Business Jabberwocky

I am trying to decide which business term makes me more nauseous. I recently just read a LinkedIn post that makes it a tossup between ‘alignment’ and ‘cross-functional. ‘

Alignment

Alignment makes sense to me when speaking about the steering on my car, the rails on my dresser drawers or the right line when skiing downhill to avoid certain death. In business, my best guess is, something like when we are aligned, you will truly believe my idea was actually yours. Doesn’t it feel better now that we are aligned? This is not so untrue, because alignment can mean that we need to be following a process instead of making stuff up as we  go along. Some decent descriptions include:making tough choices, innovate to keep customers, reduce costs, reward employees who show they can be flexible, or get back to focusing on products that excite us and our customers. I do believe my high school student would understand that.

Cross-Functional

Cross-functional I think is actually more of a runner’s up term of the year that I would enjoy eradicating from the face of the earth. It is the idea that people from different parts of the organization should work together. Okay, I will admit that my SAT scores were less than great and so I didn’t make it into Harvard, which my sixteen year old son doesn’t actually like as a school choice because he hears Harvard students aren’t really working for a living anymore. But I tangent to the the word on the teenage street. Okay, back to cross-functional. I am envisaging gears that show how sales drives the need for the shipping department to ship product. Or better, a whole change of events could be incorporated into the necessary visual. So that we engage the audience instead of just pretending they are taking notes. Or….more to my liking — “Duh?” The deeper concept may be valuable for a process engineer, a project manager implementing change, or a janitor in a factory that is about to be moved to Mexico. The janitor may say, “Boss, I think I am being excluded and underrepresented in the cross-functional nature of this business decision. Umm. I ain’t moving to Mexico….just to be clear.”

Specialized language

Specialized language does have a purpose despite my facetiousness. It evolves as specialty knowledge necessitates communication. Specialty language supports communication in terms of underlying specificity and greater efficiency.

Specificity is communicated through terms that have commonly understood definitions implications within that specialty. Efficiency is the short hand of communication so a novella is not necessary to get the point across. B2B – Business to business for those in the know. Specialty terms may increase in usage and enter common language as the need arises. But who uses G2G on a regular basis at this point. Medical terminology may include a conversation about which angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) to use since the patient is allergic to ACE inhibitors. Okay, well I hope my doctor understands this, but I may not need to.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Lewis Carroll

In honor of the title a nod to Lewis Carroll the first line of Jabberwocky and what it means to me: ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: . And it means absolutely nothing to me. But to Humpty Dumpty, as he explains to Alice, brillig means four o’clock in the afternoon — the time when you begin broiling things for dinner. So, there you have it.

Definitions

Definition is key. My personal stress ad nauseam emerges from language pushers (my new specialty term). Specialty language is meant to be an improvement for communication not an exclusionary language. It’s usage for those in the need to know for good not to intimidate others not in the know. It should be used when necessary to enlighten, not necessarily sell consulting services to the those not in need of consulting services. To be clearer not foggier. To be effective not flamboyant. Yes, it takes exposure, education and feedback to gain access to the inside track.

Now on the other hand, slang is meant to be exclusionary. Which can become pretty dope as long as you don’t leave receipts of your outlandish behavior. So be noice, don’t be a troll and for the sake of it, avoid the girlfriend tax when dining out and tell her to order her own dish. In other words, use slang in your personal life.

Can we please speak English in Business?

Yes and no. We need to avoid pitfalls but embrace new ideas. The pitfalls reside in misused jargon misunderstood definitions and flagrant miscalculation of the audience and their needs. The new ideas require ways to define and communicate. It should be important to the audience, explanatory, thought provoking and a possible call to their action with what they know not a redundancy and certainly not too confusing.

Taxonomy

Taxonomy is described sometimes as a science and sometimes as an art, but really it’s a battleground.

Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

Finally, taxonomy aids in the organization of information. It is common in natural sciences for classification. If you remember domain, kingdom, genus etc… you must remember your science class. This can be applied to information as data taxonomies. By creating a framework of information analysis becomes easier and more accurate. Whether it’s a marketing, customer service or employee performance, clear classified information improves analysis and makes the information more manageable, meaningful and actionable. The end result is improved communication and ultimately better business performance 

Time for UX in Information Gathering

Whether its applications for loans or rentals or visas or student parking passes or the good old job application, nothing makes me feel like I’ve made better use of my time. How about you? Well, I guess they are a necessary evil to move information from one place to another. Yet…

Can we find a better way?

We’ve made great strides in improving user experience in outbound information whether on the internet, print and even integrated marketing. It is time to look at improving the user experience in the gathering of information. User Experience, UX, principles include convenience, speed, timeliness, assurance, accuracy, and experience. I believe timeliness is the most interesting aspect to tackle. In eCommerce, websites originally asked for tons of information including name, address etc… Designers eventually whittled it down to one, email address. As the visitor moved to a purchase the necessary information would be captured at the right time.

Job applications seem to be the worst. I know there is legal information they need to gather, but do they need all of it before they even make a decision to move forward? And does anyone really look at what day of the month you were hired for a Job 10 years ago. Do you even remember if you failed to update resume information until after the job was done? And why, if they have your resume do they need you to practically retype information again? After working on the product for an hour or two I brace for the “Thank you but..” email and see my time wasted, which I don’t like.

The questions of the universe?

The problem stems from terribly written job descriptions. It is often difficult to understand what are the most important traits for job success. I still believe job descriptions are best written by the person doing the job. Managerial written descriptions are usually build upon a broader expectation and often not accurate in what happens day to day.  Why would a company post an external job description that includes familiarity with an internal custom process? I see it all the time. Taking a LEAN approach to job descriptions would pare things down to the most critical reasons for bringing someone new on board. It should be to acquire new skills or additional manpower driven from changes in business need or increased work volume. Crack the code to the job and make it easier to identify true matches, not the best resume writer.

Since companies use tools to data mine resume information, I’ve thought a bit about a program that takes the job descriptions and merges it with a resume. In the process I can approve experience or delete those that I don’t have so the data mining program or the reader see what they want to see. ‘Don’t hate the player, hate the game.’ Comes to. Mind.

I am always searching for opportunities. In my search I have found a few companies who actually get this quandary. I’ve filled out interactive applications where they ask name, city, previous jobs by title and date, education by school and date and then throws out skills and has you rate them in terms of experience. If they are interested they may ask more. If they are not, I don’t feel like I wasted any time because it was quick and easy and an opportunity wasn’t lost.

Change is coming.

LEAN Information for Change

Getting Serious about Speed

Projects often run late for various reasons. NASA addressed this issue with FBC Mode, standing for Faster, Better and Cheaper. It’s principles included:

  • Focus on smaller missions
  • Incorporate advanced technology
  • Reduce headquarter management and move to programs
  • Construct exciting visions and roadmaps
  • “It’s okay to fail” mentality

One of the major problem solving innovations, in light of fuel and landing challenges, they put the rover in a blow up balloon and bounced it on the surface. If you’d like the read, it is available used on Amazon: http://a.co/d/bCFUBDO. If a government agency can accomplish these improvements so should you.

We need to slow down some … and move away from fixations on cost and near term gain

Outcomes based scoping

It is best to not overly develop the scope document as a task list. That’s what the project schedule is for. Keep to expected outcomes with definable measurement and SMART goals. The teams job is to take that vision and turn it into individual goals and get to work. In massive change project we learn by doing not planning

I scoped a project Web implementation for a $13B company. They wanted the developers to quote detailed individual tasks. It took months and labor wasn’t contributing to anything but a plan. The implementation costs rivaled the development costs, which is just inane and really not accurate. People lost jobs. Including me. And I will never succumb to the whims of things that I don’t personally believe in.  I believe in delegating outcomes to people on the team, but financials can become tricky. Stick with some tried methodologies that get you to a number quickly so that management can approve or not. There are official bottom-up estimating, but be careful. Some examples:

  • Expert Judgement
  • Analogous Estimating
  • Parametric Estimating
  • Three-Point Estimates
  • Reserve Analysis
  • COST OF QUALITY
  • Cost of Quality (COQ)
  • Software for Estimation
  • Cost and Value of Information

Outcome based scoping needs to clearly state the end result, the people who are gaining the benefit and the impact the project team is contributing – it is a focus on results, not effort

Not Enough or Too Much Information adds Cost

In todays world of Big Data, the ability to capture it and the inability to process it with traditional processing applications, it is easy to fall into the trap of more is better. If you develop outcomes in the levels of the project plan, it can become clearer. Basically, the early information is easier to obtain, costs less, and delivers more value. Big Data and loads of info can be a great advantage to many business activities. If you need it to meet you outcomes and associated metrics, then go for it. To little information is dangerous to reaching goals as well. I became owner of a paperless billing project as the business owner. So one day after a seamless implementation and some great management. I asked what are uptake rate was with customers moving to paperless. Well… we don’t have a report for that – Whoops!

Screenshot 2018-11-13 16.11.38

Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds — Malcolm Gladwell

So theres a few ideas for you to contemplate.

Contact: Changing Change HQ

Why is Human Experience Important to Change?

Automation

There will come a day when everything that can be codified will be automated. The things holding companies back are fear, concern for employees, trust, cost and the belief that a human eye is necessary for the rule instead of just the exception. My dad, in 1987 brought me to a plant where robots did 99% of the work. He said this is the future. He was running a high voltage power supply company and still used people to hand solder components, but he knew where things were going.

At Nokia Mobile Phones we switched from double side component boards to single sided. Half the machinery went away. The time to manufacture was a reduced by a third. The programmers of the machines voiced their fear of job loss. Management said no way. One year later they laid off half of the programmers. I am a believer that you hire people not only for their tactical skills but for their loyalty and behavior. This is a case where if management was honest with itself it would have found a way to repurpose resources, but so things often go to reaction.

“No, no, no, no. You gotta listen to the way people talk. You don’t say “affirmative,” or some shit like that. You say “no problemo.” And if someone comes on to you with an attitude you say “eat me.” And if you want to shine them on it’s “hasta la vista, baby.”” John Conner, Terminator 2

Emotions

Intuition, joy and fear and all that goes with a person doesn’t check itself at the door to the workplace. Change can bring excitement, stress, concern and lots of other emotions that arise when facing he unknown. For massive change, if someone, even if they rank CEO, says they know, they are lying.

Mass change is chaotic. In chaos, there is emergence. Meaning that it is not possible to determine the end state with pure logical steps in what would seem an obvious manner. It’s no randomness as much as it is spontaneous self-order. So if you can’t plan for it you need to do it. Test and adjust. So the human experience becomes key I finding inspiration, ideating, and implementing. There are too many unknown variables in mass change to plan for them all so the best way to prepare is to build the flexibility to respond to those variables.

“Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.” — Roger Ebert

Pressure

Discussions about pressure is very prevalent in Major League Baseball. If you achieved entry, you clearly have the skills necessary to play the game and play it well. It becomes a matter of pressure and how one handles it. Derek Jeter talks about acting natural. Others have different ways of handling it. Mass change is the same. It’s not the variables. Realize they will exist and they won’t be what you expect. Pay attention to yours and others emotions. Create camaraderie. And live in the moment because the plan won’t be the result.

“When you cook under pressure you trade perfection.” — Gordon Ramsay

Contact: Changing Change HQ

A Change in Change Journey

Focus

As a pre-teen I took classes in Tae Kwon Do. I am older now but still remember the endless drills. We would stand in lines in the Dojo and throw the same punch over and over again. The master of the Dojo and his assistants would walk around and adjust your posture and form. Over time you would form muscle memory and execute the same time every time. Then came the board. To be fair it was pine not oak, but you were asked to break it. It’s amazing what a barrier can do to your mindset. I punched the board once or twice and hurt my knuckles. Then came the advice. Imagine you are already through the board so you are really just punching air. Yes, I punched through the board. Glory!

Mindset can mean the difference

Classic Curve

I am curious why the change curve model that most organizations use is so embedded with the change we go through in times of tragedy. Yes, of course I’ve gone through these stages in times of trouble. We all do.Sensemaking Change Curve.001However, business change is about achievement, meeting a new goal, striving for better. Unless it means you are going to lose your job, which happens unfortunately, it should be glorious not lackluster. Terms like denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance does not break boards.

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” — Johhny Cash

Sensemaking

The change curve could dip as change does often cause a dip in performance before we get used to the new way of working. The sensemaking curve on change, however, looks at how to bridge that dip. The language itself becomes more realistic and doesn’t discount the fact that change has its challenges, but puts it in a different light.
Sensemaking Change Curve.002

  • Situation that needs to be dealt with. Something needs to be different and the model recognizes barrier, challenges constraints, memory and experience
  • Gaps of understanding in what the change means and with it confusion, worries and questions.
  • Outcomes may be different than expected but the journey will have faced helping hands, hindrances, facilitations, hurts
  • Bridges can be built to close the gaps through ideas, addressing feelings and emotions, using stories, crafting attitudes and trusting intuitions enough to investigate them.

Engagement, co-creation and ownership are key to increasing the odds of change success, but the wrapper on the candy needs to be positive context. Shift the way you view the challenge, prepare appropriately and imagine being already through the board.

“He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, / Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named, / And rouse him at the name of Crispian” — Henry V via Shakespeare

Contact: Changing Change HQ

Making Sense of Sensemaking

Mental Frames

You’ve probably heard of mental filters somewhere along the line. They are cognitive distortions, often described in negative terms such as blaming, overgeneralizing, catastrophizing etc… I am not a psychologist, but I see things through a lens of experience, sometimes a narrowing of focus to be productive, or even sometimes a need to conform. Conformity is not as important as it used to be. Not all filters are negative but they can hold you back in times of change.

While working at Symbol Technologies many companies were working towards developing hand-held bar code scanners. The big bad boys at grocery stores moved the scanning LED’s with motors. So, the common theme became attempts to miniaturize motors so they can fit in a handheld device. Jerry Schwartz, co-founder and CEO, as the story goes, asked the development team a question. What if we don’t use a motor? What would that look like? The result was an LED mounted to a flexible piece of mylar, a metal disc and magnet that flicked on an off thereby swinging the LED as effectively as a motor. Bam! Billion dollar business.

Sometimes shifting perspective, asking a different question or exploring alternatives can lead to outstanding results

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” — Gandhi

Sensemaking

Sensemaking not only focuses on experience but does so in a way that looks at the collective experience. So as a team looks at what needs to happen. Decision making is about defining choices, sensemaking is about giving meaning to shared experience. In sensemaking, you spend less time planning and more time acting. Learn by doing may come mind.

There are practical tools for sensemaking:

Problem detection — this is the art of looking for patterns in the change and determining if there is anything worth worrying about.

  • Connecting the dots — some situations are ill-defined and when that exists it means taking a deeper dive to understand what is really going on
  • Forming explanations — when there is a black box process or organization it is important to take the time to figure out how it really works.
  • Anticipatory thinking — work through things that can possibly go wrong and prevent potential problems
  • Projecting future states — by defining what the end state looks like preparation becomes clearer
  • Finding the levers — determine thoughts and actions that drive a situation
  • Seeing relationships — find where we are and how to exit
  • Problem identification — identify variables in a problem to define a solution strategy

Sensemaking is the ability or attempt to make sense of an ambiguous situation. More exactly, sensemaking is the process of creating situational awareness and understanding in situations of high complexity or uncertainty in order to make decisions

Contact: Changing Change HQ

How Can Reliability Kill Your Change Project?

Strategies, Goals and Customers’ Needs

It would be nice if could plot the course and stay on track. On a recent boat trip my captain and I cruised down the channel off the coast of Miami headed south targeting channel buoys and enjoying the sun. The heat crept upon us as the day grew old and other boats headed in and then we noticed the crab buoys, small and black and hard to see. Running over one could mean a wrapped line in the prop. So now we spent time bobber dodging instead of enjoying the ride. These hard to see black balls made things stressful, but so it goes.

So goes business. Cruising along in life and something changes before you know it. So you react. You build a new plan. You make changes. The problem being that not all changes can be defined at the outset. The CEO’s job in a corporation is to keep the ship steady. Investor’s like steady grown and confidence grows. A lot of change programs are designed around communication, as is and to be states, because it feels steady. People are told what the new world will look like. Fantastic news! Or, to some people, scary news. But like news these days, it is often premature.

There is no GPS route for Massive Change

Change vs. Change

Some change is predictable, so I am not devaluing methodologies such as ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. It has its charms. I also agree that change needs to happen at the individual level. The issue with many methodologies lies in the fact that some change, massive change, is not linear. It becomes a chaotic mess. Linear does seem reliable. CEO’s feel comfortable. Managers sense control. Oh how the hierarchy likes to feel in control. In many companies, attempt to strip that away as an employee with nuggets of truth, and you’ll be out the door in mere minutes. So silence ensues, shoulders shrug and everyone does what they are told. Top down management.

The world is changing. The key to understanding what the new organization could look like is a shift to outcome based management. Top management sets the results they would like to see, middle management coordinates the day to day activity and the change process, and the contributors and producers (every employee in some aspect) map out their business processes, products and services. In fact, we can go as far as to say managers shouldn’t be writing job descriptions, the owner of the activity should write their own. In a lot of my jobs, I would look back at the job description I signed up for and say, no way, that’s not what I do.

Validity as a Counterbalance to Reliability

Massive change demands a nonlinear approach. The goal is to seek the valid answer. Validity becomes the path to future reliability which begets the search for efficiency through methods such as LEAN thinking, Six Sigma, and various other quality controls. The path to validity is however iterative, hypothetical, experimental and will be wrought with dead ends, wrong paths and return trips. Think more about all the failed science experiments you had in high school. Have you blown anything up in your past?

In the world of massive change the actors, all people in the organization in the scope of the change, need to engage, test, evaluate and ultimately design the path to the outcome. “Co-creation, shared ownership and improved interaction increases the probability of successful change projects from 34% to 58%  and your connection to the big picture.” — Gartner Study. Think about those changes in results. But how do you get to those activities in a practical manner?

Sensemaking

It doesn’t sound Corporate does it. You need the right tool for the right job. This one includes terms like mental frames and anchors. Yes, it comes from scholarly work, but as we automate the now — think of a world that doesn’t have accountants — learning to think will be the future of job growth. There will be people responsible for thinking about thinking. Well there are professors now who do that.

Sensemaking essentially reframes problems or situation in terms of human experience which help reduce perceived complexity. This sounds outstandingly undoable in the ranks of corporate America. Isn’t that for people in Marketing or something. But there are practical tools in Sensemaking to help sort through the chaos of Massive Change.

Contact: Changing Change HQ