Geshido

Geshido” – Chelsea Grace

Google “geshido” and a list of links to a climbing shoe pop up.

rock wall climbing

That’s not the geshido we’re talking about here.

Geshido is a word coined by my good friend Chelsea Grace.

She uses it as a call to action.

“Geshido!” she’ll cry.

If you’re part of a Lean obsessed organization, you’re probably assuming that geshido is also some Japanese word that means “seek the truth” or “watch carefully” or something. Nope.  Here’s what it means:

Get sh*t done!

This week, as you struggle or jump from bed to face the challenge ahead, feel free to use “Geshido!” as your rallying cry.

When you feel weak, “Geshido!”

When you want to rest, “Geshido!”

Whenever you want to make the people around you stop and stare, “Geshido!”

Have fun geshido-ing this week.  I know I will.

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Safe-to-Ask

Over the past year or so I’ve worked a lot with Cognitive Edge‘s complexity theory facilitation methods and through that work, a group of people and I have seeded into our organization the term: safe-to-fail.  It means creating an experiment to test the organizational response to a certain intervention (e.g.,, a new program, policy or communication method) that may not succeed, but you will learn something from the failure and the consequences to the organization for the failure are small.

Today, I think I need to build a term that comes before safe-to-fail because some people are afraid of creating safe-to-fail experiments so we need a baby step they might be willing to take.  Hence, the birth of: safe-to-ask.

Prior to implementing a safe-to-fail experiment, especially one that worries others in your organization, try asking 10 people (or more if you like) to hypothetically receive a new policy, read it, then tell you what their response would be.  How would they behave? What would they think?  What would they do?

By going through the safe-to-ask simulation you are in effect poking the system to test for success or weakness of your idea, but you aren’t actually doing anything to the larger system.  If those 10 people give you the responses you were looking for, then you have the preliminary data you need to proceed to a larger trial implementation.  If those 10 people tell you all the reasons why your idea wouldn’t work to produce the outcome you desired, then you’ve got more information to use to improve the policy before you try to implement it again.  Either way, you learned something about your system and brought yourself closer to making a change that will create the outcome you want, and likely sustain itself better that a change implemented without a safe-to-ask or safe-to-fail step included.

So, my gift to you this morning: Safe-to-Ask experimentation.  Go forth and drive your change!

Why not try?

Note:  If the people in your organization are unwilling to agree to allow you to do a safe-to-ask experiment, then you’ve just learned that any change you attempt is going to fail. How can I tell? Because they have revealed that they don’t actually want change, but rather the illusion of it.  That’s a hard reality for a lot of people to face.  For years they thought they were making change when all they were doing was making lots of promises to change.  You, and they, can take heart in the fact that the “say-do” gap has capture plenty of good men before. Now your only concern should be: How do we actually do what we say?  If you can’t answer that question, then you’re never going to change.

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Assurances

Last week I introduced you to permissive statements, e.g., “Feel free to…give me honest feedback about my blog.”

This week I want to introduce you to their companions: assurances (definition: statement to relieve doubt).

Anyone can use assurances to set clear yet flexible lines of accountability, both for themselves (e.g., “I will always attend team meetings or I will notify the team prior to my absence,” or for their fellow team members (e.g., “We will attend all scheduled meetings or notify the team lead as soon as possible if we will be absent.”)

When we sprinkle assurances and permissive statements into our conversations with our superiors, our peers, and our subordinates, we are setting the stage for elevated individual and group behaviors.

When we and our team members act on the assurances and permissions, then we are achieving the better behaviors and thus better team outcomes.

You don’t have to be anyone special to use assurances and permissive statements in your day-to-day interactions at work, at home, or in your community.

You just have to choose to say them…then–most importantly–act on them.

You can do it.

You will change everything if you do.

Why not try?

A rising tide floats all boats.” – John F. Kennedy

Today is a Holiday. Let's go Cruising around Singapore!

Creative Commons License William Cho via Compfight

[Author’s Note: I had originally wanted to call assurances “expectation statements”, but a quick web search convinced me that term “expectation statement” is overly stated and–I hypothesize–rarely delivered.  Another pitfall of calling them expectation statements would be that too often people think expectations are only what supervisors can have for employees or leaders for followers.  That’s too narrow an assumption for what I’m trying to achieve.]

 

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Permissive Statements

Open in LondonCreative Commons License Nicolas Hoizey via Compfight

I usually can tell you the chapter and verse of where I first encountered a concept.  For the life of me I can’t remember where I first came across permissive statements, and yet, I can’t let my lack of memory stop me from sharing the concept with you.

Permissive statements are statements you make to allow people to behave a certain way in their encounters with you.  They give them an opening to do a behavior they wouldn’t necessarily do for fear of some negative consequences or a lack of ever considering the possibility that the behavior would be okay to you.

Note: Permissive statements are most powerful when followed up by your consistent actions. Let me demonstrate.

“Feel free to give me honest feedback,” I say.

You say, “I don’t like your blog because you talk too much about yourself.”

“You’re absolutely right.  Sometimes I struggle to get out of my own head,” I humbly reply.

The point of the permissive statement is to declare to your audience that they should feel comfortable to exhibit some behavior in front of you without fear of retribution.  You’ve opened a new door for them.

“Feel free to speak up regardless of your rank in the organization if you have something to say.”

“Feel free to share this information with anyone you think would be interested in learning more.”

“Feel free to hold me accountable in front of the group if I haven’t met an obligation.”

“Feel free to ask questions.”

Can you see the pattern?

“Feel free to…”

Now, you can start your permissive statement in other ways, but the point I want to drive home is that by providing these permissive statements before the situation requires them you have made the action non-threatening for the other person but you haven’t compelled them to act.

You didn’t say, “Hold me accountable in meetings.”

You said, “Feel free to hold me accountable in meetings.”

See the difference.  People don’t seem to remember orders the same way they remember offers of permission.

When they are faced with a situation where they want to hold you accountable, into their head will spring the statement, “Feel free to…” and they are more likely to do what you’ve asked for.

I’ve tried this technique for years and achieved much success with it.  I won’t say that in all situations the other person took me up on my offer to hold me accountable, or share information, or speak up, but I know more people did than would have without the statements.

Use permissive statements.

Practice them.

Repeat them.

Live them (the toughest part).

You’ll see a lot more action, participation, and energy out of those around you.

Why not try?

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Philosophy of Change

One of the first posts three years ago when this blog began was Driving Change versus Driving People to Change.  Quickly after a friend pointed out the unnecessary nature of the last “to change” and it was readily dropped.  (Proof I take criticism well.)  In that post I called Driving People and Driving Change terms and methods.  Sometimes in the past I’ve called them concepts. Lately though I’ve begun to think of them as the names of two distinct change philosophies.

Philosophies are (according to the Wikipedia entry): particular schools of thought, styles of philosophy, or descriptions of philosophical ideas attributed to a particular group or culture.  Driving People and Driving Change seem to fit that definition as philosophies because if you accept the definition of one or the other then your behaviors logically flow from that first thought and they frame how you proceed with each new interaction.

You can quickly classify the change philosophy (or lack thereof) of any business book purporting to tell you how to make your organization better.  Some books and articles (okay most) are clearly about driving people, some wholly about driving change (Deming’s work fits here), and some flip between both demonstrating a lack of an underlying philosophy.

Let’s take the first set first: Consistently Driving People.

I ranted about books and articles that emphasize driving people in May 2012 post titled, The Failed Model of Executive Led Change. Back when this blog first began I tore about a Six Sigma improvement article in a January 2010 post called Can You Fail Less? What Actions Would You Take? I hope those two posts are enough to get the point across.

Now for the second set: Consistently Driving Change.

Deming is someone who keeps a consistent driving change philosophy throughout his writings.  In The New Economics, he says,

The first step is transformation of the individual. This transformation is discontinuous. It comes from understanding of the system of profound knowledge. The individual, transformed, will perceive new meaning to his life, to events, to numbers, to interactions between people.”

This quote paired with Deming’s many attacks on reward or punishment systems to induce behavior in workers clearly shows his understanding of the difference between driving people and driving change, though he never labels the two approaches.  Instead he offers good behaviors to copy and bad behaviors to avoid.   This is enough to get you started on a journey to a better organization, if only you’ll submit to Deming’s advice (i.e., drive change starting with yourself).  Maybe that’s why forced Deming implementations struggle so much, they are at their root philosophically incoherent.   If you’re not familiar with Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge or his 14 Points, you can check them out quickly in a fantastic blog post by Ralph Soule.

Finally, the third set: The Inconsistent Philosophizers.

This set is the worst because they are usually the people with the most “credibility.”  Yes, I did just put that word in quotes.  I’m holding it out for derision because their inconsistency–I hypothesize–comes from their “credibility” building training in business departments.  Many of the philosophical flip-floppers are business professors or worse, MBAs turned executive consultant.  I say they are the worst because their method of teaching relies on cobbling together stories (okay, just case studies–calling them stories is often too kind) of what other people did, leaving the story surface intact but the theory driving the actions unanalyzed. Then they claim that “if you just mimic what they did you too will succeed.”  Gag!  I got caught in their glossy trap too many times before I fought my way out and started to get what Deming calls a view from outside on the system.

I’m going to stop here before I start to ramble.  This isn’t finished, but it is done for the night.  For further reading, poke around the EFC archives from Jan – March 2010.  There are some old gems hiding in those first posts.  Or, search Deming in the side search box and see what other rants and bird walks you can find.  Happy weekend.  Good luck driving your change.  I, for one, believe in you.

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How to Kill An Unwritten Rule

Don’t follow it.

An unwritten rule by its definition cannot compel compliance.  Only written rules can compel compliance, hence a cop may give you a ticket only for violating the written rules.

The unwritten rule’s power is found in your willingness to submit to it and your fear of the consequences if you don’t.

If you refuse to submit, then it stops being powerful.

If you resolve yourself to live up to the consequences, then you’ve conquered it.

I hypothesize that if the rule mattered so much to the effective workings of your organization then someone would have written it down by now.

Unwritten rules are the controls through which powerful organizational figures wield power that they dare not claim officially (via written rules).

Unwritten rules are the way leaders maintain excuses for not walking their own talk.

Unwritten rules are the way employees make themselves accomplices in organizational decline while preserving their victim status at the same time.

You can do better.

My suggestion: find an unwritten rule that’s hurting you or your organization and try to kill it.

Let’s see what happens.

[WARNING: Killing unwritten rules may indeed bring unwritten negative consequences (e.g., unhappy looks, counseling sessions, loss of holiday party invitations and more).  Kill at your own risk.]

Long Beach Harbor Patrol Say No Photography From a Public Sidewalk Thomas Hawk via Compfight

 

 

 

 

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Increasing our adaptive capacity

In the spring of 2007, I was 16 weeks pregnant when I learned that my unborn son had spina bifida, a congenital deformity of the spine that would cause him to have partial leg paralysis and a host of other attendant conditions.  In the instant of his diagnosis the story of my life shifted dramatically.

In the years since, as I’ve watched my son grow and achieve, I’ve noticed  a marked increase in my ability to adapt to whatever situation life throws at me.  At times, I’ve shared the highs and lows on this blog.  From all events I try to extract “what am I learning from this?”

Here’s where that question has led me tonight.

When you are better able to absorb the rapid changes in your reality, that’s called increased adaptive capacity.  It is a term applied to ecological systems or human social systems. I’ve applies the term to myself, but I can see its benefits when applied to large organizations, especially those going through transformational change.

Over at Resilience Alliance they build on the idea of adaptive capacity, saying in part,

Systems with high adaptive capacity are able to re-configure themselves without significant declines in crucial functions in relation to primary productivity, hydrological cycles, social relations and economic prosperity. A consequence of a loss of resilience, and therefore of adaptive capacity, is loss of opportunity, constrained options during periods of re-organization and renewal, an inability of the system to do different things. And the effect of this is for the social-ecological system to emerge from such a period along an undesirable trajectory.

Over at Cognitive Edge, they’ve posted a great video [~10 minutes long] about Risk & Resilience that takes the idea further still.

Things do happen.  People get hurt at work.  Babies are born with unexpected challenges.  Whole industries and their giant leaders fade away (e.g., Kodak).

It isn’t what happens that defines us or our organizations.  It’s what we do when (or before) it happens that matters.

I’m going to adapt.

Want to try it with me?  Why not try?

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The words are spreading

This week I got an e-mail survey at work.  The body of the e-mail read, in part:

Consistent findings from the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) show that Federal employees are dedicated and committed to their work. As a dedicated Federal employee, your feedback about the workplace is essential in addressing areas of challenge and celebrating areas of strength in your agency.
This is your opportunity to drive change [emphasis mine]. The FEVS offers you the chance to express your thoughts and opinions regarding your job, agency, and the workforce as a whole.”

More than a few of you loyal readers who are also government employees forwarded along the e-mail to show me that the words “driving change” are spreading.

Now, if only we could spread the concept behind the words to more people who are yearning for a way to create real, transformational change in the organizations.

Are you willing to tell a friend about Engine for Change?  Please do.

Let’s see how many new friends we can get for the Facebook page or how many new readers we can get coming here to visit.  Let’s do a little driving change of our own and choose to share Engine for Change with one more person this week.

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Down with Meetings!

With a quick Google search you can find page long lists of blog posts dedicated to complaining about meetings.

I challenge you to find another blog post like this.

Why is this post unique?  Because I intend not to complain about meetings, but about the word meeting itself.

As of today, I’ve given up the word meeting.  I’m writing to ask all my friends to help me strike the word meeting from my vocabulary.

Why such a bold (and odd) move?  Because meeting is a word used beyond its usefulness.

How can I tell? Because one word, meeting, should not be commonly used to describe both of the scenarios below.

Scenario 1: A gathering of a group of excited “get to” team members eagerly working on a project they are passionate about.

Scenario 2: A forced encounter of disheartened workers confused as to the purpose of the current physical co-location, learning and doing nothing of importance.

After reading those scenarios, can you see the disservice we are doing to the powerful difference driving change brings?  Our gathering with other “get to” energized people gets the same word as a sad session of driving people.  No more!

Join me in boycotting the word meeting.

Here’s one way you can carry out this boycott.

When you send your electronic invitation, or make you in person request, describe your gathering in other words.

Examples:

  • We need to generate our next goals.  Would you like to come to the Improvement Improvisation Hour we’re holding at 2 on Tuesday?
  • I’m seeking volunteers to help me safe-fail test my idea to find the flaws. Would you be willing to attend my Devils Advocate Session at 8 on Wednesday?
  • We’ve accomplished a lot in the past two weeks.  Shall we hold a Wins Report from 10 to 11 on Friday in the small conference room?
  • It’s time for performance reviews.  My boss and I are taking Reflection and Projection Time on Thursday at 1.

I’m sure I could come up with plenty more.  The options are endless if we cease the mindlessness of calling everything a meeting and start describing why we are gathering people with the title we give the gathering.  These new titles are more enjoyable to read and they clearly tell me what sort of preparation or mindset I should be in when I finally get to join the other attendees.

Imagine the time saved if you knew exactly why you were there (on top of the wanting to be there energy that driving change brings!).  Can you tell this idea excites me?!

I’m so excited, I started to wonder what the non-meeting titles of current driving people sessions could be.  Here are a few examples, included just for fun:

  • I have to go to the Listen-to-Bill-Yell-At-Us event again on Wednesday.
  • I wish I didn’t have to attend John’s I-Insist-on-Reading-the-Status-Report-to-You-Instead-of-Just-E-Mailing-It gathering every Thursday.
  • Will your boss skip the No-One-Knows-Why-Any-of-Us-Are-Here session again on Friday?  I wish I could skip it.

Join me in boycotting the word meeting.

Don’t wait.

Be brave.

Start renaming your meetings today.

Why not try?

[Bonus: If you want to check out one of my earlier rants about language at work, read Why One Blue Crayon Isn’t Enough.]

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Chapter and Verse

Here’s a quick hint for how to rapidly create a change you want within a bureaucracy.

Stop generically naming your problem (e.g., The reimbursement amounts for company travel need to change) and instead start quoting the chapter and verse (e.g.,  Table 5 of instruction 7852.4 says reimbursements shall be calculated based on the hotel rates in Atlanta.  We recommend the rates be based on New York instead).

After choosing to drive change instead of driving people, quoting chapter and verse is the second most powerful change concept in any rule-driven bureaucracy.

You get to chapter and verse by starting with a basic problem and asking “What rule prevents me from doing X?” or “What instruction tells you to do Y?” When they quote you something you immediately seek out that source and check their facts.  Did they cite the rule correctly?  Are they referencing an old version of the instruction and they don’t know the rule has already been changed?  You’d be surprised how many surprises you find when you actually check people’s sources.

Problem stay problems when they are hidden in vague language without reference to anything solid.

Nail down the chapter and verse.  Seek the modification you need to make it read the way you want.  And, see your change driven straight on to success.  It’s not always a straight road, but I bet it’s an awful lot faster than anything else you’ve been doing.

Why not try?

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