My earliest organization builds were Project Management Offices (PMO’s). Bring a bunch of project managers (PMs) together and what do you get? A lot of process- and checklist-happy people.
While I certainly believe in process, and checklists can be helpful, they also provide a very real danger to those that use them.
What could possibly be dangerous about checklists? And aren’t processes, vs approaching everything willy nilly, a good thing? What is there to be afraid of?
I fear but one thing. The sense of security they can provide.
Projects – by definition – are a unique endeavor, with a defined start and end, that result in something new (product, service, etc).
While every project is unique, the steps that we use to execute them are often similar. The reason why standardized processes and checklists frequently work and are sought after are due to those similarities.
What I did on my summer vacation
When our family goes on vacation, invariably I bring a few books to read. At first, there will be mindless fiction, allowing me to decompress and put work aside. Eventually, I find my way to a new non-fiction read, designed to create new connections and insights I can bring back to my day job.
Seth Godin’s Linchpin was my 4th of July reading this summer. I had asked a colleague what book he would recommend and he didn’t hesitate. “Given what I know about you, and how you think about your work, you need to read this book.”
I was intrigued, and added it to my Kindle for a leisurely read. What I did not expect was for it to light a fire that would last for months. A fire that bed rest and surgery could not put out.
Our human nature likes to label things. We classify something to create a relative context of what it is and is not. The next time we run into a similar thing, we already have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
While that works quite well for getting through the day – clearly that coffee maker is not a microwave – it creates risk of misidentification of people.
I recently read an article that introduced me to the concept of I- and T-shaped individuals in an organization.
Is there a choice between specialization and versatility?
For the most simplified description, individuals that are an “I” are deep specialists in a particular field. “T” individuals supplement that deep knowledge with some broad and shallow capabilities that allow them to partner across fields or functions.
In any communication, there is a risk of misinterpretation of the message between sender and receiver.
When we plan our communications, we intend to send message “X.” A recipient receives and translates our message with his or her own lens, history and perspective. The result may be that “Y” is what’s heard.
There is a reason for the expression “an image is worth 1,000 words.” If we want our message sent and received as we intend, images can make all the difference.
We’ve all seen them – those powerpoint presentations or infographics that make a message stick. Images that lessen the need to interpret what is being said, and create a mental image consistent with the sender’s intent.
For better or worse, leaders spend a lot of their time communicating – both sending and receiving. If that communication is limited to words, there is a risk of misinterpretation on both directions. Yet, the use of visual elements can accelerate alignment.
We’ve all done it – seen amazing powerpoint presentations or other images that we think “wow…I couldn’t do that.” Of course you can. We all can.
Following these steps, we can increase the “stickiness” of our messages through imagery.
The Hero’s Journey
Change Management is focused on transforming what is into what could be. This is very much aligned to the Hero’s journey of preparation, transformation and the return.
- Preparation – Readying for the transformation by obtaining necessary skills, resources, and direction.
- Transformation – Affect the change. Whether it is internal or external, slay the dragons and make the change the new normal.
- The Return – Share learnings to help others in their preparation to easy the journey.
When given a new assignment, we may not have much time to prepare. We may be expected to hit the ground running and immediately demonstrate value.
With no time to prepare, and an uncertain path ahead to the horizon, what can a change leader do to make forward progress?
Every Hero Needs a Mentor
In every hero story, there is a mentor that helps guide the way. In the work environment, there are likely several.
Reach out to people and create relationships. In every organization, there are people we can learn from, happy to help someone along their way. We just need to find them.
The communications challenge
On average, 204 billion emails, 500 million tweets and 55 million Facebook updates are sent every day.
Our world has become centered around immediate communication and response. Often in 140 characters or less.
With 2.9 devices per person*, we have more ways to communicate than we do people to communicate with. Somehow, with all this technology, we’re communicating more and saying less.
The shift in communications style with the introduction of email meant we could be more casual. Less thoughtful. Hey, it’s email. No worries about the time it takes to type a message out, the cost of postage, or the delay in delivery.
Communications quickly became instantaneous within companies or between friends and family.
The risk with instantaneous communication
With social media, communications are now immediate around the globe. Not only can we share something quickly, it can go viral overnight. Any content.
With such speed of communicating, we expect our needs will be addressed as rapidly. Have a complaint? Post it on Twitter and time the response. It’s quite a change from comment cards or phone calls to a service line.
Not only do we expect, and often receive immediate consideration, the world is watching.