Friday, 9 March 2012

4 Tips from a Sling Shot

We know change projects can be difficult beasts. Yet we often ignore how we, the people involved in delivering or receiving the change, multiply those difficulties through our own learned behaviours. We’ve let what we’ve been told or read in the multitude of business books, blogs and training programmes automate us and what we do. Don’t get me wrong, process has its place. Checks and balances are necessary and process provides them but when the spotlight focuses on following the process rather than on the results it’s there to enable, the reasons behind implementing a process have been lost.

So if we simplify the process we’ll get better results, right? That will definitely help. However too often the process remains centre stage and other difficulties are left unresolved. In order to effect change fully we must apply different thinking and it’s in this area we can find parallels between change projects and Michaelangelo’s David. 

Yes I’m a bit of a Michelangelo fan and am particularly awed by his sculpture of David, which stands majestically in the Accademia di Belle Arte in Florence, Italy.  Every time I see it, in real or on the postcard image stuck to my office notice board, I’m struck by its magnificence. I’m also reminded of how David saw things differently, simplified the approach and through that successfully delivered the change everyone was striving for. Here are 4 tips he can teach us:

Tip 1: Use what makes sense when it makes sense to do so – Those before him had each wielded swords and various other armaments without success. David chose a slingshot and stones. He may have been careful in his stone selection taking enough to do the job with some in reserve for risk mitigation. He didn’t ignore the sword and used it to great effect when it mattered most.

Lesson: Process for process sake adds little value and blindly following a method will not improve either the method or its results. 

Tip 2: Use understanding and insight – David saw and understood what others had done. He took a different view and applied some intelligent thinking. He figured out the exact spot to hit in order to maximise results.

Lesson: Sometimes the ideas, thoughts or perceptions that initially seem crazy, counter-intuitive or sit outside the bounds of the process can deliver the greatest benefits.

Tip 3: Show willingness to do what’s right – The situation David walked into had been created based on fear and intimidation. It wasn’t going to change any time soon using the current process. While there was an incentive at stake he saw something wasn’t right and took action to change it.

Lesson: Only by changing our own behaviour will we change the behaviour of others.

Tip 4: Put things into perspective – David could clearly see his adversary had a big reputation and a lot of power with his army and over others. Putting what he saw into perspective against what needed to be done meant David could figure out a way to deal with the situation and did it.

Lesson: Bigger isn’t always better. 

By breaking out of the ‘process is King’ belief organisations will be able to deliver increased cost reductions for greater shareholder value. Or in other words, stay in business. Instead many punt for more processes, recycling operating models from the past or expounding empty declarations of co-creation and innovation.
They’re missing a huge opportunity because what comes next inevitably compounds difficulty. 

Stop making the process important. Refocus and simplify. Use process to work for you.

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