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Jane Sparrow’s interview with Bob Garlick in the recent Business Book Talk is a wonderful example of leading by example. If you just listen to how Jane talks about her approach to leading employees, you get an immediate sense of the quality and common sense she distills in her book The Culture Builders. Her focus on the importance of middle managers in making things happen may not be radically new but the pragmatism that she brings to the process of mobilizing them is immediately convincing. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy – particularly with the five distinctive roles that she outlines for middle managers (prophet, storyteller, strategist, coach, pilot) – but then, just maybe there are middle managers out there who are looking for the opportunity to step up to a challenge; to make a difference to their organization and not spend their whole time simply as the bulldogs of business-as-usual.
If you are a facilitator, a change manager … even a program manager, then check this out! The idea of Open Space (a form of large group facilitation) has been going for over 20 years. Michael Lindfield, one of the champions of the approach, described it as ”a simple and effective way of creating an environment where things are possible”. That may sound slightly pink and fluffy but, goodness me, doesn’t it also describe the kind of thing that most organizations need in the struggle to keep a head above the economic crisis and keep in touch with the breakneck speed of social, technological and business change? This year’s World Open Space event is in London, between 11th and 14th October. Gower’s contribution to the concept is Kerry Napuk and Eddy Palmer’s Large Group Facilitator’s Manual, which will be on show at the event.
Have a look at Benny White’s story The Focused Organization – Benny White – Part One – by Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez.mov on YouTube. 100 years ago he wrestled with the problem of focussing on what his business needed and how to realise effective strategy in a way that resonates completely with what you’re experiencing today. The Focused Organization is Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez’ take on how to do fewer projects but achieve more in terms of strategy execution.
You are lucky if you’re the HR practitioner whose advice is followed without challenge and who is consulted oracle-like before any action is taken toward change. More often, change is already underway by the time HR is first involved: thought processes gone through; decisions have been made; perhaps even action taken.
Entering the change process at this stage, HR must be able to assess how sound the reasoning is, how much the readiness has been examined, how robust the plans for solutions are and how much attention is being paid to the effect on the people. Any weaknesses or gaps found in the assessment put HR in the position of needing to slow things down and get their clients to re-examine earlier decisions, assumptions or actions. It is impossible to do this without strong influencing skills.
Influence is underpinned by credibility and made easier through relationship and HR practitioners must devote energy to establishing their credibility and building their relationships widely so that when the time comes to need to influence, the ground will be fertile. The art of influence is knowing when to push and when to pull; when to ask and when to tell; when to pace the client and when to lead. It is knowing how to insist without dogmatism; how to compromise without folding; and how to withdraw leaving the way open for future progress.
Without influence, the HR practitioner is confined to executing the will of the leaders and cannot add true value to the direction and management of change.
This article (found on their website) is written by Jan Hills who is the partner at Orion Partners and responsible for the HR strategy and HR capability service lines. Jan co-wrote the Gower book Developing HR Talent which is part of the Gower HR Transformation Series.
Ruth Murray-Webster and Sergio Pellegrino’s paper Multi-paradigmatic Perspectives on a Business Transformation Programme may feel like a bit of a mouthful but I do encourage you to look beyond the title of the piece. Business transformation programmes are surely the home of unintended consequences to business decisions. Ruth and Sergio have some interesting case examples and, once you can get past the academic style of their writing, some very useful observations to help you understand just what is going on during business change and, by extension to guide and adapt, the programme accordingly. Ruth Murray-Webster is co-author of Understanding and Managing Risk Attitude, Managing Group Risk Attitude, A Short Guide to Facilitating Risk Management and the forthcoming, A Short Guide to Risk Appetite, all published by Gower.
Eddie Obeng’s Pentacle are hosting a one day virtual conference on 9th November in the QUBE (their virtual space) on Project Without Boundaries. It looks like an excellent programme. If you join the Pentacle Linked-in Group you can join in (any part or all of the day) for FREE. For me, Eddie Obeng is one of the top three thinkers on project management. I experienced the virtual environment of the QUBE at a previous conference (I was logged in via my laptop from home) and it is an extraordinary way of interacting in a single space with people from all over the world. Have a look at the programme, join the Pentacle Linkedin Group and come and join the virtual conference. It is not to be missed!
Roger Davies’ video interview around value management highlights the continued problems in project and programme management; the fact that we persist in doing the wrong things, for the wrong reasons and, what’s worse, we do them rather badly. Roger posits value management as a process for ensuring the effectiveness of big programmes. Roger Davies is author of Value Management: Translating Aspirations into Performance, published by Gower.
The one thing most authors agree on when it comes to wicked problems is that you need a non-standard approach to solving them. Neil Farmer, in his white paper,offers a useful definition and outlines a set of behaviours that can be helpful. David Hancock takes a similar approach in his article in the RMA Journal but, critically adds an additional category of problem: the tame problem, the wicked problem and the messy problem. Neil Farmer is author of The Invisible Organization. David Hancock is author of Tame, Messy and Wicked Risk Leadership.
Just a last minute reminder about the Association of Project Management Conference which is this Thursday (21st October in Central London). The conference programme showcases Gower authors: Stephen Jenner (Transforming Government and Public Services) is speaking on Portfolio Management; David Hancock (Tame, Messy and Wicked Risk Leadership) on Rethinking Risk and Project Management, Michael Cavanagh (2nd Order Project Management) is the closing speaker and, Darren Dalcher, (Series Editor Advances in Project Management and Fundamentals of Project Management) is giving the welcome address and setting the scene.
New Demographics, New Workspace: Office Design for the Changing Workforce is out next month. This is very much a book of the moment which explores how organizations can design their work and their workspace to make it more relevant to the knowledge economy and to a diverse workforce made up of older workers, generation X, Y and Z employees. The Welcoming Workplace, which is the project on which Jeremy Myerson and his co-authors based their research, has a wonderful website, hosted by the Helen Hamlyn Centre, stuffed full of images and recommendations; a real treasure trove for office designers and design students alike.