organization development, this is a frequent challenge. Especially when dealing with change in organizations.
Change is disliked by so many of us so much of the time because it throws us a curve and we end up like the cowboy who doesn't know whether he has found a rope or lost his horse.
Change is destabilizing. It rocks the boat.
For example, consider a company in the throes of post-acquisition integration. The buyer has come in "guns blazing," cutting heads in a bloodbath, taking hold of everything and changing a great deal of how the acquired company used to do business.
Imagine being a "survivor" in such a scenario. Faced with a constant stream of new faces, new expectations, new demands, questions, and uncertainty. All the while, still trying to do your job.
Sensemaking becomes acute. It comes into it at every juncture as we attempt to adjust our mental models from the old to the new. The old model worked reliably. Hopefully the new model will jell. It will take time.
The smoke-jumpers got disorganized, at least in part, due to a failure in sensemaking. Some things happened in the incident that did not make sense to the highly trained fire fighters. Because of this, panic and distrust mounted. Their structure and judgement collapsed. And doom fell.
When I was an undergrad at Rutgers, studying Organization Communication & Development, one of my professors, Dave Davidson, had a theory of human nature:
"Never assume that the next guy knows what he is doing...much less why."
This is because we are always making it up as we go along. Sensemaking is the norm.
People spend a great deal of their waking life (and maybe also some of their dreaming life) in sensemaking. That is, endeavoring to put two and two together. Sometimes we get four. Sometimes we don't.
Sensemaking goes on at home, in a marriage, at a store, in a courtroom, in a lab, at a traffic intersection, even in a boardroom. Any place in life where we encounter the challenges, problems, dilemmas, decisions, and confusion of everyday living.
Sometimes, however, we find ourselves in very challenging circumstances --often in changing circumstances-- where we have to actively make sense of what is going on.
A great example of this kind of challenging situation would be a VUCA environment where things are so fluid that it feels volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Like a battle zone. Or a forest fire. Or a company undergoing a restructuring due to merger/acquisition.
The writer E.M. Forster once said, "How can I know what I think until I see what I say?" Though years before Weick came along, this goes to the gist of sensemaking.
To make sense of stuff, we have to develop ways of seeing things more clearly.
One way is to get feedback of some kind. Writers get feedback from the page in front of them. Sometimes we get feedback from others. Sometimes it's just from ourselves, taking time to reflect on what we are going through.
Another way is to use visualization. I have often said that my favorite consulting tools are a flipchart and a set of color markers. With these simple tools, a facilitator can help a team to make sense out of a problem by writing their thinking on the chart and taping it to the wall.
Effective OD practitioners are aware of and attuned to sensemaking. Especially in organizations undergoing change.
Furthermore, the successful OD practitioner herself is a sensemaker. Not in the sense of "having all the answers." But one who recognizes that her clients are trying to make sense of things, and who is ready to help facilitate this sensemaking process.
In today's turbulent business world, sensemaking can mean survival.
Terrence Seamon is a facilitator of sensemaking. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Come to the TABLE for Culture Change

I once learned, from consultant Kenny Moore, that the meaning of the word company is from Latin:  com (with) + pane (bread). 
He wrote: "At its core, company is about meaning, purpose and mutual support. Many of today’s businesses had their origins around like-minded individuals coming together to support and nurture each other in starting a labor of love."
That gave me one of those "Whoa!" moments. How many companies have an awareness of this? How many have lost this sense of company...and lost their way as a result?
So people who work together in a company can be thought of as people breaking bread together, sharing a common meal.
Pretty strange thought, eh? Maybe even striking?
Moore points out a connection to employee engagement: "It is when people feel a sense of belonging and purpose that they more willingly contribute not only their hands but also their heads and hearts to bring about business success."
What are the implications for leaders?
Moore suggests that long-term organizational success is "less about the bottom line and more about establishing a sense of shared community and passion for the effort."
Imagine then basing the culture of your company on this notion. Imagine that going to work is like coming to the table:
Trust - Everything depends on relationships. And everyone values reliability and dependability, doing what they said they would do consistently. Integrity gives rise to trust.
Accountability - Everyone thinks and acts like an owner. Everyone can be counted on to do their part and more.
Belonging - The company feels like a shared community. Everyone matters. Everyone looks out for the others around them. Mutual support is strong.
Learning - Everyone wants to improve themselves. Every opportunity to learn is seized upon, especially after-action reviews.
Engagement - Commitment runs deep. Participation is high. Everyone has their head in the game and their eye on the prize. 
A pipe dream?
Or a design template for your better culture?
Terrence Seamon helps his clients to strengthen their cultures. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Your Culture Is the Key to Your Success

Experts in mergers and acquisitions see this all the time:  Culture makes all the difference. Get the culture right, they say, and you have the key to success.
But what is it exactly that they are pointing to when they say "culture?"
Simply put, culture is the way we do things around here.
Some experts in corporate culture dislike that simplistic definition, but it works for me. Sometimes simple is the best.
There is nothing quite so practical as a good theory.
So let's look at the "way we do things around here." It could be your biggest blind spot. Do you even know?
And what things make the difference?
In looking at your corporate culture, some of the things that make the most difference include...
How do we treat each other?  Do we treat one another with kindness and respect? Do we look out for one another? Do we intentionally try to bring out the best in each other? Are we always looking for better ways to unleash people so they can use their talents? Are we recognizing and celebrating our people? Are we developing our people? Do we cooperate and collaborate for the good of the whole? Do we push ourselves to continually improve to be the best?
How do we treat our customers?  Do we do everything with the customer in mind? Do we remember that the old saying "customers make paydays possible" is literally true? Do we believe that we only exist to serve the customer? Do we listen to our customers? Do we strive to make it easy to business with us? Do we take their complaints to heart and make real improvements based on the experiences of customers?
How do we treat our place?  Are we good stewards of the resources we have? Resources include financial resources to be sure. Additionally everything from the office or lab or shop that we work in, to the impact our presence has on the surrounding community and environment. Do we operate safely? Are we mindful of our place and the impact we are having? Are we a good corporate neighbor?
In asking such questions, your exploration of your culture will surface many things that lie beneath the surface. 
My Canadian OD colleague Jan Yuill shared this motto with me some years ago and I think it provides a good starting point for looking at your corporate culture:
"Take care of yourself, take care of each other, take care of this place."
Terrence Seamon helps his clients strengthen their culture. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Friday, August 05, 2016

The COST of Employee Engagement

Even though many organizations continue to demonstrate clearly that they regard their people as disposable, I still buy into the saying that "people are an organization's most important asset." Why? Look at the research emerging over the past decades around the Employee Engagement Equation:
The more engaged your workforce, the more productive and profitable your company.
What many had believed for so long is now evidence based. Trouble is, do business leaders know it? Do they get it?
The challenge before HR and OD practitioners is to do a good job of convincing our clients in the C-suites that investments in people will grow the business.
Start by asking, What are the reasons why CEOs don't seem to care about employee engagement?
One of the blockages that some CEOs have is that "they are funny that way." Meaning, they are wired to focus on things like profit, loss, and stock price.
The human stuff does not compute for these CEOs. It's not that they are bad. It's how they are made. The way to "get through to" these CEOs is to speak to them via their interests.
So how do you "speak their language" and get through to them? Here are four suggestions:
C = Customer: Can you connect the dots between employee engagement and customer engagement? Since "customers make paydays possible," articulating the connection will make a strong impact.
O = Opportunity: Can you identify the opportunity that employee engagement presents to the organization? Certain opportunities, such as innovative new ideas or cost-saving ideas, arise from engaged employees and are not to be missed.
S = Strategy: Can you link employee engagement to the strategy of the business? The strategy of any business captures How we are going to get to and achieve our goals. People are key to the How. People get you to the goals.
T = Timing: Can you convey the urgency? Clearly connecting employee engagement to winning in a competitive space is one way to get the leader's attention.
One employee engagement expert who works with CEOs is Dr. Judith Bardwick. In her incomparable style, Judy makes the point very clearly:
"The facts are very powerful: when employees are very enthusiastic and involved, the organization succeeds in terms of financial outcomes. When people are committed, they are proud of their organization and when they are engaged, they see their work as contributing to the organization’s mission, which they strongly believe is important."
So, HR and OD leaders, now that the COST is clear, will you step up and make the case for employee engagement?
"If not now, when?"
Terrence Seamon teaches his clients about the power of employee engagement. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.