Friday, April 27, 2007

Creating Conditions for...

Related somewhat to my blog entry The Value of Assessing Change Readiness in Change Efforts, is the concept of "creating conditions for... "

I was in a very interesting meeting today discussing the information management implications of wiki tools, in particular how to keep what is useful, and what is required by legislation and regulation, and how to get rid of the rest (some might call transitory records).

During the discussion, a comment triggered for me the notion of the value, in a collaborative work environment, of not simply erecting barriers, but instead working with others to create the conditions for success, whatever that needs to mean in a particular context. (It's the opposite, you could say, of setting someone up to take a fall.)

That would no doubt require a collaborative mind set, as I mentioned in Pinpointing Behaviour that Blocks Collaboration - appreciative inquiry, active listening and learning, balancing advocacy with inquiry, empowering others, etc.

I would also call creating conditions in this context to be very closely related to facilitative leadership.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Value of Assessing Readiness in Change Efforts

First off, I have to say that I personally find the term "change management" irritating for some reason. I find myself shaking my head every time I see the term come up in plans or initiatives. Maybe it's because I'm reacting to underlying principles or philosophies of dealing with knowledge workers that are still overly rooted (implicitly or explicitly) in the scientific management method. Maybe it's a reaction to strategies and approaches that seem to draw way to heavily on Pavlov and Skinner to guide human behaviour in an organizational setting. Or maybe it's that the concept of control features prominently in definitions of management, and I wonder about the amount of control that can really be exercised in changing culture in complex, unordered systems that are today's organizations.

Nonetheless, I think there is much value in looking at the concept of change "readiness" at both the organizational and individual level.

To achieve an agreed upon end-state, does the organization have the right roles, responsibilities, policies, structure, processes and work flows, governance and accountabilities, and physical environment.

Do the individuals involved or implicated have the right awareness and understanding, capability, information and contextual knowledge and comfort level to perform effectively at the end-state.

(Reminds me of Situational Leadership in some ways.)

I was always impressed how JetForm (purchased a few years back by Adobe) had an Organizational Readiness Office with very talented, dedicated people, responsible for ensuring that the entire organization, and reseller channel, was ready to market, sell, distribute, consult on, and support JetForm products and related services.

In 2000, the Canadian Federal Government created the Organizational Readiness Office to build greater information management, information technology, and service delivery capabilities across government to better enable successful large-scale change and modernization initiatives.

Looking to manage change, start with readiness.

Friday, April 20, 2007

5 Blogs That Make Me Think

I was quickly reviewing blog entries in my reader this morning, and I came across an entry in Mark Blevis' blog nominating me for a Thinking Blogger Award - a very big surprise. Mark is well versed and traveled across the Internet, and is a leader in the realm of Podcasting, so his positive comments are very much appreciated.. thanks Mark!

For those of you interested in the origins (from what I understand) of this award, visit The Thinking Blog.

Now.. for my nominations. I have a very big problem. There are far MORE than 5 blogs that make me think. Of the ones that I track regularly, I can't even identify the top 5 that make me think the most, as they cover related topics from different, valuable perspectives. Despite the "official" title for the list below, please consider them "5 OF the MANY blogs that make me think."

My nominations for 5 (of the) Blogs that Make Me Think (too much) are:

Anecdote by Shawn Callahan and Mark Schenk
Cognitive Edge by Dave Snowden
Green Chameleon - by Patrick Lambe
Everything Is Miscellaneous - by David Weinberger
How to Save the World - by Dave Pollard

Congratulations, you won a !

For my Honourable Mentions, check out Blog in Blogs that Rock, and Great Reading From Other Blogs on my blog.

Should you (the winners above) choose to participate in this meme, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.

  • If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to five blogs that make you think.
  • Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
  • Optional: Proudly display the Thinking Blogger Award with a link to the post that you wrote (available in silver or gold version).

Monday, April 16, 2007

Context is Everything

This past Sunday I came across a reprint in a local paper of a Washington Post article titled Pearls Before Breakfast. (Well worth the read.) It described an experiment that involved virtuoso violist Joshua Bell posing as a busker in the D.C transit system (L'Enfant Plaza) and playing a number of notable classical pieces to see if anyone would notice. He made $32.17 for 43 minutes of playing, and only a few of the 1,097 passers-by took true notice, one of which recognized Bell from a past concert performance. An interesting, perhaps not unexpected result.

A number of the people who walked by were interviewed by the writer, and was seems to be relatively consistent is that people were more or less "tuned out" - they were focused on their journey, their personal challenges, their work challenges. Being a commuter, I can certainly understand.

But I think context plays into this story as well. No one was expecting to see a concert violinist who can earn up to $1000 a minute (and did the soundtrack for the Red Violin by the way) busk dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and ball cap.

That's completely out of context. Like meeting someone in a local shopping mall that you only see at the cottage. You either don't see them at all, or they look vaguely familiar but you can't place them.

To me, this certainly points (again) to the importance of context in information, learning and knowledge creation.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Escalator "Autopilot"

For some reason lately, I've been noticing an interesting phenomenon - people who stop walking once they are on an escalator.

I'm sure you've seen it before as well. People who are walking smartly by themselves towards an escalator will immediately stop once they are on it, even when it is completely empty. And some people get annoyed when others try to get past.

Admittedly, some days I too stop because I just "don't feel like walking down." Maybe I'm taking a breather or something. But I suspect the majority of people are not really aware of what they're doing and why. Maybe it's "autopilot", or just something they always do. I think I'm going to start asking a few people, if I can find a way to do it without annoying or scaring people. I can just hear the talk at the local Starbucks lineup - "Hey.. did you see that crazy guy asking people whey the stop walking on escalators... what a nut job!"

Thank god for autopilot though, or else how could we get through the day. Without those things we do and think automatically, every activity would be a chore and take way too much time. But some times we need to stop and ask ourselves questions like: "why do I think this way?" what am I doing?" "why am I doing it?" and "do I want to continue doing it?" Using a different pronoun (like we) it almost sounds a bit like performance improvement.

Perhaps one of the ways we can all better adapt to change is to stop every once and a while and ask ourselves these questions. I good facilitators must always be aware of their own biases and behaviours so that they can work to consciously neutralize them so they don't interfere with workshop / event objectives and skew the environment for participants. I also know that asking these types of questions are closely linked to leadership development and Goldman's Emotional Intelligence. But I see a very close link to facilitating personal change.

Rather than just reacting to what is happening, taking a few minutes to question reactions, to know yourself better, sounds to me like a good change strategy.

So how did I get from escalator autopilot to personal change. Not sure, but it seems to make some sense.