Why is a bridge and water such a good explanation of how people go wrong with business transformation?

Why is a bridge and water such a good explanation of how people go wrong with business transformation?

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I use this image to open a lot of my learning and teaching on service and business transformation. What do you see?

Some see

  • white water – froth and waste which we can remove one obstacle at a time, allowing us to see more at each step
  • the chance to bore out a concrete channel to carry the water smoothly… until the detritus builds up again
  • a flood of demand we need to build defences against
  • a rich, living ecosystem we should explore
  • upstream and downstream opportunities for improvement
  • a keystone arch – a miraculous way to make a bridge support its own weight. But try to copy someone else’s business excellence without understanding the scaffolding needed to make it work, and you’re just throwing stones in the air and hoping they stick.

The point is that when I say ‘here’s an image which is about business transformation’, everyone responds from their perspective, their understanding.

What do you see?

#businesstransformation #servicetransformation #metaphor #learning

There are five core things which, if you make them your practice, are likely to lead to organisational success.

Three basics:

  1. Honest conversations, discussing the undiscussable of emotions and reasoning – nothing can develop unless there’s a shared effort to get at the truth
  2. Clarity – no learning is possible, and productivity and psychological safety are unlikely, without clarity of roles, tasks, decision-making, and relationships
  3. Learning – true learning isn’t possible without planning, prediction, and learning and reflective practices

These three create a learning system

4. Culture shaping, understanding that leaders and systems and emotional responses to them create conditions which generate psychological safety and productivity – or not.

A productive system.

Intent – measure customer / citizen / community outcomes – as they judge them.

A purposeful system.

Culture and achievement of intent are self-correcting measures – if you measure the actual outcomes of your practices; the experience of employees and customers, and learn what works, you can’t go wrong.

But you have to make them a practice – daily, built-in, acknowledging your weaknesses.

Download the ‘five core practices’ here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/fqlktld46xcmgs4/Benjamin%20Taylor%20-%20five%20core%20leadership%20practices%20for%20linkedin.pdf?dl=0

Which practice do you need to work on the most?

#complexity#transformation#culture#leadership

Local public services in the UK face a ‘perfect’ storm – we need Adaptive Councils

The challenges appear insurmountable. Conditions that are truly ‘turbulent, uncertain, novel, and ambiguous’. And we are running on empty. 

This paper, from @RedQuadrant and the Public Service Transformation Academy @ServiceReform, sets out twelve principles for an adaptive approach to meet the needs of our circumstances.

Which of these twelve capabilities do you think is the most important? Which have we missed? Did we get any wrong?

Full paper: https://lnkd.in/gXn9CkX

PSTA page: https://bit.ly/2JF7Hfp

#adaptivecouncil#publicservice#localgovernment#adaptability#organisation

What would you say if I told you customer intimacy was dangerous?

If you want to really satisfy your customers, read on.

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  • Most organisations hear ‘listen to what the customer needs’ and say ‘yes! optimise for this!’
  • They hear ‘transactional efficiency saves money’, and go ‘yes! everything efficient!’

Truth: there are two types of customer service flavours:

1) transactional – customers can reliably specify and find the right service, and just want it over with – or not needed at all. Paying a bill, changing address. You want reliable, standardised, low-cost activity to drive volume, fast.

2) emotional/’customer intimacy’ – when you really need to listen to know what the customer needs. Understand. Experts, specialists to work with them for a joint solution, and every requirement is a new, unique little project.

You can do one, or t’other. But try to mix and match, you’ve got problems. 

Treating emotional as transactional fails to meet the needs, costs you more, and upsets customers. Treating transactional as emotional… well, same.

Which parts of your service require customer intimacy? Which operational effectiveness? Are you sure?

Have you ever been given the wrong sort of service?

#customerservice#effectiveness#organisation#operatingmodel

We’re all trying to make sense of things – in our own way and from where we are

Everyone responds to the incentives, demands, risks, and situations they face – only a tiny bit of this is visible to anyone else.

That’s why I use the ‘blind men and the elephant’. 

Blind men describing an elephant by Hokusai Which part of the elephant are you in? (Apologies for the metaphor)

My point is not that we can ever see ‘the whole of the elephant’ – forget it. 
Everyone’s world is their own, unique, based on what’s going on in their life and how they make sense of it.

The front end is sharp, spiky. Dangerous. Being there is a world of pain. Everything you send them looks like more spiky and dangerous stuff. 

The very back of the elephant? The universe is only sending them one message – dung.

This can help us at three levels

  • emotional literacy: if I don’t know what’s going on in their world, I can enquire, learn, adapt
  • thinking strategically: ‘If I’m in elephant rider world, trying to work with elephant foot people, that’s not just person-to-person’
  • thinking about changing the conditions of the different worlds – ‘how can I do what I need to do now, but make it slightly easier for our parts of the world to communicate’

What’s your best tip for getting into the worlds of other people – understanding what’s really going on for them?

#complexity#society#weltanschauung#organisations

A practical approach to making decisions in complexity

First, you establish enough shared context to move on – so you all know what is happening around you.

Then, you establish enough shared purpose or intent to move on.

Remember, you all need to be able to move to the next step together – any problems, back down you go!

Then, identify the critical ‘what if’ (risk) and ‘how to’ (outcome) questions which, if answered, will allow us to define the work to achieve the intent.

Generate ideas to answer those critical questions, select the best, and check benefits and concerns of the actions they suggest – do a mini ‘seven steps’ on each piece of work if necessary

Then assign tasks and get on with work… and learn what you’ve done wrong. 

The golden rule is:

any time you get a surprise, e.g. you learn that we didn’t understand the context, that our purpose might be counterproductive, that we didn’t really understand the context, that we’re answering a question wrong…
…you have to all go back down as many steps as needed to correct that problem.

It takes practice. And it works.

Where does your team go wrong on decision-making in complex times? Where do you get it right?

#decisionmaking#complexity#organisation

Download ‘seven steps to heaven’ – a decision-making model for complex times – here: https://media-exp1.licdn.com/dms/document/C561FAQG9RXREfwjpnA/feedshare-document-pdf-analyzed/0/1603262148057?e=1610557200&v=beta&t=R_4LBWEoYBUmOH5AkNuEz71TGAF_Wsvk0fO9u-H9lmI

‘How the heck do I make decisions in this chaos?’

This was a client, but it might as well have been me! With things changing so fast, unpredictably, and it being hard to know what you can rely on, how can we make any kind of business decisions for 2021?

Sure, we’ve learned!

How much we don’t know – the degree of uncertainty we were actually always operating in

How much we can cope with. If the pandemic, lockdown, economic impacts etc have shown us, it’s that we can keep on keeping on

In businesses I work with, decision-making has survived and improved in these main ways:

  • realising how important the ‘thick data’ is – the actual stories of peoples’ lives, to go alongside the cold hard analytics
  • increasing the effort to get the right information to really make decisions to the right levels of management – compared to how waffly and, ultimately, meaningless those meetings were before
  • realising how many decisions need to be, and are, taken at the frontline – freeing people up to get on and do that, with only big strategic decisions out of their hands

What’s your big learning about decision-making from 2020? How are you feeling about big business decisions in 2021?

Join us: https://lnkd.in/gGuQWwB
#requisiteagility#2021planning#business

You should never publish your values or behaviours if you want culture change

Culture is the scoreboard, not the game. If you try to specify the score you want, you’re far more likely to do things that are counter-productive than you are to work on the things that will change how the game is going.

As soon as you publish values and behaviours, you get three things:
1- indignation from those who aren’t experiencing that, who judge you more harshly
2- fear from those who know they aren’t living it, and determination to avoid being found out
3- a double bind – ‘we say we’re an honest culture. But I’m not able to say what I think. But I can’t say I can’t say what I think – because we say we’re an open culture’

Instead, work humbly to change the score by changing how people experience the organisation, and what that changes.

It can work to publish values when you have a small team who can both set and police them (it might not last long).

In a bigger group, it can work when there’s enough momentum and frustration, and energy from knowing someone at the top really will enforce the changes. That person is likely exempt from the values they espouse – because who’s going to challenge them?

What’s the thing you’ve seen at work that most defines a culture?

#organisations#society

Have you heard of ‘commissioning’? Here’s why it’s important in all our lives

‘Commissioning’ is misunderstood, denigrated, reduced to something else, and important. Often seen as just procurement, outsourcing, or a commercial activity, in fact it is about really achieving our goals as a society.

There are three versions of commissioning

1.0 started as a way to try to buy things effectively, thinking about the real needs, and learning from results. Commissioners were the centre of the universe, their budget what made everything happen

Imagine buying street cleaning services. Complicated, tough – but you sign the contract and things happen

Now think about how you achieve the goal of clean streets – it’s a much bigger picture

2.0 got us thinking about the outcomes we need, and how to get to them – immediately making the commissioner a humbler part of a much bigger, complex system

3.0 means thinking about what people are already doing and achieving for themselves – how can we help our community and businesses to have clean streets?

In each step, the commissioner gives up their centrality. And gains more power

Where could you play on a bigger stage – and step up from clever buying to outcomes focus to a strengths focus?

#commissioning#publicservice#outcomes

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There are ‘only’ seven ways to make savings and improvements in service organisations

  1. Shape and manage demand: effect behavioural change, reduce failure demand
  2. Create economies of flow: match capacity, capability, contact points to demand
  3. Reduce waste: re-engineer processes or develop a lean whole system
  4. Optimise the use of resources: buildings, IT, vehicles, other assets, people (scheduling, downtime, contracts and management), income generation
  5. Effective organisation: appropriate grouping and sharing of activities and services, organisational structures, role and task clarity
  6. Optimise procurement: procure volume, shape the market, reduce or standardise specification or achieve multiplying effects, share services, social value
  7. Change policy: stop, ration, reduce eligibility, delay, charge, develop policy to better meet organisational purpose, demand and underlying need, outsource, mutualise, use the third and social enterprise sectors

Do you agree? (We do, now, have an eighth way to save and improve – what do you think it is?)
Which do you think is the biggest opportunity in your organisation?

#service#organisation#savings#improvement