Simon Terry

Home » Leadership

Category Archives: Leadership

Three Levels of Co-Creation

As we begin to explore the collaborative potential of connection, co-creation is becoming increasingly important solution to problems. Organisations are increasingly looking to employees, partners and suppliers to be a part of efforts to co-create solutions to complex problems. Collaborative co-creation is a key part of the Solve phase of the Value Maturity Model. As we practice co-creation, we discover bigger opportunities to create value.

Co-Creating Ideas

Most co-creation begins with some kind of crowd-sourcing of ideas to solve problems. Diversifying the sources and inputs into the creation of a solution can enable big steps forward. Often new stakeholders have solutions to hand, see potential to reuse capabilities or bring opportunities to do things in new ways. Crowd-sourcing can be a fast and effective way to gather inputs from a large group of people towards a solution.

Efforts at crowd-sourcing solutions need to plan for two main challenges:

  • Lack of Connection: To contribute meaningful solutions, people need to feel connected to the problem and to each other.
  • The Volume of ideas overwhelms Execution: ideas are great but the exercise to sift and integrate diverse ideas can be a drain on execution. This is why many efforts at crowd-sourcing turn into a show of ‘engagement’ with no traction on the ideas submitted.

Co-Creating the Work

The next level of co-creation is when people come together to take a solution and execute it. The challenges of a problem don’t stop when you have an idea. People need to solve all the little issues and manage the idea until it is successfully implemented.

Make sure the expectation in you co-creation community is that work will be done to solve the problem.  Give the community the autonomy to follow their ideas. People will contribute better ideas if they think that they have to see them through.  Co-creation is more meaningful to a community that has been asked to work the problem together. Challenge them to take their ideas and see them through to implementation.

Co-Creating the Problem

The final level of co-creation goes back to the start and looks at the system from a higher view.  This level removes the constraint that the problem definition is externally imposed on the community. At this level of co-creation, the community has responsibility to find, create and implement its own solutions. To do this the community is going to need to start to ask questions about Purpose, the scope of the system and what goals they have for the system.  Bring a diverse group of stakeholders in to shape the problems and you may discover new problems and that some of your current problems aren’t such a big issue. The third level asks the community to own co-creation from Purpose, through Diagnosis, and then to the Design and Execution of any solutions.

A Conversation About Norms

We live between norms and force. When norms lose their power, force becomes the alternative option. For effective organisations and civil society, we need an ongoing conversation about expectations of behaviour.

Noticing Norms

David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon College commencement address begins with a story

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes,
“What the hell is water?”

Social norms are often like water to the young fish. In the Oxford dictionary, norms are defined as:

A standard or pattern, especially of social behaviour, that is typical or expected

We don’t even notice they exist. They are simply baked into our expectations of social interactions. We follow the most common norms without reflecting on their existence. Often the first time we focus on them is in our outrage at a breach of a norm.

Norms shape group and individual behaviours. Norms that are undiscussed, and in some cases undiscussable, can have real consequences for individuals and societies ability to manage and change. These norms are also a critical component of group connection. Loss of shared norms will impact cohesion, sharing and collaboration in a group.

While many norms are taken as given, they are not fixed. Our expectations are constantly adapting based on our experience of the behaviour of others. Sustained violation of norms can and will cause change. This is one reason that so many protesters violate social norms. They want to disrupt a range of expectations to gain notice and to influence people to reflect on the need for change. Where change has been driven by social change movements, the changes are largely positive for society with new norms being more inclusive, equitable and better able to support civil society.

The Power of Norms

‪We live between norms and force. When norms lose their power, force becomes the alternative option to regulate social behaviour. The functioning of our organisations and our civil society depends on effective norms.

Over summer I read Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday, a book that examines the lessons from traditional societies. The book explores how many tribal societies experienced life that involved continuing violence. The violence was an outcome of the challenges of sustain norms between tribal groups, leadership within tribes depending on authority and because disputes were often resolved by force. Many of the mechanisms we expect to prevent violence, such as peaceful acceptance of strangers, were not norms in these societies, because they represented real dangers to individuals and the group.

Change movements often seek to smash existing norms. Equally important is the need to foster and develop the new behavioural expectations that will follow. In the absence of shared expectations, any group will increasingly have to use force to maintain behaviour in a group or fail in its shared endeavours.

Let’s consider an example of the justice system. What makes our laws effective is not the courts or a constitution. The first element is a community expectation that we will follow the law, respect the courts and honour those decisions.  When individuals fail these norms, the executive branch of government has a range of force to bring to bear on social behaviour and enforce the law. We simply expect that the courts and the executive will collaborate to maintain the law. The history of the breakdown in civil societies around the world shows us that this is one of the first norms to fail.

Norms in Organisations

In organisations, the equivalent force is the power of exclusion. Few organisations have the power to use force against their employees except to show them from the premises. Misbehave persistently and you will be sacked and denied an ability to remain in the community. Exclusion presents a cost to the individual and a loss of capability to the organisation. Exclusion of large groups can be incredibly disruptive as strikes and lockouts show.

Organisations depend on norms to keep the peace and to foster cohension and collaboration. A few of those norms are on posters. Many are inherited from the society in which the organisation operates. As our organisations involve more temporary workers and as they become more open to the networks around them, managing these group norms becomes more important.

Most of those norms are never discussed. Some are seen as undiscussable. Rather than force people to exit when they have an issue with norms, we have offer people the alternative of voice. Exit is too easy in our networked era. Voice should be the easiest option. Encourage people to discuss their issues openly, especially those seen as hardest to raise. Celebrate resistance as a form of engagement. When norms are often invisible, it can also be a great learning experience to leverage the insights of those who can see.

The functioning of our society depend on explicit and implicit norms of behaviour and interaction. Let’s invest in the conversations and actions in community necessary to sustain norms and keep the use of force at bay. ‬

Tall Poppy Podcast with Tathra Street

I recently did a podcast with Tathra Street on making leadership safe for humans.  Tathra has an series of interviews on the idea of Human Centred Leadership. In our 30 minute conversation, we discussed my leadership lessons, how work is changing, the demands of digital culture, working out loud and more.

The discussion was great but sadly the audio quality did not hold up to the content of the discussion.

Work Ahead for 2017: Foundations, Personal & Organisational Work

directory-235079_1280

As the end of November approaches, that time has come again when we must consider whether we have the right initiatives in place for ourselves and our organisations as we get ready for 2017.  How are you transforming the capabilities and work practices in your organisation to make sure that your teams are more effective in their work?

Why is Work Changing?

The way we work is fundamentally changing under the influence of five main drivers:

  • Pervasive Global connection: As internet connectivity has gone mobile, we now have the ability to connect with, to converse with and to see the whole system of our stakeholders any time anywhere.
  • Automation: Digital technology has enabled us to automate simple tasks and string together increasingly complex processes and systems.
  • Data and Analytics: As digital connection and digital automation expands so does our ability to gather data and analyse that data to provide insight and run complex algorithmic processes.
  • Changing Consumer Expectations: As consumers are exposed to the potential of digital through consumer technology and consumer services, the businesses must meet disruptive and exacting standards for convenience, service, value and speed.
  • Accelerating Pace of Change: Disruption, greater responsiveness to change and ever-shortening cycles of feedback are the new norm for business and our work practices must adapt to enable our businesses to keep up.

We have already seen great change in digital transformation.

Further dramatic changes in the nature of work are here but ‘not yet widely distributed’ to borrow the phrase of William Gibson..

2017 Future of Work Recommendations

With these pressures on the way we work, every business should have a focus on how it is changing the way its people work and the practices that will support ongoing transformation of work. Here are my recommendations on what work you should have on your backlog for the new year:

Foundations:

These five are in place in your organisation today. However, they may not be well understood, managed or serving your purpose.  As you look to 2017 it is always worthwhile to ensure that the foundations are sound and well aligned.

2017-foundations

Purpose: Be clear on your personal purpose. Look for that purpose in the work you do. Clarify the shared purpose in your organisation. Don’t impose a purpose designed around the leadership table. Discover the purpose through the stories and the work that bring your organisation together.

Strategic Value: What value are you trying to create to fulfil your purpose? What kinds of value matter most to your stakeholders? When do they know you are creating value? What measures tell you that you are achieving your goals?

Networks: To compete in the network era, your organisation must be networked. How are you bringing people together to connect, to share, to solve problems and to respond to the networks around your organisation? The technology matters less than the connection, the behaviours and the shared purpose. Are you clear on the strategic value of your communities, are they well supported with sponsorship, investment and community management so as to accelerate their value creation?

Culture: Move beyond words on a poster. Move beyond generic platitudes. Move beyond an agglomeration of individual team cultures. What specific values are shared across your organisation? Why do these help fulfil your purpose? How do those values translate to expectations about behaviours in and across your teams? Is the culture in your organisation effective for your purpose and the value you are seeking to create? How do you personal role model the behaviours you expect from others?

Employee Experience: Are you working somewhere that values the employee experience and is adapting it to changing work and changing roles in the organisation? How have you aligned your employee experience to your desired customer experience? Does your workplace create rich value for employees and enable them to express their potential in fulfilment of purpose? Does your employee experience work as well for the one-hour temporary contract worker as the long term employee? Does it work equally well for all levels of the hierarchy and all corners of your network?

Personal Effectiveness:  Four Key Future of Work Practices

These four personal practices are enablers of the future of work. They enable an individual employee to deliver greater value in their work by responding to the opportunities and information in their environment. Agile and adaptive they empower employees to continuously improve and innovate.

1

Working Out Loud: Sharing work in progress in a purposeful way with relevant communities will accelerate learning, sharing and feedback cycles. Start working out loud now.

Personal Knowledge Management: Learn how to turn the personal information flood into effective sense making, learning and sharing. A critical skill to make sense of complexity and to leverage networks for learning.

Adaptive Leadership: Enabling the rebel and the change agent to lead more effectively in any system. Improving understanding, influence and the increasing the breadth of leadership techniques to create collective change in any system.

Experimentation: Move beyond the limits of your expertise. Learn by doing. Resolve uncertainty through action. Shorten cycles of decision making and feedback to increase personal effectiveness.

Organisational Effectiveness: Scaling & Accelerating Change

Organisations are made up individuals. These four practices of organisational effectiveness scale and accelerate the personal practices through a focus on design of systems for connection, learning and adaptation.

2

Open Collaborative Management: Middle managers are often those who find a change to digital ways of working most threatening and disrupting. Open up the work of management. Move management from planning, allocation and control to facilitation, alignment and coaching. Shorten cycles and improve the performance value of feedback. Foster the role of managers as network navigators and brokers. Management can be a critical point of leverage in achieving more open, more collaborative and more effective work.

Scalable Capability Development: Turn each employee’s learning into a contribution to scalable system for delivering strategic value. Create Big Learning systems that scale learning around strategic capabilities for the organisation’s success. Coordinate your learning agenda as an agile change program. Curate the capability building of your teams, leveraging learning from peer communities and leverage social learning to bring 70:20:10 and a performance-oriented approach to learning to life at scale and in the workplace.

Effective Networked Organisations: Take advantage of the networks in and around your organisation to rethink your business model and organisational design choices. Break the centralised/decentralised binary and move beyond hierarchy. Enable autonomy, foster alignment and improve effectiveness for purpose. Skill your teams to achieve effectiveness in the wirearchy. You don’t need to purchase a new management system. You need to adapt your approach to managing knowledge, trust, credibility and results to your purpose, culture and community.

Agile Innovation & Change: Adapt to the changing needs of the environment and stakeholders to deliver new value. Accelerate innovation and change through new approaches and by putting in place the systemic support for employee-led innovation, change and transformation to a more responsive organisation.

Simon Terry provides consulting, advice, speaking and thought leadership to global clients through his own consulting practice, and as a Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide, a network of progressive and passionate professionals, specializing in Future of Work technologies and practices.  The focus of Simon’s practice is assisting organizations to transform innovation, collaboration, learning and leadership. 

Changing Work is Hard

cwv3irtuqaa4po4-jpg-large

Some time ago I published a post on five small changes that we can each make to make work more effective. Tanmay Vora turned the post into the great sketch above that has been widely shared. On the weekend I wondered whether all this sharing actually helped anyone to change their work. Tanmay and others responded that they were using the sketch as a guide to their work. However, my question remains open. Do we have as much change as we should? Do we act on the small ways to improve work?

Changing Work is Hard

Changing work is hard.  We would all like work to be more effective, but we continue to cling to ineffective practices. We know there are better ways but we don’t always use them. Why is there a gap between our future of work intent and action.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why changing work is difficult.

Reactive not Reflective: We are busy.  Being busy often deprives us of the time to reflect on how best to do our work or how we could improve our work.  While time pressures should present an incentive to plan a better way, we often think it is better to just start.  Take the time each day, if only for 5 minutes to reflect on how your work could be improved.

Habit: There is comfort in habit. Habits provide patterns of certainty in an incredibly volatile and uncertain world. Habits can be behaviours or habitual mindsets. Together they create ingrained and unthinking behaviours. Sending an email or organising a meeting is a routine next step and others will share the habit making it harder to break.  Find triggers for new habits. Make a choice to think and go another way and lead people away from bad habits.

Social Capital: Dave loves his meeting. Dave has perfected his meeting to suit his needs and his project. How do I tell him that it is a complete waste of everyone else’s time? We aren’t always great at feedback and we hate to put our accumulated social capital in jeopardy, particularly if what we are asking is out of the usual. Explore better ways of working with your work colleagues through collaborative coaching conversations. Encourage them to reflect and to help you find better ways of working too.

Fear: Our workplaces are full of fear. Fear power, fear of ostracism, fear of loss of status or wealth or purpose. Our workplaces put the full neurological gamut of status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness under threat. Adding change to the mix risks upping the fear quotient. We need to make the benefits of change clear to ourselves first and then to others. We need to use these elements of our uncertainty to help us, not hinder us.

Conscious Incompetence: New skills are hard. They don’t work as well as our habits. We may have been unconsciously incompetent at our old approach, but as soon as we try something new we are conscious of the gap in our skills. Practice and experience is the only way to improve our skills. We need to do the work and get better.

Initiative: Nothing changes unless someone acts to influence change. We can wait for our boss or others to discover the change themselves.  However, to bring about change sooner we need to exercise individual leadership and take on the challenge of making change happen. We must be our own role models. We need to find our voice and lead with our actions to change the way we work.

 

Simon Terry provides consulting, advice, speaking and thought leadership to global clients through his own consulting practice, and as a Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide, a network of progressive and passionate professionals, specializing in Future of Work technologies and practices.  The focus of Simon’s practice is assisting organizations to transform innovation, collaboration, learning and leadership. 

Getting Past The Obvious

One of the commonest forms of corporate sabotage of change is to raise a difficult issue as an obvious objection. The challenge is not raising them but working to resolve them through conversation. Don’t accept the obvious.

Present a new idea or try to make a change in a large organisation and at some point you will encounter the following behaviour. Somebody will to raise a complex and difficult issue as an obvious barrier to the success of your project. They will frame their naysaying in the name of straight talk, speaking on behalf of others, being a devil’s advocate or even helpfully raising an issue that others may be too supportive or politically correct to discuss.

These conversations appear everywhere:

  • “We need to make changes to adapt to digital” “But, let’s look at these digital competitors. They are tiny and none of them are making money. Why should we copy them? We will have to give up a lot of margin if we do.”
  • “We are planning to be more diverse in our hiring” “But, and I hate to say this, if we are honest we haven’t found the talent available for the roles we have and I’m not even sure they are interested.”
  • “We want the organisation to be more collaborative” “But, we need to be realists and recognise we have demanding targets, a headcount reduction and if we asked them our people would tell you they are already busy”
  • “We want to be more innovative” “But, isn’t innovation just the latest consulting buzzword? Our customers don’t want costly innovation. They want a lower price”

The objection is carefully designed to appeal to an ‘obvious’ point and to make the speaker appear intelligent for having considered a wider range of issues than you have presented. Many of these issues are valid challenges that your project needs to address.  Many are also overblown or illusions. The challenge is that the speaker expects the ‘obvious’ to be a definitive answer. Even if you can create a conversation about ways to move forward past this issue, the speaker won’t be contributing to the solution.

Getting Past the Obvious

Here are some suggestions to avoid this issue

Anticipate the Obvious: If it is going to be raised anyway, it is better that you raise the issue yourself. Challenge yourself and your team to engage stakeholders early and flush out the obvious and not so obvious objections that might be in your path. Understanding the likely objections and potential responses is an important part of handling this challenge.  Preparation will also give you the best chance to dispute a throway remark in the moment with facts and evidence.

Hold the Tension: The person raising the obvious issue expects the conversation and your project to end. Resolving difficult issues requires hard conversations. Plan for this hard conversation and allow yourself the time to keep your stakeholders in this hard conversation until progress is made. Create an environment where this challenging issue can be discussed and progress or new perspectives might be found.

Bring the System into the Room: The challenge comes from bringing a selective part of the system around your project into the room. You need to consider how you can involve a broader view of the project and its stakeholders. Can you bring out broader benefits that make persisting worthwhile? Can you bring other voices into the conversation to offset the obvious?

Reframe the Obvious: The obvious remark may also hold a clue as to the path to its solution. Look at the examples above. If margin is the issue, then what if profit is lost to unmet disruption. If a stock of talent is the issue, how do we redefine, find or create a flow of talent. If workload is the issue, how can collaboration help. If price is the issue, how can innovation drive value.

Ask to Do the Work: A lot of obvious issues turn out to be no issue at all in practice. They are built on untested assumptions, rumours and guesswork. Ask to do the work. Ask for a richer conversation with a wider group of stakeholders. Ask to put the issue to the test by doing an experiment, a pilot or gathering real data. Too many obvious barriers are only barriers around conference tables.

Don’t accept the obvious issue as a barrier to the progress of your project. Your stakeholder may not even care. They might just want to appear clever in the meeting. Do the preparation and the work and you will carry your project far beyond the obvious issues. The real challenges are the issues nobody anticipates.

Coaching Creates Time to Reflect

office-336368_1920We don’t need to be told that work is busy. Pressures are everywhere. Finish one task or one meeting and there is a good chance that the next few challenges are piled up ready to go. We rarely get the time to reflect as we power through our work, unless we allocate time or are forced into reflection by the questions of others.

Without reflection, we all struggle to focus and question our priorities, our relationships and our performance. The value of coaching is that it can create this space in our work week and help make our work far more effective. The power of questions from others is that they force us to reflect, to consider a wider perspective on our work and can break the patterns that form in our busy thinking.

Great leaders coach. They know how to ask simple questions of their teams that foster reflection on goals, priorities, alignment of work and the effectiveness of work. Creating a supportive coaching environment in a team enables people to reflect on how to improve more often and more effectively. Great leaders encourage peer coaching too.

Peer coaching is a powerful technique and one that can happen in the flow of work. Taking the time to ask each other “How did we do? What can we do better or different next time?” is all that it takes to create more reflection in our work. We don’t work alone the insights and observations of others can help us become more effective. Working out loud, purposefully sharing our work with our peers, invites our peers into our work and facilitates this reflection.

In the coaching work that I do, I find asking the simple questions clarifying goals, the situation and opportunities to do things differently creates a space for a new and powerful conversation. The time invested can have dramatic returns by clearing blockages, building new collaborative networks and focusing the effort of work. Often the improvement opportunities are obvious when someone has time to reflect on how they can do things differently.

An added benefit of the time to reflect through coaching conversations is an increase in accountability in organisations. Regular coaching conversations with a leader, a coach or peers, create personal accountability to translate improvement opportunities into action. Knowing that someone will ask “what have you done differently?” helps us reflect continuously on how well we are delivering on our plans.

Reflecting with the support of others is the heart of learning and performance improvement. How are you fostering a coaching culture to benefit your performance and the performance of the teams around you?

Simon Terry is a coach and consultant who helps individuals and organisations to make work more effective. Reach out to discuss how more coaching can foster reflection for you and your organisation.