Why you don’t need outside help to develop your organisation

I offer outside help to develop your organisation.  I do sometimes wonder whether organisations need my help at all?!

I attended a rather excellent sales masterclass recently.  Among other things, we discussed the emotional reasons people buy our services.  People buy things for one of three reasons: pleasure, fear or pain.

My wife just bought a Kindle Fire.  She’s delighted with it.  She bought it for pleasure, and to stop her playing games on her work laptop.  She can now switch that off and play Sim City or whatever with impunity.  With discipline, I’m sure she could have kept her existing arrangement, but hey!  What do I know about work-life balance?

A friend of mine recently bought a new child car seat, fuelled by the fear that her existing restraint is not good enough to protect her toddler, given new laws came in from March 1.  I’m curious why the existing restraint was perfectly okay in February (even under the new legislation), but is no longer good enough?  But hey, what do I know about wellbeing?

I realised on the masterclass (if I didn’t already know) that I am in the business of selling organisational pain relief!  But are organisations in pain?

How are you experiencing organisational pain?

I’ve developed this short questionnaire to help you assess the level of your organisational pain.  I suspect you’re in pretty good shape, but here goes… give yourself one point for each statement that is true.

  1. Our corporate strategy is fully embedded into the way we operate
  2. Our local business plans are all completely aligned to the overall corporate plan
  3. Our customers all find it easy to do business with us
  4. Our people are completely engaged in the vision and live our values day-to-day
  5. There is no silo-mentality here – people work well together across organisational boundaries
  6. The last organisational restructure we did is totally embedded and working like a dream
  7. All our managers take full accountability for their team’s performance
  8. In fact, we don’t have managers, we have leaders
  9. We have a “right first time” customer-focused culture
  10. We all support and challenge each other to role model the right behaviours

Scoring

8-10 points

Well done, you have achieved significant organisational alignment.  I told you that you didn’t need any outside help, didn’t I?

4-7 points

Not bad.  Any slight organisational pain you might be feeling will probably go away on its own.  Keep doing the things you’re doing, things are bound to improve soon.

0-3 points

Never mind.  You’ve got used to working like this.  I guess things will always be this way.  You probably do not have any budget to invest in organisational development anyway, right?

 

But hey, what do I know about organisational development?

 

Jeremy J Lewis

The Organisational Fool

April 1, 2017 😉

Silence: there is now a Level Zero

I had the pleasure of exploring silence with a group of fellow coaches recently, facilitated ably by my colleague Ian Smith.  We concluded silence can be a gift, as it is received and understood by different people differently.

We experimented with silence to reflect on what silence meant, and then shared our thinking.  For the most part, the participants in this reflective discussion viewed silence as a positive thing, as it gives others time and space to think and reflect.  I was curious.  I see certain instances of silence as being quite destructive; those uncomfortable silences, when something needs to be said, but no one is saying it.  Like the silence that is taken as acquiescence in a meeting, but as soon as the meeting is over, people rebel and do not follow through with what was “agreed”.  Like the silence that leads to Groupthink.  Perhaps like the silence that ignores the ‘elephant in the room’.

Three levels of silence

This inspired me to research the current thinking out there in the blogosphere about silence.  I only found positive interpretations of silence.  Silence is often categorised into several levels.  I found examples of up to 12 levels.  This I find excessive, although I also find it excessive that the Eskimo-Aleut languages have 50 words for snow.

Sensible categorisations of silence appear to fall into three levels:

  1. The absence of sound
  2. A disinterest in external activity, where the mind is focused inwards
  3. A deep inner silence brought on through meditation, in pursuit of oneness and total contentment.

There is now a Level Zero

[Children’s movie spoiler alert]

Po: Lets just start at zero; Level Zero.
Shifu: Oh no. There is no such thing as Level Zero.
Thus starts the scene in Kung Fu Panda, where our hero, the overweight panda Po, begins his journey to enlightenment.  After Po hits a children’s punchbag and is sent flying into moving ropes and swinging pendulums, he endures being deposited into a tilting bowl, where he hits his head several times until the bowl tips over and sets off a chain reaction that causes swinging arms to smack him in the groin and then knock him violently into a fire pit. He slumps over next to his Sensei, Shifu, burned and charred.

Po: How did I do?
Shifu: There is now a Level Zero.

I propose four levels of silence for your consideration:

0. Uncomfortable silence

1. Comfortable silence

2. Reflective silence

3. Deep silence.

Level 0: uncomfortable silence

Uncomfortable silence arises through fear of being isolated because you have a different opinion from the majority.  This is closely aligned to Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s ideas in the Spiral of Silence.  People tend to remain silent for fear of social exclusion when they have a minority opinion that might challenge the group’s dominant idea.  They must constantly use energy to assess the climate in a social group and may choose to remain silent or ‘lose their voice’, especially if they have been criticised in the past.  This does not apply to those (at the top of Noelle-Neumann’s spiral) who are hardcore nonconformists or who represent the Avant-Garde.  Such people are less likely to remain silent.

The advent of the Internet has also arguably lowered this type of silence online, where people with minority (often extremist) views are likely to seek out others of similar views and use chat rooms to find their voice.  Such folk can also benefit from the anonymity of the Internet, which lowers the fear of reprisal, and has led to an uprising in airtime for controversial views.

In a workplace context, uncomfortable silence represents a denial of responsibility, allowing undiscussable topics to remain undiscussable, and ultimately degenerates into a ‘snakepit’ organisation, where people retreat into their silos and protect themselves against attack from each other.

Level 1: comfortable silence

The main problem with silence is that we do not know what it means when it happens.  Is the silence uncomfortable: a denial of responsibility, or comfortable: a true agreement to what is being discussed?

Comfortable silence happens when we are happy together, perhaps lost in our own thoughts and not needing to fill the silence with words.  We are comfortable with the people we are with.  This is a passive silence.

I suggest this is only possible if there are no hidden assumptions.  Very close friends and life partners can achieve this level of silence.

In the workplace, achieving this level of silence requires good facilitation to reveal hidden assumptions, discuss the undiscussables, explore the elephant in the room, etc.  This is necessarily not a silent activity and such facilitation may well move people quickly to level 2 silence.

Level 2: Reflective silence

Reflective silence is when you have the space and time to think.  As an individual, you would be well-advised to carve out time in your busy schedule to do this, or perhaps to use the services of a coach to gift you such time and space.

Level 2 silence becomes timeless, lost in your own thoughts.  You become disinterested in external activity, your mind is turned inwards.  You achieve a quietness inside, regardless of the external sounds.  It requires stillness, and yet is an active silence.

In the workplace, a good facilitator or group coach can gift you time and space to think as a team.

Level 3: Deep silence

Deep silence has its traditions in several ancient world religions, such as Zen Practice and Monastic Silence.  It is a silence that can be achieved through deep meditation.  You may well practise mindful meditation already, focusing on what is happening right now.  This does not require external silence.  In fact, deep silence is the pursuit of total oneness, total contentment and inner silence, regardless of any external sounds.  It is also possible regardless of what you are doing.  Deep silence does not require stillness, and yet is a passive silence

Conclusion

I tentatively suggest the following framework:

In the workplace, issues arise when silence is misunderstood.  When people push their own views, they demonstrate a ‘stay in control’ or ‘win, don’t lose’ mindset.  When silence follows, they may incorrectly assume agreement.  A more purposive mindset is to stay curious, adopt the ‘and’ stance (rather than the ‘but’ stance).  This can help to surface hidden assumptions, and allow people the space and time to find their voice.

The workplace goal is to move silence from being an active pursuit of denial, towards awareness of the silence and active pursuit of renewal.  This moves people’s energy from denying responsibility to surfacing hidden assumptions, to discussing the undiscussable.  It requires meetings to include the space and time to think, so that people can engage in the meaningful activity aligned to the organisation’s purpose.  It means people can find their voice and take more accountability.

Silence can help you make every meeting matter.

Jeremy J Lewis

Committed to making every meeting matter

Calling all SMEs and Charities in Yorkshire

We need your help to shape a programme of skills development for Yorkshire-based SMEs and Charities.  We’re asking you to complete a short survey that will only take you a few minutes.  The findings will help to build a value-for-money programme of workshops aimed at developing the leadership skills needed to grow your business.

Where do you turn when things get tough?

There is a famous story of a woodcutter who was sawing wood for several days straight.  The process of cutting naturally dulled his blade and the job became tougher and tougher.  He was far too busy getting the job done to realise a better solution would be to stop and sharpen his saw.

Leadership development for SMEs is a tough challenge.  In terms of investment in skills development for staff, managers and leaders, there is a large and widening gap between larger businesses and SMEs.  Training and development is a resource-hungry activity.  It is hard for SMEs to engage their people in upgrading their skills – there is just too much to get done today, in the business, every day.  Right?

Short workshops that build into a leadership development programme

CMdeltaConsulting specialises in developing leaders and building collaborative partnerships.  We have sketched out a programme of short workshops.  We intend to build it into a comprehensive programme of leadership skills development for SMEs and Charities.  And so, we need your help to shape the content of the programme.

Please complete our brief questionnaire

What workshops would interest you and your teams?  How long should they be?  How frequent?  What would you be willing to pay for this type of leadership development, or perhaps you think they should be free?  What have we missed?

Please click here to complete the survey.  It will only take you a few minutes.  And there’s a chance to win a half day of consulting, coaching or facilitation if you sign up to our mailing list in March (optional).

Take the survey

Thank you

MiRo Practitioner Training and Accreditation

Relevant to anyone interested in getting the most out of people at work, this one day intensive workshop will give you a working knowledge of personality and human behaviour in the workplace.  A rewarding and interesting day with the added bonus of accreditation as a MiRo Practitioner into the bargain.

I thoroughly enjoyed the session,learned loads and feel optimistic about integrating MiRo into my practice – Auriel Majumdar, Creative Business Coach

Accredited Practitioner Training Dates

29 March 2017

28 June 2017

27 September 2017

Further information and booking

MiRo Practitioner Accreditation Flyer

Call Jeremy 07766 420550 to reserve your place

What is the difference between management and leadership?

I sometimes get commissioned to deliver development for managers, i.e. delivering facilitated learning for people with ‘manager’ in their job title.  But I don’t consider myself to be in the business of management development.  I do however accept that one area on my work might be called leadership development.  So, what is the difference between management and leadership? Google this nugget and you’ll get a bundle of different answers.

At the risk of adding to the confusion, here’s my simple definition.  The leadership definition might surprise you:

  • Management is the act of overseeing a process
  • Leadership is the power to organise ideas into action.

In an organisational context, the processes managers oversee are often referred to as business processes.  In manufacturing, business processes turn inputs into outputs.  This concept can be extended to business processes in other sectors – there will always be some form of inputs (data, designs, resources) and the process turns these into outputs that customers want (information, products, services).

Leadership is the power to organise ideas into action; the power to change.  Deepak Chopra argues this power derives from a combination of creativity, the seed of an idea for the future, and the desire to enact it.  The desire to enact it requires organisation.  Such organisation requires you pay attention to the present to make your intention a future reality.  This is the essence of organisation, the essence of leadership.

Can I be both?

Yes, you can.  In fact, anybody can be a leader.

I argue that the desire to enact a future intention, coupled with the capability to make it happen is all you need to be considered a leader.  You do not need a job title.  In an organisational context, the future intention is called a vision.

There are only three levels of hierarchy in any organisation: strategic leaders, operational (or service) leaders and individuals.  Everything else is fluff to justify job titles, pay grades and HR functions.

  • At the individual contribution level, you are a leader if you choose to do something that aligns to the vision, then make it happen
  • At the operational/service leader level, you are a leader if you organise others to deliver the activities that deliver the vision. You probably have ‘supervisor’ or ‘manager’ in your job title, or perhaps ‘head of…’
  • At the strategic leader level, you are a leader if you organise the whole system to deliver the vision (the whole system comprises things like strategy, operations, people, structures, planning and performance mechanisms, engagement and team culture).
Leadership development at any level is about developing the Four Cs of Leadership

The skills and experience you need at each level are different, and depend on the organisation, the nature of its business and the scale of the activities in which you are involved.

But the leadership behaviours are uncannily similar across organisations, industries and sectors.  And they relate to the power to organise ideas into action.  Four elements must be present:

  • Commitment to the idea itself – the commitment to a vision
  • Competence, i.e. the ability to act – the leader must be good at some aspect of the activity in which they are engaged, and must be able to organise themselves to make progress towards that vision
  • Communication – though not explicit in my definition, the vision and the steps needed to move towards it must be articulated to influence and mobilise others
  • Change orientation – whereas management is about overseeing a defined process, which is fundamentally about stability, the leader must embrace change to make the vision a reality.

These are the Four Cs of Leadership.  You can build your leadership capability by considering the extent to which each of these is fundamentally embedded and working effectively within your organisation.

Jeremy J Lewis

Your help needed: participate in some research and discover your preferred ways of working

I need your help.  I have an amazing opportunity for you to benefit from some research into personality types and behavioural preferences.  But first, some context…

Developing your understanding of personality types and thinking styles is a useful way to improve your knowledge of motivation and behaviour in the workplace.

Millions of people across the world have undertaken assessments to determine their personality type.  There are a plethora of behavioural and personality type psychometric instruments out there.  However, the psychology of Carl Jung, as adapted and interpreted by one Isabel Briggs-Myers and one Katharine Cook Briggs (aka the Myers-Briggs thing), is one of the most recognised and commonly used.

Personality types

Here comes the “science”.  In a nutshell, your personality is determined by four dichotomies.  Firstly, how you take in (or Perceive) information.  This you can do in a detailed, sequential sort of way (Sensing) or a big picture, snapshot sort of way (iNtuition).  Then, you need to consider how you make decisions (or Judgements) based on that information.  This you can do objectively (Thinking) or empathetically (Feeling).  One of these Perceiving or Judging dichotomies will dominate your approach to dealing with the world.  Finally, you will put your energy into your dominant approach either by focusing on the external world (Extraversion) or by internalising it (Introversion).  The answers to these four dichotomies yield 16 personality types, each identified by a four-letter acronym.  Only it’s not “science”.  Rather, it’s a metaphor for observable behaviour, just like the Native American Medicine Wheel or even Astrology.

How these four dichotomies apply most often to you determines which of 16 personality types you have, which in turn determines how you are likely to respond to stimuli.

I sort of have a problem with this.  People are, well, people.  We are just trying to categorise certain observable behaviours.  Neuroscience now shows that our rational and emotional minds are quite able to be trained to respond in whatever way we choose to any given situation.  So why straightjacket us with a “type”?  And why make that type so darned complicated?

The concept of preference

What if some of these types were viewed simply as behavioural preferences?  What would these preferences be?  It turns out four such behavioural modes will suffice – Driving, Analysing, Organising and Energising.

What if we could recognise we already have relatively easy access to more than one behavioural mode, say two or even three of these modes?

I’m told I have an ISFP personality type.  I know I extravert my perceptions and introvert my feelings.  Apparently, this means I work with bursts of energy and makes me a P. Yet I am quite able to plan out my day too (J).  I’m also happy taking in information in different ways (S and N) and applying both rational thinking and emotional feelings (T and F) to make decisions.  I spend long periods of time focusing on others’ needs and taking in others’ perspectives (E) and I spend long periods of time on my own reflecting and making sense of that data (I).

I am all these things and more.  Perhaps we need a behavioural psychometric that understands people and I believe I have found one such tool. I use it a lot in my organisation development consulting, coaching and facilitation practice.  I’m so excited about I, I have become accredited to provide training to others to become MiRo Practitioners.

If you’d like to find out more about your behavioural preferences, and those of your teammates, I have something that might interest you.  MiRo Psychometrics are currently undertaking some research into benchmarking their model with the Myers Briggs model.

Your help needed

That’s why we need your help. We need 25 groups of 20 people to take a MiRo Assessment and another Myers Briggs assessment so that we can benchmark one against the other.

In return we can give you 20 free bespoke reports and a team report, plus up to a free day of practitioner time.  This package would normally be worth £2,500 in total.

We can take your team through the reports and help you to understand them and your team better in the context of your business or your situation. We want this to be a positive and rewarding experience for you.  And we hope that when it’s over you’ll want to know more about MiRo and want to do even more with the tool. However, if you simply want the free reports and the free training and consultancy that comes with them, then it’s all yours and we’ll leave it at that.

All we ask in return is that you spend a few minutes completing a very short questionnaire.

If you’d like to be considered to take part in the research or just want to know more, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Jeremy J Lewis

Why do you do what you do?

First published on LinkedIn, December 21, 2016.

I wrote a post around Christmastime last year saying I believe in Father Christmas, which received a comment about aligning what we do with what we believe in, and that if we could align what we do with what we believe in, then wouldn’t the world be a better place?

Today, I had a great conversation with a colleague concerning why we do the things we do, which got me thinking about why I do the things I do, and whether it is about aligning what I want with what I believe in.  My conclusion is that there is a third dimension – what I do.  Bringing all three of these together might perhaps uncover why I do what I do.

A framework to help you align your thinking

I present this thinking here for no other purpose than to suggest it as a framework for thinking about what you believe in, what you want and what you do.  You might just uncover why you do what you do, and if not, give pause for thought as we approach a New Year and those resolutions to choose something new or different.

I believe in people; I help people be the leaders they want to be; it makes me happy and fulfilled.  These are the ‘whats’ in the Venn diagram.  The intersections are, I believe, the ‘hows’:

  • I believe in people and I help people. I do that by consulting, coaching and facilitating. That is how I align what I believe with what I do
  • I do it with a non-judgmental attitude. I accept the leader you are now, confront the challenges you have and support you to make better choices, so that you become more potent as a leader.  This how I align what I want with what I believe in
  • Being part of a larger corporate machine would not make me happy or fulfilled. So, I do it as a freelance, self-employed consultant – coach – facilitator.  This aligns what I do with what I want.

The final intersection, right in the centre of the diagram, which brings together these ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ is, of course, the ‘why’: why do I do what I do?  And for me, that is the higher purpose of making a difference.

And so, I’m curious, why do you do what you do?

Jeremy J Lewis

CMdeltaConsulting

“Committed to making a difference”

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Eco-friendly consulting?

First published on LinkedIn, December 14, 2016

According to recycling.org.uk, being eco-friendly can be confusing and it can be difficult to know whether you’re doing it right.  It suggests you improve your recycling efforts by learning which type of collection is best and why different areas recycle and collect in different ways.

Is consulting like recycling?

Consulting can be confusing and it can be difficult to know whether you’re getting good advice.  You can improve your use of consultants by learning which type of consulting is best for you and why different firms deliver their services in different ways.

Expert, pair of hands or collaborative?

For example, do you want to hire an expert because you do not have the skills yourself?  Might work in the short-term, but how is this going to build capability to solve similar issues in the future?  Or perhaps you’re just short of a pair of hands to deliver a change programme.  Arguably, this is not consulting at all, more like hiring an expensive interim manager and again, once they leave, who will pick up the reins?

And then there is true collaborative consulting, where a whole-system and people-centred approach is taken to jointly understanding your issues, shaping and delivering solutions together and building your capability to solve similar problems for yourself in the future.  This requires consistently applying fundamental, robust principles and practices to achieve sustainable change.  You can think of this as Eco-friendly consulting because it makes best use of what you already have.  It does this by following that maxim of managing waste: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Reduce your use of consultants that use management fads

Wherever you look, there are fads: celebrities waxing on about the latest crash diet, ‘experts’ explaining how to use live snails or bird poo for skincare, and ‘tweet mirrors’ in the clothing section of department stores to name a few recent ones I’ve spotted.

The world of management and change can also sometimes appear full of fads: total quality management, lean thinking, six sigma, I could go on and on.

You can even have a go at inventing our own management fad: pick three numbers from 1-10 and have a go, for instance 3-6-9 will generate ‘Authentic Customer-focused Partnering’, doesn’t that sound good?

Management fad generator

Extract from the Management Fad Generator, courtesy of Sheffield Business School 

Add a few more words of your own and generate your very own management fad!

How do you know which of the ‘latest thinking’ is real and grounded in robust change theory and which are just fads that have been hijacked by firms looking to get hold of your money, with no real insight into the processes of sustainable change?

Thankfully for every fad, there is an antidote: perhaps listen to a dietician rather than a celebrity for slimming advice, try a value and common sense product for skincare such as NO AD (a company that does not advertise and has no brand and no superfluous packaging and hence is half the price of other ‘brands’, and wins awards for best sun care products), or even shop at Springfield’s traditional department store Costington’s, whose slogan is “100 years without a slogan!”  Okay that last one is from the Simpsons, but you get my point.

Ironically (nay, satirically) Costington’s does indicate that becoming fad-free can itself become a gimmick.

Reuse old theories that work

I believe deeply in tried and trusted processes of change; I believe there are three things you need to do well to effect change: (1) be clear on what needs to change; (2) invest in the support people need to make the change; (3) provide (positive) consequences for those who embrace the change and (negative) consequences for those who resist it.  Consistently applying this theory will save you time and money, and build a reliable approach you can reuse again and again.

Recycle those theories into practice

“Nothing is so practical as a good theory”, as one sage once said (it was Kurt Lewin, btw, in 1941).   And he was right.  Re-badging old theory as new techniques might even be desirable, modernizing ideas that work in today’s reality.  A bit like upcycling, really.  However, I’d recommend you check the theory that underpins your consultant’s techniques is robust, tested in the real world and not just another management fad, otherwise you might just be buying cheap tat that will fall apart when you try to put it to good use.

Jeremy J Lewis

#eco-friendly consulting from @growthepig

The messy job of restructuring, and how not to do it

First published on LinkedIn, December 2, 2016

Strategy informs structure, right?

Something needs to change.  So, you convene a strategy session with your leadership team, commission some market research, and in a relatively short time frame, you’ve set your strategy.  Logically, it is time to lift that off the page.  You need to put the right team in place to deliver it.  So, you sketch out a structure chart that will deliver it and then go about slotting names into places and recruiting for the gaps.

This is often the way of things.  Organisations set their strategy and then create a structure that supports that strategy.  On the face of it, this is eminently sensible.  The goal of organisation design is to maximise the effectiveness of the organisation in serving its purpose.  However, such formal structures are impacted by the informal structures, the power plays, the routines and the symbols of the existing culture.  And culture itself tends to be either ignored or taken for granted when restructuring is underway.

Typically, leaders assume purpose informs strategy informs structure in a linear, predictable way.  They draw a structure chart.  Then they hire into that structure based on capability and expected cultural fit.  And then names appear on the structure chart.  Some new, some existing.  And then the prevailing culture remains steadfastly in place, whether this was the intention or not.  If the culture is out of alignment with the strategy and purpose, then the desired future will never be achieved.

Where should culture feature?

A better mindset going into restructuring acknowledges the causality between strategy, structure and culture is mutual.  This means that the organisation design combines:

  • Appropriate formal and informal structures
  • The capabilities to deliver products/services
  • In a market where those products/services are valued
  • The internal machinations that serve the purpose.

In other words, structure, strategy and culture interdependently in alignment.  It means aligning head, heart and hands.

This requires a different approach to restructuring, more of a configuration of the subsystems.  Indeed, in his 1989 work Mintzberg on management, Henry Mintzberg suggests organisation design is more a LEGO construction than a jigsaw; a creation that goes beyond configuration.

Current theories and good practices in organisation design combine all the above.  They advocate a forward-looking systems-based approach, coupled with an assumption of mutual causality between subsystems and hence a ‘beyond configuration’ approach to designing organisations.

So far, so good.  However, I suggest this is only half the story.

Organisational change is culture change

I believe organisational change is culture change and so culture should be given special attention during change.  I believe the first step in restructuring is to understand the past by considering culture and specifically how the organisation learns.  What are the values, beliefs, behaviours and underlying mindset that collectively define the organisation? I then advocate using organisation development techniques to understand how the organisation got to where it is today by learning from its past.  This will likely consider incrementalism, retrospective sense-making and the development of emergent strategies and structures.  I tend to do this by facilitating workshops with leaders and then with managers and other members of staff to triangulate the findings.

Only then should leaders turn their attention to the future and sketch out some ideas for an appropriate organisation design.  This inherently requires considering the mutual causality between strategy, structure and culture.

By reflecting on the backward-looking loop and engaging others in that reflective exercise, leaders will achieve a deeper understanding of where the organisation is today and what really needs to change to realise the desired future.  And generally, it is not just names on a structure chart.

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

Look after your shiny pennies

First published on LinkedIn, November 14, 2016

Everybody seems to be talking about talent management and succession planning.  Mostly, they’re criticising the dreaded nine-box grid.  I’ve noticed this dread some up in conversation last month at the Northern Organisational Development Network and recently in client meetings.  The issue is neatly summarised in this excellent article by Lucy Adams https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/9-box-grid-fatigue-lucy-adams .

*Metaphor alert*

I think of talent as the shiny pennies you sometimes get in your small change, gleaming with potential to be different to their weather-worn contempories.  We are told if we look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves.  Do we nurture these new pennies, or do we toss them into a piggy bank or oversized whisky bottle to dull alongside their tarnished brethren?

If you treat your talent this way – in other words, the same way you treat all your small change – you will lose sight of their shininess, their potential.  And, of course, you don’t ever see them again unless you shake out the piggy bank and rifle through your change.  Worse still, you must smash the bottle to release the potential since expecting talent to rise to the top automatically and find its way through the bottleneck is clearly nonsense (and it’s no accident the bottleneck is always at the top of the bottle!)

A possible solution

Perhaps it would be better to drop your change into an open-necked jar.  That way, you might still see your shiny pennies and can reach in and grab a few, you know, if you want to.  But you don’t.

Talent management and succession planning are processes that were created to address this issue.  Liken them if you will to an automatic coin sorter.  My kids were given automatic coin sorters when they opened their ‘LittleSaver’ (or some such thing) bank accounts; you pop your coin in a slot at the top and it slides into a different holder dependent on the size of the coin.  Doesn’t work with 50 pence pieces though and it doesn’t encourage you to do anything with your savings.  Even electric coins sorters that can deal with huge volumes and tally up the coins into baggable denominations don’t do that.  They just sort it, bag it, bank it.

It strikes me we are dealing with our small change like we deal with our talent in the darned nine-box grid.  Sort it, bag it, bank it.  Let it fester.

Why?

HR professionals have good intentions when designing talent management processes, however they are processes.  They have over-rationalised an emotive subject to pretend it is not emotive.  They are colluding with managers to avoid the real work of managing talent and planning succession.

The antidote?
  1. Reconnect with the reason you are managing talent.  To plan succession, use those shiny pennies.
  2. Scrap the process-centred thinking.  I suggest root cause analysis of what works and what does not. Talent management is not working.  Start with culture, not process.  Your (talent) culture eats your (talent) strategy for breakfast, and goes on to polish off your (talent) processes for lunch.  Use a culture web analysis to uncover what’s going on
  3. DO SOMETHING with talented people to nurture and develop them. In the words of Marie Kondo (from the awesome Life changing magic of tidying), to “see these coins, stripped of their dignity as money, is heartrending.  I beg you to rescue these forgotten coins wasting away in your home by adopting the motto, ‘into my wallet’!”

It’s heartrending to to me to see these talented people, stripped of their dignity as human beings, populating a nine-box grid as initials in a succession plan that will never be fulfilled.  I beg you to rescue these forgotten people wasting away in your organisation by adopting the motto, [complete the sentence in not more than 10 words].

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig