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Thriving on Chaos – Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

As we’re more than half way through 2021 and those of us in Australia enter a new financial year amidst lockdown, the covid chaos of the past 18 months remains a challenge. 

Like many, I recently moved to a home office after selling my business premises. It took ages to clear bookshelves as I fell into the trap of glancing over highlighted passages of books that had helped my career; and couldn’t bear to part with copies signed by authors I knew. Since my days as an executive with IBM, I admired the no-nonsense, energetic delivery of former McKinsey management guru, Tom Peters who wrote the New York Times #1 best-seller, In Search of Excellence.  We met at a conference when I started out as an author and speaker. Over 20 years later, I dusted off his lesser-known tome; Thriving on Chaos. Although written after the 1987 stock market crash, the title is equally relevant today.

Catherine DeVrye and Tom Peters
Catherine DeVrye and Tom Peters

The inside jacket flap states:

“Everywhere and every day, managers confront shattering and accelerating change…in a chaotic new world.”

Hmmm, sound familiar? I haven’t had a chance to re-read the entire book but some chapter headings are just as applicable today in what Peters labelled:

Prescriptions for a World Turned Upside Down:

Inset: Thriving on Chaos book by Tom Peters

Not every chapter is as relevant but most sound practices stand the test of time. So too, I’m reminded of Peter Drucker who, in 1954, published The Changing World of the Executive. Although that was decades before I attended Harvard University, his legendary quote was prominent in our leadership curriculum:

  • Achieving flexibility by empowering people
  • Use self-managing teams
  • Learning to love change
  • Reconceive the middle managers role
  • Decentralise information, authority & strategic planning
  • Master paradox

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Yes, change is constant. In my own book, Chapter 14 of Hot Lemon & Honey – Reflections for Success in Times of Change is titled:

“Change is inevitable. Learning from change is optional!”

Peter Drucker passed away in 2005, aged 95 and Tom Peters turns 78 this year and still actively comments on Twitter with his trademark candour. Amidst some of the fads of self-proclaimed ‘thought leaders’ of today, don’t we need sustainable wisdom that stands the test of time?

Timeless! I love my Kindle but sorting through those physical bookshelves left me with a lingering sense of lingering déjà vu—that sometimes the more things change, the more they remain the same.

In this current age of covid chaos, will your decisions be based on a trendy whim or on sustainable wisdom? Will you be a victim or a victor of change? Those choices are entirely yours and I’m sure you’ll choose wisely.

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Posted in The world @work

7 steps to successfully implementing any new technology in the workplace

Implementing a new technology tool can be a huge challenge within an organisation. Slade Group recently upgraded all of our team from PCs to Surface Pros – a 2-in-1 detachable laptop/tablet, which truly allows us to work anywhere, from the desk to the sofa (we have several couches in breakout spaces within our office). While we love our new hardware and are adapting to its new software, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to facilitate a smooth technology transition.

No matter that as consumers we all like to get our hands on something shiny, in a professional environment successfully implementing new tech means you’ll need to prep for the changeover, including organising employee training. Then check-in with your champions or super users, while keeping track of everyone’s progress, and provide additional support for those who are less tech-savvy. Post implementation it makes sense to evaluate the project, such as which aspects of the roll-out worked well and what could be improved next time.

Below are 7 steps to help ease your team through transition when implementing a new technology or process:

  1. Communication – Articulate the benefits of the new technology or process, explain what motivated the change and address what could be at stake if the implementation fails, giving ownership to everyone collectively.
  2. Transparency – From end user to senior management, keeping everyone in the loop is key to maintain support for the change, particularly if you hit a hurdle or the project is delayed.
  3. Keep it simple – Don’t over complicate the process. Start at the most basic level, progress in small steps and be prepared to have lots of patience.
  4. Have a knowledgeable support system – Not everyone learns at the same pace, so try to customise your training to adapt to different learning styles. Run multiple training sessions as well as one-on-one sessions, ensuring all employees know the basics of the technology before moving on to more detailed and complicated features.
  5. Incentivise technology use – Rewarding employees for their uptake and support is a fantastic way to increase productivity. Organise an awards event and establish prize categories to create a buzz about your achievements. Providing certificates or gift vouchers is relatively low cost to the overall success of your project.
  6. Feedback – Value opinions by taking the time to collect and address feedback. Employees who feel that their concerns have been heard and respected will ultimately be happier and more engaged in future.
  7. Evaluation – As with any change management project, adoption and some attrition will be ongoing, so monitoring the use of the new system/technology beyond the implementation phase is extremely important.

No matter what new technology or processes you are planning to implement in your business, following these simple steps will help you set the stage for a successful transition.

Now that I have the option to touch, type or handwrite on my Surface Pro, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the world @work… I’ll respond from my desk, or not!

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Challenging questions about change

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl

Have you ever wondered why the subject of change can provoke strong emotions?

Back in the fixed-line age of last century(!) when timed local calls were first floated by our national carrier, there was a tsunami of public rejection. Just five year later when Motorola and Nokia were offering us the new-new thing, that same ‘public’ jumped on board without questioning the fact that they would be billed on the basis of timed local calls.

I’ve heard individuals describe themselves in interviews as either good or bad at handling change. Typically it’s not as black and white as that, as we all respond to change differently, and how change per se is introduced to us, can impact our emotional and cognitive response.

  1. Do you understand your response to change?

When reflecting on your past responses to change, both in your personal and professional spheres, are you aware of what underpins your behaviour? A move interstate, a teenager pushing back, a new housing development going up next door, a relationship breakup, a new boss, a bad accident? In ‘work speak’, I’m alluding to our motivators, those forces that drive our individual and team responses to change that impact productivity.

This is a great question to ponder separately, not only when you’re interviewing a potential candidate for your organisation. Consider how you personally affect change in your organisation, how change affects your team, or broadly others in your workplace.

I often challenge candidates by asking: “When you do decide to embrace change, are you pretty loyal to that change… particularly when you are convinced it is the right decision?” I might also pose a behavioural question such as, “What is your best example of a time when you have embraced a significant change, only to discover that you might have been better off taking a more measured approach?” This is a great way of helping an individual recognise that of course, whichever way they manage change, it’s likely they handle it differently to others.

When you challenge yourself on this question, you might also find it helpful to consider how your motivations are orientated. For example, are they past, present or future orientated? What impact might that have on how you embrace change and help others embrace it as well?

  1. Talk it over or lose the advantage

When we remember that we each hold different motivators, it helps us to understand how we respond to change differently. Research such as that presented by Abraham Maslow and Deci & Ryan, also tells us that what you expect and believe are critical to your ability to embrace or reject change. Your experience, skills, knowledge and sense of self-esteem are also important factors.

Do you know what truly motivates you when it comes to change? What about your team members? Most of us think we know what motivates our behaviour and therefore, how to motivate others we work with. I wonder if we do really know, or just think we know.

Having insight into your own personality, in turn helps you to understand others, particularly on the subject of adaptability to change. At the senior leadership level it goes much deeper than personality profiling; research by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan suggests personality informs approximately 30% of how we are motivated at any given moment. Context is ‘king’ when we talk about change, which means deeply exploring the situation in our conversations with candidates or colleagues.

How do others rate you and your team when it comes to leading or embracing change? What assumptions might you or others be making, and how do these impact the wider organisation?

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Posted in Education, Slade Executive, The world @work