why change is the new normal


I had the pleasure of listening to and be outraged by a cleric who opened his sermon “…over the course of several millennia, nothing has really changed, there has been no progress that is meaningful and man faces the same challenges today as he always has”

The pleasure came from having such a provocative statement shake the way I think (always good for the soul) – and then compounded from a most unexpected source – in a small face to face meeting, me and about 12 other folks and Steve Ballmer where the prevailing complaint to him was “Microsoft is exhausting to work for because of the rate of change”. Steve pushed back on that with an argument that computer’s still operate in binary, the web is still HTML and the internet runs on TCP/IP same as it did 20 years ago and it was at this point I began to see the truth of the cleric’s point of view.

why change is the new normal (c) 2011 James StanbridgeIt is not really change that exhausts us, is is the shrinking, ever shorter attention spans and the need to be agile that is hard to keep pace with but accepting that really nothing significant has changed at all will keep you sane.

These then are the tenets of change as I have discovered:

  • Change is a label for a thing called opportunity. Opportunities multiply as they are seized
  • Nothing ever changes, except the label
  • Yesterday you needed for yourself and your tribe to be fed, be healthy, to prosper, to serve purpose and to enjoy one another. You’ll need that tomorrow, come what may.
  • Change the method (label) often – but shoot for the same result all the time
  • Einstein is still right – The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results (change the method)

The core message of this post, along with the others this week must surely be that you cannot spend too much time in thinking about “what the result you are looking for?” Stay focused, prioritised on this and the changes of label or method you choose to achieve it.

I for one would not want to roll back the clock or technical progress where I was not as intimately connected to the world as I currently feel thanks to twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. – the price I have to pay is the attention span I can have for such an enormous constituency and fluid change of agenda – but I have found ways to take energy from it and not just become drained by it. The secret is to jump in, Go! start now.

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UPDATE

And just in case you need more evidence of the changes (in this case over the past 50 years): http://www.ted.com/talks/roger_ebert_remaking_my_voice.html

“Burning Deck” without setting things on fire


The role of leadership teams in providing motivational gravity

Some weeks back in a hugely impactful, and widely reported memo to his staff,

Nokia’s chief executive to staff: ‘we are standing on a burning platform’ http://bit.ly/ePlUgo

Mr Elop made a dramatic call to arms that I found inspirational, but which also got me wondering “how do I get my team to work in burning deck mode without setting fire to things?”

Regression to mean can be observed in that left to themselves, teams regress from high performance to the mean, normal performance. Normal is misleading, I do mean underperforming; performance is not sufficient to meet the needs of the business.

As leaders, the question we need to ask ourselves and our teams when we recognise performance as regressing is “If we carry on at this (normal) rate, how long have we got left?”

  • before we lose our market position
  • before we lose our relevance
  • before we lose our jobs?

and when the answer is “not long” – burning deck motivation looks ideal

image

I like the phrase “Job Tourist” to describe a mode we all get in and can recognise, pretty much all of the above are words we use or situations we are in where we are coasting, passing through work – normal performance.

image

These are the words and situations represented by the paradigm of standing on the burning deck of a ship and, are easy to understand as attributes a leader would like to observe in a team that is need of greater performance.

Here is where the role of the leader is to provide motivational gravity that inspires and pulls team performance from “normal” to “burning deck”

Motivational Gravity

Motivational Gravity pulls normal behaviour to exceptional through:

  • Clarity of purpose [confront difficult issues]
  • Behavioural modelling [authentic belief]
  • Consistent messaging [systemic not tactical]
  • Emotional appeal [critical path]

The leadership models I’ve borrowed from are obvious to most readers but this is where to apply that theoretical learning you’ve done to great impact.

And that is the key message here – it’s what we do that matters, not the people we have doing it for us. The role of the leader is to provide that motivational gravity that shifts performance of the team as a whole from normal to something exceptional – go, start now!

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