And there is nothing new under the sun

In Ecclesiastes. Solomon said,

And there is nothing new under the sun.”

I’m reminded of that often, when I find something novel and then find it restated somewhere else, slightly differently, later.  Yet, in the midst of “nothing new,” there can be different and better.  Different in the sense of new ways of combining old things.  Better in the sense of closer approximating what others meant, but could not say.

I reflect on these thoughts, as Engine for Change turns seven years old.  This blog started as a way of capturing the old stories told over and over to new Guiding Coalition members.  It expanded to contain the ups and down and rants of a change agent, constantly seeking better ways of explaining the “nothing new” so others could embrace the repetition and learn how to respond better the next time they got a chance to make their change happen in the world.

Thank you to all of you who’ve been on this journey with me.  Just this morning, on Facebook, I saw a like on a photo and I was washed over by the memories of so many people and changes that came before.  (And, this photo of Tom as an invincible engine for change).  I started to wonder, what changes are coming next.  How can we best be ready, together?

As I continue to teach new people the essential learning contained in this blog, and as I share the message of Driving Change instead of Driving People globally, I’m grateful to all of you who keep reading (even though I’ve barely blogged in two years), who keep thinking, and most of all who keep driving change.  Change is a challenge, but together and with the right change philosophy to guide us, we can–and are–changing the world!

Perhaps it is time I return to blogging.  I’ve missed you.  I’m ready now.  Thank you for sticking with me.  Let’s have another seven amazing years.

What is it we always used to say? I remember now.

Why not try?

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Stop Trying to Fix the Water – Fix the Piping Instead

If diverse candidates are water and your organization is piping and you find yourself with leaks (e.g., retention problems), what should you do?

If you found a leak like this in your home’s plumbing, what would you do? You would try to fix the piping.  You wouldn’t try to thicken the water.

So, why are most of the diversity programs out there full of  “fix the water” solutions (e.g., “dress for success” workshops, assertiveness training, mentoring)?

My theory is that most people creating diversity programs have never thought to categorize their potential solutions to their diversity challenges like an engineer would categorize potential fixes to a plumbing problem.  If they did, they would notice that their programs are heavy on “fix the water” solutions and light on “fix the piping” solutions.

To balance the scales, I offer three actions any diversity program could implement to “fix the piping.”

First, implement blind auditions for positions.  When symphonies went to blind auditions, the numbers of diverse members jumped.  GapJumpers, a recent start-up specializing in creating blind auditions for corporate positions, has seen a similar jump in the numbers of diverse candidates getting interviews at tech companies.

Vujosevic says the company recently analyzed data from 1,200 blind auditions and learned that 54% of those who participated were women, while 46% were men. About 58% of those selected to an interview after the blind audition round were women, and 68% of those who ended up getting hired were women.

Second, level the playing field in meetings with a simple facilitator trick.

Please take the next five minutes to think independently about what the first three actions we must take to resolve Problem X.  Write down your thoughts.  After the five minutes, discuss your ideas with the person next to you.  Choose the Top 3 actions you and your partner would recommend.  Write each of your actions on these sticky notes and post them here for everyone to see.”

This method allows everyone to have an equal chance to be heard.  It’s much more likely to get diverse ideas out for consideration and prevents strong personalities from dominating the meetings.  If you don’t believe that meetings are hard for diverse members of your team, read this article about women in meetings carefully translating their thoughts so they can be heard.

Third, address pay parity by looking at the numbers and fixing the gaps. Marc Benioff, Salesforce’s CEO, did just that when he dug into his companies pay data himself and corrected pay gaps.

But women can’t do this alone, said Benioff. There are also things a company can do.”

Notice that in all of these examples that the diverse employees, which organizations are spending a ton of money to recruit and retain, aren’t expected to change anything about themselves.  They get to be their best selves, just as they are, and the organization is changing to retain them.  The water gets to be the water.  And, the leaks are fixed.

What are your organization’s diversity fixes?  Are you trying to thicken the water or are you fixing the leaks in the system?  Which one you choose will make all the difference.

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Are you a professional?

For Lukasz, Niels, Clifford, and Ray, and more, I offer this quote from “The Rickover Effect,”

Traditionally, the professional man follows certain tacit or explicit rules of conduct which vary in detail vary in detail as between different professions. Basic to all of them, however, are two rules: first, the obligation to reject lay direction in the performance of professional work—that is, the duty to maintain professional independence; and second, the obligation to use professional knowledge and techniques solely for the benefit of their clients. . .
Service ceases to be professional if it has in any way been dictated by the client or employer. The role of the professional man in society is to lend his special knowledge, his well-trained intellect, and his dispassionate habit of visualizing problems in terms of fundamental principles to whatever specific task is entrusted to him. Professional independence is not a special privilege but rather an inner necessity for the true professional man, and a safeguard for his employers and the general public. Without it, he negates everything that makes him a professional person and becomes at best a routine technician or hired hand, at worst a hack.

 

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Agile by Example 2015 #abe15

It’s been an honor to participate in the Agile by Example conference in Warsaw, Poland.  Thanks to Piotr Burdylo and Lukasz Szostek and more for putting on a fantastic conference.

On Monday I had the great privilege to attend a dojo session offered by Niels Malotaux. Results Management and Evo Planning are topics that all professionals committed to delivering the best value should know.  Niels is one of the best, if not the best, master of teaching both.  He’s also a good friend from #Gilbfest 2015 in London earlier this year. You can tell from the photo below that it was a happy reunion.  Niels sets a fantastic example for all practitioners of knowledge delivery to follow.  Check out his site with detailed links to all of his content.  He truly cares about the learning, and application of the learning, by his students.

Niels

The full conference started Tuesday, and was full of opportunities to listen, learn, connect, and share, the four essentials of a good conference.  You can review the highlights of the conference content via reviewing my twitter feed or checking the larger #abe15 tweet stream.  Thanks to those who stopped by my Ask the Expert sessions (that title will never stop being odd to me) and who connected with me via twitter or in the hallways of the conference venue.

My speech on Tuesday afternoon was well received (Whew!) yet definitely different than other presentations.  I’ll admit that I enjoy being the odd one at these Agile conferences.  It’s a great community to be a part of and I’m glad to call so many in the community my friends.  Those of you who follow this blog will know the essentials of the content I covered, driving people versus driving change, power curves, policy buffer, and the courage to take first steps towards a new way of choosing change.  I even started with the story of cargo cult, one of the first stories I covered at this blog over five years ago.

I also participated in the lightning talks at the end of Tuesday’s session.  These talks are five minute bursts on topics of interest to whomever at the conference would like to jump up and speak.  I’d alluded to the playground project in my talk, but not covered it directly, so I thought why not jump up and give a quick five picture story about how change agents can make a difference in their communities too.  It was well received, motivating some in the audience to ponder their participation in their communities (or so they told me in conversations afterwards).  I felt compelled to share given some conversations I’d had the night before where some had mentioned a tendency to not get involved in the larger community affairs.  You know I can stay captured in an organization, so I thought, “why not help them see how they can serve and achieve too?”  Here are the five photos I used.

 

Slide1

Slide2Slide3Slide4

Slide5

Wednesday was a more relaxed day, if only because I didn’t have a solo presentation to deliver.  I was delighted to be surrounded by fantastic coworkers. They truly care about the future of the organization and are willing to apply their best efforts to get us there.  They’re also involved in delivering conferences, so they were there to learn on many levels.  You can tell from the smiles on our faces that work for is not a chore.  Yes, we are in a movie theater, but that was the conference venue, so we were where we were supposed to be.

 

4atABE

The conference ended for me with participation on a four-person panel on Agile transformations. All conference sessions will soon be on YouTube, so I’ll post the link as soon as I have it if you’re interested in seeing all that you missed.

Thank you again to the organizers for inviting me to be a part of an excellent conference.  The Polish agile community is vibrant, welcoming, and curious.  I couldn’t ask for more.  Dziękuję!

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Learning by Doing

This week has been a long line of reminders of a lesson you think I would have learned by now: You really only learn something by doing something.

Thinking, “I should do….” is not enough.

You actually have to try to do…experience it…get lost in it…make it through.  Then, you’ve learned something.

I don’t know if it is for everyone, but switching to a new company, especially a large company, after 15 years is a great shock of relearning, unlearning, and learning-a-new.

I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had in my last ten months with Intel and the next two (and well beyond) are already scheduled to push my learning all the more.

So, if you’re ready to starting learning again because you feel like you’re in a rut, I say you start doing again.  Make a list of three things you’ve thought about doing but haven’t done yet, maybe just small things but three things.  Next, do one of them.  That’s it. That’s all.  One is enough to get you started.  One is doing something. One is worth it.  One is fun.

Or, if you’re still coasting and want to live vicariously through me, watch for postings either here, or on Facebook, or both as I soon start my trip round the world.

I’m no Nellie Bly, but I intend to have a joyous time circumnavigating the globe.  After all, I do have to take my advice every now and then…what’s that I always say?  Oh, yes.

Why not try?

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Circumnavigation for Transformation

70 % of all transformation initiatives are significantly challenged or fail altogether. One of the main reasons is that an Agile tranformation consists of two parts: process transformation and people transformation and many organizations overlook the second part.”— John Kotter, author of Leading Change

This quote appeared in an email I received earlier this week as a follow-up to attending Agile 2015 in Washington, DC.  It’s always nice to see two parts come together into a whole.  I’ve been working in the people transformation space with Kotter’s model for years now and I’ve enjoyed my eight month introduction to Agile.  This fall I’ll be carrying the message in this Kotter quote around the globe.

September 28 through 30, I’ll be in Warsaw, Poland at Agile By Example. Check out the details on my speaker profile page.

The following week, October 5 through 9, you can join me at the Agile & Lean Development Conference in Penang, Malaysia.  Conference registration details will be posted soon.  Comment on this post if you want more details.

If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d be where I am today or planning for this busy fall, I wouldn’t have believed you.  I guess that proves, even to a seasoned change agent, that the future can surprise you.  With 70% of transformations still failing, I’ve got lots of work to do and thankfully, I love doing it.

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The Space Between the Boxes

There’s a myth in organizations that the org chart can hold the total of the work that the organization performs.  It’s a persistent myth and it’s lack of truth seems to have no effect on its power.

Why?

My conclusion is that the myth is self-sealing, in the sense that the lack of value in the spaces between the org chart is challenged often by the statement, “If it mattered enough, there would be a box on the org chart.”  Can you see the circular logic?

Hence, most change agents seek to combat their lack of position by creating a role they can fill and do their knitting-together-the-organization work.  Sadly, this rarely happens and even if it does, it is often the first box chopped when the org tree is trimmed.

So what are we, the change agents, to do?

Here’s one process we could try:

1. Name the limits of the org chart as a map of the organization.  Yes, it shows well official reporting structures.  Yes, paired with job descriptions it can capture a majority of the work performed.

2. Ask the group to name things that aren’t contained within the org chart and job descriptions that must, and do, get done.

3. Ask what would the organization be like if those relationships didn’t exist and those tasks didn’t get done.

4. Brainstorm ways to keep these unseen relationships and tasks visible within your organization.  I can come up with a few ideas for how to do this.  Can you? Share them in the comments.

 

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time making the present-but-unseen visible in organizations.  This visualizing the essential tasks of the invisible organization is a great next step toward making organizations more successful, more robust, and more joyous.

I’m ready to help them see.  Are you?

Why not try?

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Permission to Recommend

One of my key learning takeaways from yesterday’s meeting with Dr. Edgar Schein is that all change agents must be disciplined enough to wait until they have permission from the other person, who Schein call the client, before you offer your recommendations.

Help without permission isn’t help.  It’s…abuse might be too strong a word…relationship wear…it tears away from the relationship one demand at a time.

I encourage all my change agent friends to check to be sure you have permission before you offer any recommendations.  It’ll improve your and your client’s outcomes.

Why not try?

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Driving Change Globally

My new role in a global company is already teaching me new lessons. Today’s important lesson is that supporting a global organization requires schedule flexibility.

I was on a call this morning at 6 AM to support a group in Eastern Europe.

I was on a call late tonight at 9 PM to support a group in India.

And the best part is that I didn’t mind.  I love what I do so I’m happy to do it.

When you’re asking yourself, “How can I get people to support a global organization?”

One answer is recruit people who love their work.  It’s not the only answer.  It’s just my answer.

Goodnight world.  Time to end this long day.  There’s a lot of change to drive tomorrow.  I must be rested.

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