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Posts in: change management

Ready for 2015?

HR should not be the only people who look forward to the days when the likes of Marc Chapman stop writing (and then linking back to) articles with titles like HR=Hardly Relevant. If we’re not all going to be spending 2015 re-skilling on an independent, self-financing basis, we’re going to need pro-active HR functions who want everyone to be ready for 2015. Changing the schedules and re-running 2007 is not an option.

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Jumping the duck: the merit of involving others

Part of me can't help wanting to have the audacity to re-write Gandhi. Surely the management/leadership mantra should be “Let them be part of the change that you want to see”? If engaged employees are more committed to behavioural change and the benefits that it promises to bring, taking steps – through finding ways of actively involving them – to enhance their engagement is surely a positive way forward.

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And the Award goes to …

While Martin Luther King’s prowess on the football field is perhaps not as legendary as that of Albert Camus, he was undoubtedly a man who inspired and brought about change, and we suspect that he might well have joined in the applause of over 450 L&D professionals and experts at the Training Journal Awards 2012 last night. The football reference should, I hope, become clear when we congratulate the winners of the Award for Change Management, sponsored by ASK: Brighton & Hove Albion FC/American Express Community Stadium/360 Degree Vision™

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Slave driver, device driver or trusted leader?

Empathy is an important ability in leaders, especially those leading change who are able to recognise its impact on others. Yet the finest quotes on empathy typically come from the acting profession. When you consider that actors (and writers) achieve their finest performances by understanding another human being (even a fictional one) so completely as to convince their audience that they have become them, their recognition of the power and value of empathy is perhaps less surprising. I even thought about making a comment about actors as leaders before the hand of history leant on my shoulder and counselled caution …

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Think of hope as a doorstep

One of the possible takes on New Year resolutions is probably closest in spirit to an Oscar Wilde quote – “The basis of optimism is sheer terror”. The spur to think about changing things springs predominantly from the horror of the idea of more of the same old same old. Which in turn requires a modicum of awareness that things could at the very least be different, and possibly better. Faced with thinking or feeling “Uh oh, here we go again”, one answer is to go somewhere different. Still waters may well run deep, but we don’t live in still times: we live in turbulent times that might outpace us all too easily. As L&D professionals, 2012 could be a perfect year to drop some well thought-through rocks into some organisational pools – even those who don’t respond directly to some positive disruption may be able to surf a little on the ripples.

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Steaming into the future: early adopters of tradition

Change doesn’t always mean better: it might be, and it might not. It depends whether you’ve thought it through. Progress means heading towards something, and preferably something that’s been identified as a desirable destination. The products of the company I toured are highly respected, well reviewed and commercially successful, but they also balance using technology and new approaches where they add value and retaining previous approaches where ‘progress’ hasn’t yet been identified. And f there’s anything a parent will tell you, it’s that babies without bathwater can be a very unpleasant proposition.

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Plug in and play: the joys – and otherwise – of the Matrix Organisation

There’s been quite a lively debate at Business Week, where two contributors – and a long list of commenters – indulged in some weighty mutual executive briefcasing (handbagging just didn’t sound right) in response to the question: “Multi-dimensional organisational design (Matrix) is the best way to restructure a business. Pro or con?” In the Pro corner, Jay Galbraith argues for the value, inherent merit and – in today’s trading environment – the inevitability of the victory of a collaborative approach over a command and control variety. In the Con corner, Guido Quelle sees matrix organisations as painfully slow, lacking clarity and clear lines of responsibility. Verbal bruisings have been administered and received on both sides but there’s been no knock-out punch: anyone hoping to see the late, grand old man, Peter Drucker holding the limp wrist of one argument aloft and counting to ten would be disappointed.

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Death of a Salesman: the sequel

Sorry for the rather un-festive title, but it’s triggered by reading a fascinating article at Harvard Business Review’s blog - Employees See Death When You Change Their Routines. It seems our sense of mortality is built on three pillars – consistency, standards of justice and culture – that the authors (James R Bailey and Jonathan Raelin) describe as existential buffers. The authors cite examples of actions that can undermine each of these, but the essential message – change knocks away one or more of those pillars and reminds us that all things (including, most importantly, our self and our sense of self) are transitory. Change is therefore perceived as threatening, and it is understandable that we therefore respond with ‘fight or flight’. It’s a story of investment, in an emotional and psychological sense. Aware of our own mortality, we play down our own fears by using culture (in the broadest sense) to give us a sense of meaning, organisation and continuity, and to create feelings of belonging, security and self-esteem. Provided, of course, that we engage with and buy into the cultural values and standards in question. (And even those who see themselves as ‘outsiders’ have a perceived sense of something that they are outside: you can’t be outside something you don’t see as being there.)

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