Naive to expect

It is naive to expect any bureaucracy to take brilliant innovations and put them to good use.  Bureaucracies ask different questions…” – Darwi Odrade, Chapterhouse: Dune

I’d seen this quote in May at Dave Snowden’s Cognitive Edge Advanced Practitioner Course.  I saw it again today in his slide deck from his recent Knowledge Management World Conference closing keynote speech.

It continues,

These are the typical questions,… Who gets the credit? Who will be blamed if it causes problems?  Will it shift the power structure, costing jobs?  Or will it make some subordinate department more important?”

It’s funny to reread the words because I had a conversation just the other day with someone instructing me on why an innovation was not well received.  I was struck then and I’m struck again that the testing of innovations against self-preservation was seen as “just the way we do things around here,” or something beyond inspection.  “Nothing to see here!” I guess.

It’s sad to say, but if you’re trying to innovate within a bureaucracy, the cause is lost.  You’re living in the Driving People Sea and you’re most likely adrift.

Head toward the Driving Change island if you can because there is hope you can one day prevail if you can carve out and protect some territory amidst the bureaucracy.

Let them ask those questions. Use your policy buffer to protect you.  Someday your island of driving change will win.

See my old post introducing the policy buffer for more information.

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Link Fuel

Regularly I recharge my change driving batteries by sampling the delightful links my friends send me.

As I prepared for the long holiday weekend–Happy 4th of July by the way!–I thought, “Why not offer up some link fuel for my Engine for Change friends?”  Enjoy!

Charles Green reveals the silly secrets of strategy in You Too Can Be a Strategy Consultant.  Don’t get fooled by a strategy hack again. [Nancy – Thanks for the link.]

Rogue Polymath has been busy clarifying our minds with several Thinking Thursday posts.  Enjoy Murphy’s Law, Inductive and Deductive ReasoningEdward Tufte – Supergraphic and Abilene Paradox.

RSA Animate offers an excellent 10 minute video illustration of Daniel Pink‘s Drive.

If you can’t avoid using PowerPoint slides in your work Seth Godin offers his 200 Slide Solution, Toastmasters International’s magazine introduces us to Pecha Kucha in What is Pecha Kucha? and Captain Joe Bradley would tell you to improve your presentation using an Assertion and Evidence format (see my old professor Michael Alley’s Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides).  If you want to be great at presentations, PowerPoint or not, buy Tufte’s The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within. The booklet is only $7 and reading it will change the way you produce and absorb all PowerPoint presentations.

Well, I feel recharged.  Do you?

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Kairos

Just last week I learned that the ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos (the unfeeling time that flies by before us) and kairos (the human time of creating an opportunity for something important).

Often each week I’m asked how I get so much done.  I used to reply with a shrug of my shoulders.  Now I reply, “kairos.”

In the last week I prepared a command-wide presentation for our top executives, supported my son (he’s 2-and-a-half years old) through his fourth emergency brain surgery of the year, ran a half marathon, orchestrated a 70-person off-site session, attended a retirement celebration and an Elks club spaghetti field, worked four days (plus 2 hours on the weekend) and read two books.  Oh, and I blogged some too and did four loads of laundry.  I also read books to my children every night, helped them with their prayers and kissed them before they went to bed.  And, I think I got in a snuggle while watching a movie with my husband.

I get so much done because I am constantly making time work for me.  Now, granted, I’ve been practicing at this for years and I’ve got some natural energy that I attribute to a genetic gift from my grandmother, but I also look at time as kairos not chronos.  Time doesn’t control me. Time works for me.

Whether you read Covey’s words about “first things first” or Drucker’s Effective Executive, the gurus tell you that harnessing your time to your purposes is the sure route to improving your performance and gaining the success you desire.  They believe in the power of kairos.

I think Peter Senge would tell you that you have a flawed mental model if you only assume time is chronos.  Break that mental model.  Add kairos to time and see what happens after you believe that you can create time.

Seek out kairos.  You’ll be surprised how much time you find.

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Try being indispensable

I’m not trying to make this a Seth Godin tribute blog; really I’m not.  But then Rogue Polymath tweeted about Amber Naslund’s Indispensable vs Irreplaceable post. She mixes two of my favorites–new terms and Godin’s Linchpin–so I can’t resist sharing her post with you.

Amber writes:

Being indispensable is about delivering massive impact no matter where you are. It’s much more of a characteristic – a mindset wrapped with skills and attributes – rather than the details and functions in a role. Indispensable people are the types that you can hand any project, put in nearly any role, issue a challenge to, and they simply make things happen by understanding what needs to get done and adapting their skills accordingly.

Being irreplaceable is the opposite. It’s about being locked into a role because you’re harboring finite knowledge, skills, or information that you can’t or aren’t willing to share with anyone else. Sometimes that’s borne from insecurity. Other times it’s a false sense that if you protect your sandbox so that only you know its secrets, you have job security for life.

Knowing the difference between irreplaceable and indispensable made me wonder:

How do you know whether your organization is based on irreplaceable or indispensable people?

Have you ever heard someone in your organization say,  “Bob is the new Bruce (and he’s no Bruce)” ? If you have, you’re in an organization of irreplaceable people.

Sadly–and I’d guess unknowingly–organizations have ensured their future failures by maintaining their systems of irreplaceable people.  Irreplaceable people systems fail because they tie their worth–and then the inevitable loss of their worth– directly to the passing of time.  As an engineer, I have a hard time believing anyone would knowingly tie their organization’s success to the passing of time–a variable so manifestly outside the organization’s control.

Organizations full of irreplaceable people are seemingly shocked to find their organizations built up by the dutiful and time consuming accumulations of horded knowledge then abruptly crippled by each irreplaceable person’s departure.  These organizations lament retirement rates and their losses of corporate knowledge, yet their predicament was entirely predictable.

They put articles in their newsletters about the decades or centuries of knowledge that left with their retirees last month, mourning the retiree-shaped holes that pockmark the metaphorical field of the organization into a scarred bombing range.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  An organization can wrestle control from the passage of time if the organization selects, rewards and sustains indispensable people.

You may be in an organization of indispensable people if in reference to someone taking a new job, you hear your organization’s leaders emphasizing the attributes that made the current person excellent for the job as the job is today and most especially as it is projected to be in the future.  You may hear something like, “Jenna brings her unique talents that the organization needs to win today and triumph tomorrow.”  (Okay so maybe I got a little carried away with that one.)

There does exist a middle ground between an organization locked in the irreplaceable and a utopia of value to the indispensable.   In my career, I’ve gotten to this middle ground by either taking jobs that no one has ever done before (no irreplaceable personality or qualifications to live up to) or doing the job in a way no one else has ever considered (erasing as fast as possible the hole left by the last person so that all they see is me in the job).

Those of you who’ve been asking me how you get a job like mine, now you know my secret: be indispensable regardless of what the organization is asking for.

Be indispensable by driving change.

Be indispensable by storing up your value in the achievement of the future, not the glory of the past (though the past is fun to study to help you succeed in the future).

Be indispensable by taking the best of what worked and joyfully making it better.

Be indispensable by leverage yourself for the situation, instead of forcing the situation to meet your past, or even your current, expectations or skills.

Be indispensable and bring about the organization of tomorrow.

Be indispensable because that’s what your organization needs today.

Why not try being indispensable?

Trust me; it’s a lot of fun.

——————————

Bonus question:  Does the organization want you to be irreplaceable or indispensable when it says it is “opening more opportunities for career growth and providing a working environment that will broaden experiences and prepare our employees for higher-level duties.”? [Source:  NAVSEA On Watch 2010]

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Parkinson’s Law

When driving change it pays to have friends who can carry most of the load for you some times.

I offer big thanks to my dear friend Rogue Polymath for posting a quick, concise description of Parkinson’s Law.

Ever wonder to yourself that if only you had more time, more space, or more money, etc – you’d be better off?  That’s not likely, according to Parkinson’s Law.

First stated by Cyril Parkinson in 1955 as, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion,”  it describes the human nature to procrastinate, goof off, and be otherwise unproductive in the face of little to no consequences.  It can be generalized however as:

The demand upon a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource.

This could apply to the amount of data in a storage media, the amount of clothes in your closet, or even the amount of time you spent on Facebook.

So how can you minimize the effects of Parkinson’s Law?  Acknowledging the problem is always the first step.  You could use Critical Chain Project Management.  Or you could just start slowly with using a timer to keep yourself in check.

Got other examples of Parkinson’s Law in action or ways to fight it?

My favorite example of Parkinson’s Law is the curse of mandatory overtime.  When you work overtime regularly you begin to build the overtime into your week.  Your work expands to fill the new time allowed and your boss starts to wonder why your productivity per hour worked is dropping.

Please, if you’re suffering under the curse of mandatory overtime, refer your boss to Parkinson’s Law.

Every boss should understand, once they have knowledge of Parkinson’s Law, that there is a difference between asking someone to work ten hours of overtime this week and asking that same person to produce more of what they produce (be that widgets or reports).

Asking for overtime guarantees the boss the hours of charging and he or she may get an increase in products produced (though usually Parkinson’s Law in action sucks up any gains).

Asking for higher production may not get the boss all the added production he or she wants, but it will likely get the boss a higher return of products produces per hour of overtime invested.

Plus, the super bonus to a boss who understands the curse of Parkinson’s Law: changing their request from hours of overtime to a request for an increase in productivity usually costs a whopping total of zero dollars (and likely will save the company money through reduced overtime and sustained employee morale).

Keep driving change and driving out Parkinson’s Law.

There’s too much to do in this world to allow your current work to fill up all your time.

You’re better than that!

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Stockdale Paradox

If you don’t know what the term Stockdale Paradox means, you must.

When you can “maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be,” you are embracing what Jim Collins calls the Stockdale Paradox. [source: Good to Great by Jim Collins]

Collins writes about a conversation he had with Admiral Stockdale, as Stockdale remembered back to his time as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton.  Stockdale told Collins,

I never lost faith in the end of the story.  I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

When Collins asked, “Who didn’t make it out?” Stockdale replied:

Oh, that’s easy.  The optimists. ..Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go.  And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again.  And they died of a broken heart. .. .That is a very important lesson.  You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end–which you can never afford to lose–with the discipline to confront the brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

How does this apply to you, someone trying to drive change?

Simple. Ask yourself: Have I  ever given up on a change I wanted or needed because I played the optimist and allowed myself to break my heart, my will to drive change?

Sadly, I’ve had people quit driving change because of the simplest of defeats:

  • They were let down when a top manager, who has never delivered on a promise of support, fails again to support them.  (And they thought this time would be different. Nope.)
  • They thought the change would be complete well before the summer was over and now it’s late into the fall.
  • They tried and failed to change something in the past and refuse to try again.
  • They think driving change should be more happiness and less frustration (often it isn’t), or
  • They think others (name the group) should help more and complain less. (They rarely will.)

You have not been defeated by some outside enemy when you quit, when you allow yourself to break, or when  you refuse to face the Stockdale Paradox, accept it and persevere;  you have defeated yourself.

Know the Stockdale Paradox.

Seek out and face the brutal facts.

But, keep the faith that someday you will achieve the change you are driving.

You will never prevail unless you believe you will.

Why not believe?

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How to get more done without working longer hours

Are you looking for ways to get more done without working longer hours?

What if you could multiply one hour of work into 10, 100 or even 1,000 or more?

If you’ve ever read a blog (since you’re reading this I think it’s safe to assume you have), or read a book, or watched a video you’ve experienced the multiplication of one or several hours of work into hundreds or thousands of hours of enjoyment.

Blogs, books and videos are some examples of scalable work.

Work is scalable if, once you’ve created it, someone or many people can use it many times without you investing any more of your time. For example, I’ve invested an hour in this post, but it could be read by 1, 10, 100 or 1,000 or more people and I wouldn’t have to invest another minute.

If you’re driving change, or just trying to tell people about the upcoming Career Fair, I’m guessing you have more people to win over than time to do it.  You need scalable solutions.

How do you find them?

For starters: look for things you’re doing in person that would work well on video, on a blog or in a podcast instead.

What’s your most limited resource?

Are you recycling the limited resource’s time through the same old thing (e.g, bringing class after class to hear the expert trainer only when the expert trainer is available)?

Or are you leveraging the limited resource’s time (e.g., taping their training) and multiplying their impact (e.g., playing the video alone or pairing the video with a more available trainer leading discussion)?

Could you post a podcast of an important message instead of asking every manager to repeat it?

Could you start a blog or social networking site to reach more people than you usually run into in the hallways in a day?

Should you write a book, an article, an e-mail for mass forwarding?

You can make some things scalable, so put your effort into scaling them and take them as big as they will go.  When you’ve got limited time and lots to do, why not try?

Look below the fold for the scalable solution I tried and how well it worked.

The Story Continues…

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Driving Change versus Driving People

Learning new things often requires learning new terms, especially when the old terms (e.g., leadership, change management) are overburdened with vague and contradictory definitions and descriptions.

Through my work with large organizational change, I’ve learned that I need new terms to describe two very different change methods, driving change versus driving people.

I’ve found driving change produces both near and long term success while driving people sometimes creates near term results but rarely produces long term success.

With the difference in results, you would think most people trying to make a change would be driving change. Yet most  are daily driving people.

How can you tell which one you’re doing?  First you need to know the descriptions and definitions of each term.

I intend to make a sharp and immediate distinction between the term driving change and the term driving people.

Let’s picture something together.

You and 20 other people live in the middle of a huge forest.  Last night the forest was hit by a terrible storm.  The only road to get out of the forest was in bad repair before, but surveying the damage this morning you see newly downed trees and whole sections of road were washed out by the overflowing streams.  The goal is to get the 20 people and you out of the forest.  You aren’t the boss.  You’re just one of the 21 people.  But, the boss has instructed you to get everyone out of the forest, including him.  What do you do? The Story Continues…

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Cargo cult

If you don’t know what the term cargo cult means, you must.

The stylized version of the story behind the term goes something like this:

During World War II the Americans arrived on a Pacific island to build a supply station. On this island was a native population.  When the Americans arrived the natives watched the American’s actions with a great deal of interest.  The natives saw the Americans clear some land, build a runway and control tower, signal for something and suddenly, as if coming from out of nowhere, cargo started to arrive, plane-load by plane-load.  The natives were intrigued.  They wanted these same treasures of cargo from the heavens.  The rushed to their area of the island, cleared some land, built a runway and control tower, placed their high priest at the top of the tower with shells over his ears (to imitate headphones), waived their arms to signal to the skies and waited for planes to land with their cargo. No planes came.

The natives didn’t know what made the planes land.  In the absence of knowing why the American’s cargo system worked all the natives could do was mimic as best they could the actions they could see.  That wasn’t enough to get them the cargo.”

In organizations and in life, people try to imitate someone who has had a success, often to equal results as the natives in our story.

For example: The Story Continues…

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