Author Archives: Peter Leeson

Do you satistify your customers and users’ needs?

Shouldn’t you deliver quality on time and in budget?

Are you frustrated by people who cannot deliver according to their commitments and promises?

Are others frustrated by your own issues in responding to needs and requirements?

It doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive,

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Do you have “Plan Continuation Bias”?

Video Presentation

Symptoms

You have probably been in the situation, maybe it was you or perhaps it was your boss or a relative.

Something happens, something unexpected or at least unplanned.  Your project was moving along; your evening out was scheduled and paid for; you were driving to your destination; the business was OK.

Then something happened that you did not expect: a change in the project reveals that you are going to be over-budget or miss the deadline; on the evening you were going to go out, you are tired, maybe starting a cold, it’s raining; you have a flat tyre, a major client cancels their order. What do you do?

Many of us will naturally suffer the consequences of “Plan Continuation” or “Sunken Costs” biases. This means that they will prefer the status quo to the need to revise everything:

  • You have already invested so much in this project; it would be a waste not to continue
  • You paid for the tickets, your friends are waiting; you will go on this evening out even if it kills you
  • You abandon your car with the flat tyre for another day and grab a taxi
  • I’m sure that business will pick up again soon

You don’t take a few minutes to think what is reasonable considering the changed context, you keep on going as planned – even though things are obviously different and you should stop wasting more time and money, you should call your friends and cancel, whatever it takes.

Corrective Measures

There is an engineering principle, perhaps largely forgotten today that encourages to have regular cycles of formal reviews throughout the development, each with a systematic risk and benefit analysis and a formal decision to stop or continue the project. By forcing the review into the cycle, you avoid the personal bias trap and are asked formally to justify why you should continue.

In today’s world, change is the norm. Someone is about to invent something that will make your work obsolete or old-fashioned, clients change their mind at the worst moment, pandemics challenge your team management methodologies.

By focusing on risk management (and service continuity), you should be continuously questioning what could go wrong, what might happen and build yourself some room, some changing room.

Evolutive Change Management

Work needs to focus more on context and outcomes, rather than on plans, KPIs and attendance records.

Focusing your transformation effort on the plan and the final result is deterministic and frequently leads to failure.   The first serious obstacle stops progression and we return to what we know,

Stop

Think.

Every day.

Start where you are today, determine the next step to take to reach your “true North”.  Remember that every change is a risk; if you don’t manage it, it has a high probability of becoming a problem.

Feedback: corrective or criticism?

Feedback is there to help you and not to hurt you.  And yet, many people seem offended when points out problems.

https://www.custominsight.com/images/feedback.jpg

Feedback as criticism

I recently asked a question on Twitter and (perhaps I could have phrased it better) and got attacked in response.

A minor celebrity put up a post in which was mentioned “table d’haute”; I replied with the statement “‘table d’hôte’ surely?”.  The response I received was that it was unacceptable for me to correct a person with Parkinson’s disease.  I received further comments from his followers attacking me for being mean and petty, congratulating him on his “superior way of putting people back in their box”, asking me what pleasure I derived from pointlessly correcting people, etc.  One person sent me the following message:

“Is the buzz you get from correcting someone better or worse than the guilt of highlighting someone’s struggle for no good reason? If yes, then continue down your current path, but my God it sounds dark and lonely.”

The original person, the one who had originally confused the two homophones in a language that was not his, is a man whom I respect and I really expected a reply something like “oops, yes, of course”, instead of publicly complained about my lack of EQ for attacking a man with Parkinson’s.

Feedback as risk management

I am currently reading the brilliant book “No Rules Rules” by Reed Hastings, CEO and founder of Netflix, and Erin Meyer, whose book “The Culture Map” is a must-read for anyone working internationally.

Reed Hastings promotes candid feedback at every level within his organisation.  He believes that being told what worked well or badly is of great benefit to the organisation:

“A feedback loop is one of the most effective tools for improving performance. We learn faster and accomplish more when we make giving and receiving feedback a continuous part of how we collaborate. Feedback helps us to avoid misunderstandings, creates a climate of co-accountability, and reduces the need for hierarchy and rules.”

Years ago, I had developed the design for an international accounting software, calculating taxes as needed for any sale, including the rules for sales tax, VAT, GST and PST, and others.  I presented it to the team and asked them to rip holes in it and tell me why the system was not ideal, what would not work, what were the mistakes.  The team hesitated and thought that I was fishing for compliments until I insisted that as long as the concepts were only ideas on paper, it was easy to correct.  Later, it will become very onerous if it doesn’t work.

Feedback as critique

There are two classes of feedback:

  1. Comforting feedback tells you what a great person you are, gives you a warm feeling for a few moments, but are largely useless.
  2. Constructive feedback tells you what you need to check, correct, improve, change.  It may be hard to hear, but the correct response to any feedback perceived as “negative” should be to look into what was misunderstood or construed, what lessons are to be learned, and how you can improve.

Of course, one’s ego frequently stands between hearing the feedback and understand it’s benefits.  This rapidly becomes a problem in which people do not dare point out to their managers or others where things are going wrong and need correction, or even report risks to their hierarchy.

Design a Culture for Innovation

World Quality Day 2020Online, interactive workshop

There is no future without innovation.  If you believe that your business will remain the way it is/was in the best of times, you are ready to be replaced by Artificial Intelligence, by robotics.  You will rapidly drown in routine and maintenance.  Young, dynamic people will not see you as a place they want to join, bored staff will not really want to stay, clients will upgrade to your competition.

The future lies in your ability to change, improve, invent, innovate.

An innovative culture will attract the best people in your business, improve staff and customer retention, and your leadership position will attract more.  But, can you design a culture?  Do you understand the implications of culture on innovation, quality and customer retention?  In this workshop, I will help you identify the need, the objective, and the way forward.

I can provide you with support and guidance on how to do that through my workshop on designing a culture for innovation.  This is not a webinar; it is a workshop to help you design a culture for innovation.  You will be expected to participate, answer questions, make suggestions, and, ultimately, start building your improvement plan.  This is aimed at being practical, based on what is happening in your work environment and cultural issues.  However, don’t worry, everything is completely anonymous.  (Even those participating in the workshop will not be able to relate your statements to you unless you allow it.)

The purpose of the workshop is to get you to start considering what needs changing in your environment, and how you can get it initiated or finalized.

Design a Culture for Innovation

Designing a Culture for the Future

An interactive workshop to help you identify and correct problems related to quality, culture, creativity and innovation.

Without innovation, your business is doomed to become outdated; however, you don’t want to sacrifice efficiency and productivity for some long term idea.

In this online, interactive workshop, you will be invited to identify and reflect on what needs to be done within your own work environment – rest assured, you will not be asked to share anything with the other attendees, other than some anonymous statistics and overviews.

I will be sharing some ideas on how to change the culture without destroying your team’s spirit.

Registration is now open at Eventbrite:

07 Oct 2020 at 08:00, London time, suitable for anyone from the UK to Japan and Australia: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/119105570969

08 Oct 2020 at 20:00, London time, suitable for anyone from the UK to the US, including Hawaii: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/119402617443

Webinars and other events

My latest newsletter can be found at https://mailchi.mp/901abb3eef18/newsletter-202009

My newsletter for September 2020, announcing all the upcoming talks and webinars in which I will be participating:

Does diversity strengthen or weaken the culture?

No, I am not going to write about isolationist or nationalist governments and other political movements, I am speaking here to industries, businesses and other organisations.

My business is to try to support and improve the culture within organisations, working to make your staff feel appreciated and react accordingly to increase customer satisfaction.  Having a motivated, creative team, who feel valued and responsible, is the best approach to being ready for the challenges of tomorrow.

For many businesses, the hiring process includes a test or verification to see how well the candidate “fits into the team”.  The result is that many organisations end up being monochromatic:  they hire people who have the same ideas, the same principles, similar education, come from the “same side of the tracks” as the rest of the team.  And, therefore, their knowledge largely overlaps with that already present, they will not challenge your received ideas.

The resulting organisation continues in the same direction, produces the same things as before, and wonders why the clients are not following.  Your obedient, process-revering staff believes that “the way we have always done it” is the best way to do it.  Ultimately, they can expect to be replaced by artificial intelligence or robotics.  Your product or service is known, considered as old-fashioned or traditional; the best and brightest graduates are not interested in staying with you for too long.

Rut

The longer you stay in a rut, the deeper it gets and the more difficult it is to get out of it. You don’t want your business to be stuck in its past.

You risk ending up a rut.  A rut is a tomb with the ends removed.

A thriving culture that encourages creativity and innovation will help retain key staff and make your organisation attractive to new graduates and others.  You want your team members to feel like valued stakeholders rather than corporate cyphers.

You interviewed them and hired them because you thought they were valuable; why have you locked them into obeying rules and following strict processes?  Rules are important, of course.  You want to make sure that all your people represent the organisation with the same level of professional respect and service.  One usually creates rules in response to a problem, perceived or real.  If the rule stays in place after the problem has disappeared, the safeguard turns into overly bureaucratic restrictions.  Staff obeys rules because they must.

 

Highway

It may seem like a good idea to get on a motorway to the future – what if you find out that your clients are going in a different direction?

It is useful to bring in disruptive elements and cynics, people who will challenge you and ask the “stupid” questions.

Including someone from a different background may challenge your habits and help you understand what changes your products and services need.  You should probably consider including people who have no experience in your industry; they have no prejudices.  Hiring a sociologist in a software company, inserting a civil engineer into your publishing business, these are options that will allow useful cross-fertilisation of ideas, reaching out into the principles behind the work and understanding how to perform more effectively.  Henry Ford’s revolutionary concept for his factory came from the way hanging carcasses in a slaughterhouse were moved around to the workers.

Personally, I used to believe in “hiring the best person for the job”, and disapproved of “positive discrimination”.  Then, I realised that the “best person for the job” was someone who agreed with your world view, someone who would not challenge the team, someone with whom you could relate.  You naturally tend to hire more people in your age group, ethnic background, level of education.  You favour those who share your beliefs and principles.  In many cases, people go through rigorous interviews and tests only to hire a clone of what the existing team members.

Yes, it is essential to fit in the team and work together.  However, you don’t want a team that obeys without thinking.  Continuous improvement and creativity depend on cynics who will challenge what you are doing and how you are doing it.

Trail Bike

You want a fast reaction that allows you to quickly change directions when you come to obstacles.

Someone who has experienced real poverty or discrimination will help you understand a sector of the market that your university graduates have never seen.  A gay man will understand discrimination against women; a black person will understand discrimination against the disabled.  Employees born in poverty can assist you in seeing the needs of people who cannot make ends meet at the end of the month, let alone buy a computer or a smartphone.

Understanding the changing world, the diversity of expectations and abilities is key to survival in today’s technological, global market.  Only then will you be able to productively innovative.

Innovation comes from creativity; creativity comes from challenging received ideas.  You should want to be challenged by your employees before your market place challenges you.

I recently signed up to the Tech Talent Charter, a non-profit organisation leading a movement to address inequality in the UK tech sector and drive inclusion and diversity in a practical and uniquely measurable way. TTC’s goal is to make the UK tech sector a genuinely inclusive industry, reflecting the society it represents.

TechTalent CharterSignatories to the charter commit to several steps in their hiring process.  As a consultant in culture and quality, I hope that more organisations will understand the value of diversity and I will continue to promote that when assisting organisations to improve their quality, productivity and efficiency through a culture that fosters innovation, integration and engagement.  Your team members should feel that management considers them as valuable stakeholders and assets, and not corporate cyphers or just resources.

 

Peter Leeson, Culture and Transformation
Let’s talk: www.calendly.com/Orchestrated-Knowledge

Find out more about the TechTalent Charter at: https://www.techtalentcharter.co.uk

Designing a Culture for Innovation

A little while back I gave a talk at the “Digital Leaders Virtual Conference” on Designing a Culture for Innovation.  The talk was recorded and is now available.

Innovation is critical for the future of your work, whatever you do.  But innovation has to be based on your business realities and the creativity of your team members.  Is it really possible to “design a culture”?