Posts Tagged "learning"

Why line managers need change expertise

Why line managers need change expertise

on Jun 5, 2017 in Blog

by Sharon Varney and Sue Ells   Line managers are the most critical people in any change effort. Yes, we repeat, THE MOST CRITICAL. Success or failure often depends on the energy and engagement of line mangers. But they’re often just left to get on with it, with a sink or swim attitude. We want to change that. Change is too important to be left to chance. Change that doesn’t land can incur all the economic and emotional costs, without delivering any of the benefits. It can even make things worse. We believe that it’s time to get much smarter about change. To help line managers understand what they need to do, even when they don’t have a formal change role, and to equip them with the knowledge and the tools to do it. Read on to discover why line managers play such a vital role in change, the challenges they face, and to get some practical change tips.   Being in the middle – a vital role and a tough job. Why are line managers so critical in change? Because line managers are right in the middle. They are the people who help to translate change plans into everyday practices. They are the ones who can integrate innovative improvement ideas into normal ways of working. Without the active support of line managers, the best laid change plans will remain just that. Being in the middle helps line managers to connect people and ideas up and down organisations. And, importantly, they can choose to work with their peers – or not –  across organisations. Their position helps them to translate, role model, support, integrate, coach, connect and so on. But it’s a big ask.   Juggling change AND the day job at the same time? Sound familiar? How many managers get the option to do either the day job or the change job? Sadly not many. In fact, most organisations will expect their managers to do both at the same time. Plus they’ll expect all the usual targets and deadlines to be hit as well.  I can hear managers screaming as they read this, but actually, there are some really good things about this. Number 1 advantage is that...

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on Oct 31, 2014 in Blog

Normally at this time of year, I’d be reaching for the winter woollies – cardigans, jumpers, coats and scarves. But not this year. Not yet, anyway. When I went out earlier this week, I instinctively put another layer on and grabbed a scarf to keep out the expected Autumn chill. Yet within 5 minutes, the scarf was off, followed a few minutes later by the cardigan. Unusually there was wall to wall sunshine and, by UK standards, it was like summer! By removing the layers I didn’t need, I was able to adapt to the weather conditions. (Having worked in Chicago, where Fall temperatures can fluctuate wildly, I’d learned the value of layers). Being able to take adaptive action is useful, sometimes imperative, when you’re confronted by unexpected or changing conditions. Faced with unexpectedly good weather, all I could do was to (happily) adapt to the conditions I found. Adaptability is highly prized in many organisations today. Leaders and organisations are encouraged to become more agile and adaptable to changing conditions. Adapt or die, is a common mantra in a working world that seems evermore volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). Adaptability, once learned, can be pretty automatic. I didn’t have to think much about adding or removing extra layers. That’s useful, because there was nothing I could have done to influence the weather conditions that day. But, in organisations, becoming really good at adapting to prevailing conditions is not necessarily the most effective strategy for longer-term success. Especially when adapting becomes the automatic ‘go to’ solution. That’s because a strategy of agility that is overplayed and becomes dominant means that an organisation, team or individual can get stuck on a sub-optimal peak of performance.   From a complexity perspective, this comes from Stuart Kauffman’s idea of Rugged Fitness Landscapes, where adaptation may mean becoming stuck on a sub-optimal peak of fitness.     Responsive action is different. In organisations, what everyone is saying and doing as they interact in their everyday work creates conditions that affect what people feel they can and cannot say and do. We often refer to these conditions as the culture or climate in an organisation or team. Example: The owner of a precision...

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on Jun 25, 2014 in Blog

This is an important question for governments, businesses, organisations and individuals. Because when we make decisions today, we are often making bets on an unknown future e.g. about retirement or energy needs and provision. Some are sceptical, rightly so, about the limitations of prediction in a complex and uncertain world. [See new blog posts from Ralph Stacey and Chris Rogers]. Yet we often need to act amid uncertainty: be that in planning large infrastructure projects; developing health and social care policies; or making choices about our own retirement provision. So, how can we address the question: what does the future hold?   Mystics, statistics and learning There are statistical models and mystical models. Although polar opposites in their reliance on data, both statistical and mystical models assume that they can make predictions about the future with some significant degree of certainty. Learning models, on the other hand, offer ways of working with uncertainty. Statistical models assume the world is predictable, the future knowable, that ‘tomorrow’ will be largely like ‘today’ in all important aspects. They assume regularity and ignore uncertainty. They downplay the likelihood of unknowns and extreme events, although extreme events are more common in nature than you might expect (see long tails and power laws). They also downplay free-will, assuming that people will largely respond in ways that are similar to how they’ve responded in the past. And they assume that small differences in those responses won’t add up to anything much, even though there’s increasing understanding of butterfly effects (remember Gerald Ratner’s ill-advised comment?), ‘viral’ change and social movements. If data is king, then Big Data is emperor. Why do we like statistical models in business? Because they give the illusion of certainty and can reduce the anxiety of leadership and decision-making in an inherently uncertain world. Mystical models assume the world is preordained, that the future can be intuitively seen now, by a select few with special gifts or skills e.g. successful business leaders, tech entrepreneurs, or fortune tellers. In assuming an unfolding future, mystical models downplay human agency and free-will; the ability of human beings to act and react in ways that are imaginative, rebellious, constructive and destructive. Hindsight about successful predictions or interventions...

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