Posts Tagged "dynamic patterning"

on Jan 15, 2014 in Blog

Whether you’re thinking about a re-organisation or you’re in the middle of one, it’s important to remember that it’s about much more than tinkering with the org charts. Here are 3 vital things to keep in mind… Pay attention to informal connections between people. An organisation is so much more than just what’s on the formal structure chart. Informal social networks (not just the online ones) play a vital role in how people get their work done. Do you know who the key influencers are in your organisation? These are the ‘go to’ people for inside knowledge on particular subjects, the ‘go to’ people for making things happen, or for influencing others. Who are the key connectors in your organisation? These are the people who know people and who can connect people from across different groups. TIP: The best connectors are not always the best connected. Sometimes they’re people who know people from different groups who don’t normally connect with one another. Pay attention to transition.  Structures can be changed overnight, but people take time to transition. People need time to let go of the old, the familiar, and to find their way with what is new and unfamiliar. Those of us involved in restructuring need to pay as much attention to supporting that transition as we do to making the change to a new structure, or new ways of working. Change often doesn’t start on day 1; it only starts when the people involved have successfully made their transition. Pay attention to dynamic patterns in change. Changing formal structures or ways of working can have unintended consequences that simply cannot be predicted ahead of time – no matter, how well you’ve planned for the change. TIP: People often think that the risk with organisational change is the organisation not changing. But at least we know where we are then. There’s far more risk involved when change DOES happen – because that’s when small things can have unexpectedly large consequences. (This is known as the ‘butterfly effect’). During change we might find unexpected tensions developing between teams, or within them. We might find people interpreting new ways of working very differently from one another, and heading off in different...

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on Dec 17, 2013 in Blog

Just do it? Get it right? Be radical? Plan strategically?   Over the past couple of days I’ve read four posts about innovation and change. The trouble is that, while each makes sense by itself, they offer conflicting advice to change leaders. This thought piece gets to the heart of those contradictions and suggests that we’re being offered a false choice between ‘more planned’ and ‘more exploratory’ approaches. Instead, it proposes that we plan to learn from change as we explore what our plans mean in practice. Just do it Rosabeth Moss Kanter gives us ‘Four Reasons Any Action Is Better than None’. Forget perfection, she says in her Harvard Business Review blog post. ‘Just do it. So what if you’re wrong? You can always try again. In an uncertain world of rapid change, business strategy includes room for improvisation’. Get it right Not so, says Andrew Hill in the FT. ‘Mending a dud product’ he tells us, ‘is no substitute for getting it right first time’. While tiny, incremental, post-live improvements might be OK for app developers, it’s not the same for car manufacturers and others, ‘where customers expect durable, fully functioning products that do not fail fast’. Be radical Andrew Corner, commenting on sustainability in the Guardian, agrees with his namesake. He suggests that ‘’Every little helps’ is a dangerous mantra for climate change’ because nudging and tweaking behaviours will never address more fundamental, systemic issues. Radical responses are required, he tells us. Plan strategically Returning to HBR, Grant McCracken bemoans ‘All hail the agile! All hail the nimble!’ and highlights the downside of strategic agility i.e. a lack of strategic planning. He describes how executives repeatedly failed to pick up on a key long-term trend because they were so preoccupied with just-in-time responsiveness. It seems to me that what we are being offered here is a two-dimensional choice. We’re being invited to choose between more exploratory and more planned approaches to innovation and change. The more exploratory approaches are portrayed as action-led, experimental, improvisational, agile, nimble, just-in-time and responsive. In contrast, the more planned approaches are painted as radical, strategic, forward-looking, focused on quality and concerned with getting it right first time. But this apparent choice...

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on Dec 5, 2013 in Blog

The party balloon in the cupboard under my stairs was blown up on Super Saturday during the London Olympics. It’s now 489 days old, and counting… We threw a party on super Saturday – well it was just Saturday 4th August 2012 until all the GB golds started rolling in. A friend brought round some red, white and blue balloons left over from a Jubilee celebration, so we blew them up. The day after the party, there was one red, one white and one blue balloon left. In celebratory mood, I left them there to brighten up the room. They’ll go down in a few days, I thought. They didn’t. A couple of weeks later, I thought I’d get them out of the way by putting them in the cupboard under the stairs. (No, I’m not sure why either!) They’ll go down in a few days, I thought. They didn’t. Several months later, I found the blue balloon looking deflated where the hoover had been leaning against it. The others will go down soon, I thought. They didn’t. Both the red one and the white still look, well, they still look like party balloons, some 489 days later. Most of the balloons bit the dust during the party. One was popped by a surprised toddler, who promptly burst into tears, and then plucked up the courage to pop another. Many of them took a battering as we punched them in the air on Mo Farah’s 5000m victory. But, surprisingly, three survived for many months, and, even more surprisingly, two of those are still going 489 days later…. What does this tell us? It tells us about long tails and power laws. You might not have heard of these terms, but power law distributions with long tails are common in nature. Basically they tell us that some events are common (e.g. a lot of party balloons have a very short life span – they pop at a party) and some happen more rarely (e.g. a couple of party balloons are still looking like balloons over 15 months later). Most importantly, they show us that unexpected things (‘extreme events’) DO happen. And they’re not as rare or unexpected as you might think....

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on Nov 9, 2013 in Blog

  My 8 year old niece loves a game of whispers when the family is gathered together.  You know the one – someone whispers something into the next person’s ear and they pass it on, until the final person says it out loud. Then you find out all the different versions of the message that people heard. When we play, the more outlandish the end result, the more my niece squeals with laughter. Now, we all know this. So, while some mishearing is accidental, I suspect that other ‘mishearing’ happens just to increase the level of fun! This made me think about what goes on in organisations.  As stories are passed around, they often undergo subtle changes.  Maybe people mishear, maybe they misremember, maybe they choose to misinform. Certainly they (mis)interpret what they hear in terms of their own experience and using their own interpretive frameworks.  So, what we often have are multiple stories about particular events co-existing. Understanding these stories about events can be really helpful to anyone who’s trying to discover the patterns emerging during change. The subtle reformulations and changes in message can be easy to miss, but may provide vital clues about how people are responding. One organisation needed to discourage car use (to comply with environmental directives) in order to get planning permission to add more buildings on its land. But, in some parts of the organisation, the proposal to introduce car parking charges became a story about how management didn’t care about staff or value them. Then other stories started circulating about the terrible things that management were doing. And, of course, those stories were hidden from management. So, especially in times of change, it can be valuable to learn about these multiple, co-existing stories, in order to learn from them. If we can discover more about the stories people tell, then maybe we can choose how we respond and start to change those stories....

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on Oct 16, 2013 in Blog

 A Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog entitled The Embarrassment of Complexity concludes that we need to: “Draw on the faculty of human judgment to focus on the smaller picture in order to comprehend the larger one” But why, at a time that Big Data grabs so many headlines, should we focus on small data? Well, for several reasons, small turns out to be really interesting: As people interact over time, small differences between them can create novel patterns across organisations, industries and communities. And these can never be predicted in advance. In a similar vein, who’d have thought that flocking starlings could resemble a whale chasing a dolphin across the sky? Small events can have large consequences, known as the Butterfly Effect. Anyone remember the throwaway comment which led to the demise of Gerald Ratner’s business empire? Outliers – small numbers of odd, unexpected, unusual things, cannot safely be ignored. They deserve our attention. We can ask ‘why are they there?’ and ‘what do they mean?’, just as Malcolm Gladwell, or Sir Alex Ferguson have done. Small things can serve as weak signals – giving us early warning signs of emerging problems and opportunities. In 2008/9 we found it hard to believe that more questions hadn’t been asked about bankers’ bonuses. So big data is big, but it’s the computer analytics that help us to see patterns in that data, which are clever. The danger here is that we’re always using our old ways of thinking to make sense. So we may well miss small data and weak signals which are potentially frame changing – heralding completely new patterns that we may never have seen before. The clever thing about small data is how it can signal new opportunities and emerging problems. If we notice and interpret that data, then we can choose how we respond much sooner – helping us to capitalise on emerging opportunities and head off emerging problems It’s here, in noticing and interpreting small data, that we need to cast off our reliance on data crunching machines and start using and honing our very human skills of perception and judgement. So that’s why I agree with HBR that using human judgement to focus on the smaller picture in order...

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