Embrace technology…or die!

Why do we need to turn off technology to be present? We are only able to stay present because of technology. To say stop multitasking, don’t respond to all email and, focus on your breathing (as in meditation) is like saying “watch me squeeze this toothpaste back into its tube.”
An endeavor that is neither realistic nor even remotely practical.

We are living in a world where Gordon Moore’s Law applies, so get used to it!. Yes, the number of transistors we are able to fit on a square inch of an IC chip has been and continues to double every two years.
The reality is we will all look back on these days as “the good old days.”
So unless you want to be the other guy who blinked my advice is keep on multitasking, reply to those emails and breathe normally…for as long as the current Technology supernova allows you… and your job… to stay relevant.

Any change initiative needs to have a clear vision of what the future environment will look like – if not, the change or transformation from the ‘as is’ to the ‘desired’ state is doomed.

In my experience with two global Organizations that implemented very transformative change strategies, way back in the 90’s, the only way to deal with resistance to change is to understand the Kübler-Ross model of the emotional stages experienced by survivors faced with imminent death:  the five stages are Denial, Anger, Negotiation, Depression and Acceptance.

I learned that when faced with dramatic, significant change, Organizations, Teams and Employees at every level of the organization need to learn how to deal with the 5 stages.

Consistent communication, a clear Vision of the ‘Desired’ state and a Change Program that recognizes that the rate of change cannot be faster than the human resources or automation can keep up with – is fundamental to the success of any truly transformative Change Initiative.

Change – Evolution or Disruption?

We need to differentiate between what is  ongoing Organization Evolution, triggered by changes in the market environment, buyer needs and behaviours, changes in Technology and Organization growth.  The Organization structure and management system needs to be capable of addressing such evolutionary change (No Change Management or Transformation Initiative required here). It is when we are seeking to make a quantum leap in order to overcome a sudden, discontinuous reality (or technology disruption as an example) that a strategic disruptive change Initiative, Organization-wide, becomes the need of the hour – and perhaps, the optimum vehicle for success.

Implementing Change in the context of the Organzational model…

I haven’t heard a more ludicrous proposition in a while. If change comes naturally to people why don’t we alternate right/left hands when we shake hands. Why don’t we swop feet to hit the gas or the brake pedals from time to time? Why don’t we walk backwards rather than walk forward all the time. Why don’t we get in and out of bed from totally different directions every night. This nonsensical diatribe can go on and on – but all it really does is establish that humans are hard-wired to practice perfection within a specific comfort zone and than resist (with their very life) the need to change to any other comfort zone (even if it is supposed to be better). I am not saying this predilection for a constant is right…but that’s just how we are.

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The Change Juggernaut marches on. Today our workplace is plagued with disappearing  low skilled jobs – thanks to the I/T revolution that is happening with Big Data and Analytics, Cognitive computing, Deep Learning systems, The Cloud and next generation Robotics (consider the dramatic breakthrus made by companies like Boston Dynamics). All facets of business and industry are being impacted, and it is only a matter of time when the last few bastions of human endeavor like education and medicine will also be threatened with job loss (as will white collar Mgt).  So we are right to want to resist these great upheavals, but it is inevitable. There are no simple answers…such as re-tool your skill set, or get a better education…this Change is Disruptive. Try as we may, there is no resisting this terrifying yet promising technology wave poised to inundate us all!

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We need to recognize that the reason Change Management initiatives do not work as well as we would like them to is because we often  attempt implementing a Change design point that is better suited to a stable, ‘Command & Control’ type structure rather than the more dynamic Organic structures of today..
The Organic Organizational model of today best represents the current need.

In their book ” The Management of Innovation,” Burns and Stalker point out that organic structures are appropriate in unstable, turbulent, unpredictable environments and for non-routine tasks and technologies.

Here are some of the conditions that best support an Organic Organizational model: Decentralization, Flexible, Broad job descriptions, Interdependence, Complex/ Multi-directional communication, Employee directed initiative, fewer and more broadly defined rules, Regulations, Procedures, and Processes, Employee  engagement/involvement  in problem solving and decision making.
You can see just how easy it is to falter in our Change endeavors, if we fail to recognize the context of the Organization model we are working within.

The Balanced Scorecard…does it have a place in today’s business model

A key point that is underscored in the Japanese TQM or Kaizen model of Change Management is the need to ensure that the Scorecard also measures Business and Financial results based on a Competitive Benchmarking approach.

Here is a rather simplified summary:
1. What is the Q: The quality of the competitor – what is their error rate and the percent of rework required before acceptable Quality is achieved.
2. What is the C: The Cost the competitor incurs to perform the same process
3. What is the D: Delivery time taken for ‘On Time and In Full’ delivery (OTIF index)

I have learned since, that any Balanced Scorecard that does not factor in the Benchmarking QCD factors above – is not worth the paper it is printed on.

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As I have always stated – most of the management ‘discoveries’ (Like the Balanced Scorecard) have already happened…we keep re-bottling them in new bottles. The Japanese TQM movements initiated after WW2 have several practices that foreshadowed the Balanced Scorecard. Consider the Hoshin Kanri or full policy deployment programs that basically looked at a process that would percolate the Organizations Vision, Mission and Strategy down to the middle management planning, and right down to the worker level implementation…with measurements and metrics as part of a PDCA loop. America had more than 70% of the world’s export market – but simply because the rest of Europe and the East were struggling to rebuild after the war. read up on  W Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran and many great Japanese TQM luminaries like Shigeo Shingo, Taiichi Ohno, Masaaki Imai, Kauro Ishikawa et al who led the charge for TQM. The rest is history.

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Regarding the Balanced scorecard, it is not new nor can it be simply dismissed as not applicable to our business environment. Drs. Kaplan and Norton were onto something way back in the early 90’s and their initial hypothesis stands today. The BSC is still widely deployed across top fortune 500 companies and finds a place in the management system of organizations in the NA, Europe, East and Far East to date.  It focuses on driving the 4 elements of Organizational learning and growth, Process, Customer and Financial performance – and developing Organization Objectives, Strategy, Measurements and  Initiatives thereof.

With the advent of Big Data and Analytics, it has the potential to become a much more powerful business management system that can render otherwise vast, complex tracts of indecipherable Information into business decision data.

When you really think about it, in business, any business…what gets measured gets done!

Change

One must understand the current context in which our Resistance to Change dialogue is occurring. The Kübler Ross model assumes a glide path to transition through the 5 stages of Denial Anger, Negotiation, Depression and Acceptance. Today’s Disruptive Change occurs at a speed that is both terrifying as it is efficient. And there is little or no glide path for anyone. We’ve all experienced the innocuous beginnings of the Uber service and how that has decimated the lives of the ‘Traditional’ taxi drivers. We’ve witnessed the virtually overnight wipe out of such services like ‘One Hour Photo,’ ‘Blockbuster,’ and revenue losses for the Music industry through  Streaming audio and video services.
We are poised to see similar inroads into traditional education Industry (consider the massive open on line courses or ‘MOOCS’ offered today). We will need to consider an entire new set of tools to deal with today’s Disruptive Change environment.

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We need to differentiate between what is  ongoing Organization Evolution, triggered by changes in the market environment, buyer needs and behaviours, changes in Technology and Organization growth.  The Organization structure and management system needs to be capable of addressing such evolutionary change (No Change Management or Transformation Initiative required here). It is when we are seeking to make a quantum leap in order to overcome a sudden, discontinuous reality (or technology disruption as an example) that a strategic disruptive change Initiative, Organization-wide, becomes the need of the hour – and perhaps, the optimum vehicle for success.

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Change is truly the breakfast of champions!
If you work out at a gym daily, and never change your regimen or routine, chances are your body will plateau as will your fitness level, muscular development, flexibility and stamina. This is due to a phenomenon known as homeostasis, first researched by a Canadian endocrinologist by the name of Hans Selye. The theory known as the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) came from his Selye’s research.
Basically the body adapts to a work-out routine and triggers the law of diminishing returns, unless the exercise routine is changed frequently.
So the moral of the story is…embrace change…even if it is painful at first.

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The meta decision before the decision to implement any change is to first of all decide whether or not the Organization is faced with a significant enough business eventuality that will not be addressed by anything other than an organization wide change effort. Change cannot be seen as a ‘flavour of the month’ activity that has a start and stop switch somewhere close to where management and leadership are located…a switch that is somehow never within reach of the people in the trenches, who are always the most  severely impacted by change.

Change must be perceived as a ‘life or death’ imperative…even if this is a ‘staged’ message. We folks in the trenches are a loyal, courageous and committed lot.
And as the great bard said…”Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”

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For a contextual understanding of the subject of Resistance to Change, myth or otherwise, one needs to understand that change is typically:
1. Continuous change (imagine the routine path of a child growing in stages to a mature adult). This sort of change is easy to deal with because we have all gone through it and understand the nuances and ups and down of life, and have the skills to deal with them.
2. Discontinuous change: Imagine that the parents decide to divorce and the child is put into foster care because neither parent cares to take on the responsibility.
This sort of ‘Discontinuous’ change is what we struggle to deal with because we do not yet have the skills to cope with the change.
Hence our confusion and resistance when faced with changes that are discontinuous.

On taking the plunge to join a new organization…

On taking the plunge to join a new organization…
I believe there is a meta-decision before any leap of faith into a new Organization. Are you moving from an Organization that has constantly kept you stretched intellectually, spiritually, physically and mentally…or are you jumping on board to be the big fish in a small pond. That is the meta-decision you have to wrangle with. Always choose in favour of joining an Organization where you are likely to be the ‘worst’ or ‘weakest’ player – that is the only way to ensure that you are in a constant growth and self – value building trajectory.
Don’t allow any ‘Holy cows’ cause you to spend too much time agonizing over the current culture. Be willing to slaughter them.
Don’t be afraid to come with the answer. If you come in without a clearly defined vision that you are willing to evangelize, you may be perceived as a prophet promising to lead them to the Promised Land…sans a map!

Quality Is A Way Of Life…

Quality is not a program…it is a lifestyle…a way of life!

I last visited Tokyo in 1994. We were part of a global delegation meeting to discuss and share our experiences with the Total Quality Programs we were implementing in our respective organizations. We rapidly realized that English as a spoken language was still not quite the acceptable lingua franca there. However I can share two anecdotes from personal experience, that will demonstrate that regardless of language constraints and limitations…the sheer strength of that country’s quality and customer satisfaction ethic laid to rest any residual ‘Tower of Babel’ concerns we may have had.

Tales from Tokyo – 1:

We were travelling by the famed Tokyo Metro system one night, after a meeting at Yokohama. We had used some mixed transport options that night, including shuttle bus, the overland train service, and the last leg by subway. My friend and I were probably too engrossed in conversation and missed our stop. We were obviously very lost, and our demeanor probably made that self-evident. There was a group of University students milling about the train exit and we approached them and asked (in English) how we should correct out error and get back on track. They clearly did not speak much English, however somehow they seemed to intuitively guess that we were lost…and needed help.

They became engaged in a very animated conversation with each other, grabbing a subway map, looking up at the train’s railway station guide map listed on the wall, peering outside, etc.

Then the student who had been most animated of them all, communicated to us with a thumbs up sign …that they would take care of us.

What happened next was surreal. These kids proceeded to escort us off at the next stop, and then got us to board another train that would take us to where we needed to get off. But they did not just put us on the train – they actually stayed with us all the way, got off at our stop, and then proceeded to point and gesticulate as to the proper exit we would need to take to get back on the road home from the station…they then (and only then) got back on the next train and waved and said good bye in the most astonishing show of friendship and Goodwill I have ever experienced.

Tales from Tokyo – 2

My friend and I were in the habit of taking our afternoon meals at a specific restaurant with a menu that was somewhat less intrinsically ‘Japanese Cuisine’ centric than most of the other eating places we had tested. While I had less of an issue finding something to eat, my friend was vegetarian, and therefore we did need to be somewhat picky with where we chose to dine.

At any rate, we had been out strolling about the Ginza district on a lazy, rainy Saturday afternoon, and the rather expensive Umbrella I had purchased in Tokyo a few days earlier, had been put to the test. Yes it had served us well and kept us both mostly dry and safe, regardless of the heavy downpour we had experienced for the better part of the day.

The restaurant owner greeted us with a familiar Kon’nichiwa and I dutifully shook off the rain droplets from my umbrella, rolled the folds shut, and place the umbrella in the umbrella stand adjacent to the entrance (this was the common practice in most business establishments in Tokyo – the need to leave one’s umbrella in the stand on entering, and collect it while leaving).

We proceeded to order our meals and soon enough, we were done and ready to go. We took care of the cheque, and headed out to the familiar sounds of “Arigatou gozaimasu” from the owner.

We reached the exit and I noticed that my Umbrella seemed to be missing – it was reasonably easy to spot, since I had purchased a natural, crooked handle, Cane Umbrella (old school style). In addition it was a simple black fabric, unlike the colourful and modern looking umbrellas that most locals carried there.

I went back to the Owner and proceeded to explain my problem to him. He clearly did not fully comprehend what I was trying to say, but my pointing to the umbrella stand, my palms raised up in a questioning ‘where is my umbrella’ supplication seemed to break through to him. I felt bad because he looked abjectly sorry and ashamed – at once. He simply kept on uttering the single word “Mistake” over and over again. One of the patrons who spoke some English, clarified that what the owner was trying to say was that another customer had probably taken my umbrella in error and that it was a mistake. That no one would steal my umbrella and that the owner was apologizing on behalf of the customer.

The owner then reached down behind his counter, and withdrew a beautiful, hand-made umbrella, much like an expensive English Brolly. Yes this would have doubtless cost him the equivalent of a few hundred dollars in Yen at the time. He proffered his umbrella to me, with a bow and another whispered “so sorry.”

I was completely and utterly touched by this gesture and obviously refused his largesse, much to his chagrin. There were several disposable, plastic umbrellas in the stand, intended for for anyone without an umbrella, and my friend and I grabbed one each, thanked the owner, and departed…to everyone’s profound satisfaction!

The thing that I will remember to this day is the fact that our student friends went over and above the call of duty to make sure we were able to get home safely…and the owner of the restaurant chose to defend his customer’s error stoutly (and I truly believe that no one would steal my umbrella purposely) – as well as offer to compensate with a replacement which was at least 10 to 15 times of greater value than what I had lost…both truly humbling experiences, that demonstrate that Quality and Customer Satisfaction need to truly become a way of life, and not just percolate as some program that we push as a flavor of the month!