Leaders Avoiding Disaster With Your Company’s Complexity

Every Disaster Is an Opportunity You Must Seize “There is no innovation and creativity without failure.” -Brene Brown With the inability to solve the ongoing projects due to not having enough time and running into obstacles at every turn, how can you as the leader help reduce these difficulties? Both managing or leading people and…

Every Disaster Is an Opportunity You Must Seize

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure.” -Brene Brown

With the inability to solve the ongoing projects due to not having enough time and running into obstacles at every turn, how can you as the leader help reduce these difficulties? Both managing or leading people and making sure complex and complicated situations do not interfere with the daily operations of your business needs you to constantly observe your business daily.

Leaders need to show more composition than ever before in the workplace. Knowing the difference between complex and complicated impacts your business differently. Most people use these words interchangeably. If you're a leader and you treat a complex problem like a complicated problem, you are setting up yourself and your company for failure.

Learn From Failure

“Learn to listen. Opportunity could be knocking at your door very softly.” -Anonymous

Too many leaders fail at change management efforts because either you do not follow through completely or when you begin to fail you give up. Do not give up as failing is part of the learning curve. Trying to experiment with rules, processes and procedures works best takes some time see what works and what does not. This takes place with everything you do in order to get the right things in place.



Look carefully at what you have in place. Some are self-imposed that you and your employees put in place. Some are assumptions and beliefs. You need to separate them out before you start looking at what works and what you can eliminate or change. Updating your processes and procedures allows you to work better.

Start allowing your employees to “break the rules” when generating ideas for innovative breakthroughs. This means they can not get rid of specific regulations that are required.

Move Beyond Same Old Approaches = Same Old Results

“Some people do not like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.” -Elon Musk

Breaking away from the traditional ways you've been conducting business sometimes happens when a crisis occurs. The problem for many organizations is that you've been working the same way for years- the same rules, processes and procedures and have not changed with the times. OK, you believe that what's happening is a fad and everything will get back to the way things were. Sorry, in today's business world creativity, innovation and technology are the way to go. On top of this is using simplification for getting things done is the extra company needs to be productive.

Shift Your Mindset

“Picture your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn. Keep on going.”

? Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

In today's business world your mind needs to change for what you need right now. Yesterday's mindset was for yesterday as business change in the blink of an eye. Looking at your business you need to change more often than before. Instead of having one product to work with, today's business cycles are faster requiring your company to have at least 2-3 other ideas generating in the pipeline ready for the next cycle before the current one begins.

You need to use your creative thinking to generate greater ideas as your competition is already doing this. Do not be left behind to think that everyone wants you product or service and that a slow period will eventually bring people back for more of the same. The world has been changing and it is getting faster with newer products and service. You need to think this way too.

Start Taking Risks

“Spend eighty percent of your time focusing on the opportunities of tomorrow rather than the problems of yesterday.” -Brian Tracy

Beside asking thought-provoking questions, you and your employees need to look at what is possible from the complexity you have in front of you. Yes, you do need to take some time to look at what you have and try small changes that will make a greater impact on what you currently do.

Taking a risk requires leaders and employees to go both inside and outside the box in search for other ways to find ideas as well as how to get things done more efficiently.

Leadership is not rocket science and in reality some people think it is especially when it comes to avoiding the problems, challenges and difficulties complexities. As the saying goes “Do not take your eyes off the ball” this is what many do to let complexity into the workplace. You do need to work hard to make simplification work. It is better than the alternative- bankruptcy and fading away.

You Gave Me What I Asked for But Not What I Wanted! (Part 1)

Picture the following scenario: You're the project manager ready to deliver the new system your team has been developing for the past two years. Millions of dollars have been spent during those two years to gather requirements, define the system, build an architecture and models, create a work breakdown structure and project schedule with resource…

Picture the following scenario: You're the project manager ready to deliver the new system your team has been developing for the past two years. Millions of dollars have been spent during those two years to gather requirements, define the system, build an architecture and models, create a work breakdown structure and project schedule with resource allocation, build the system components, integrate, test, validate, fix problems and finally the day is at hand: delivery. You deliver the system with great fanfare and you are confident the system will deliver as promised: greater efficiencies, cost savings, improved customer service, and increased revenue.

Your systems engineering team did an amazing job collecting and vetting requirements from the users, customers, and even the “C-Suite” crowd. Everyone agreed the requirements were well defined and prescribed what the system should do. Your enterprise and systems architects defined the architecture against the requirements, built models of the system, and re-vetted them with stakeholders. A final design was developed and was handed off to the development team to implement. The development team tested their components worked and validated them against the requirements. Once any discrepancies were fixed and regression tested, the systems components were handed to the integration team to “stich” everything together. Again, more testing and validation are completed, problems fixed, regression testing completed, and the system is packaged up for delivery to the stakeholders. Your work is done, and a promotion and a raise will certainly be in the offing for pulling off such a complex project.

Exception … it quickly turns into a disaster. The users start using the system and find it's not doing what they thought it would do. Processes are radically different, data management requires a new set of skills, some people find themselves overburdened with activities while others are now idle, the newly formed help desk is swamped with calls and trouble tickets, customer service takes a beating, and the C- Suite quickly finds out about the mess you delivered. They order the system be taken down immediately and fixed. Instead of that promotion and raise, you're looking at the real possibility of termination and no income at all. What you quickly learn doing a “post mortem” on the project is a very common problem in requirements gathering and management: the stakeholders will say, “You gave me what I asked for, but it's not what I wanted!” Somehow, the project management and systems engineering roles should have been described as “being able to read minds” rather than collect, structure, and vet requirements for a system. But was it the inability to read minds or the process that replied in this fiasco?

Before I go on, I want to quickly define what I mean by “system.” Most people reading this article will assume I'm talking about software. In many cases, the system that fails to meet customer expectations is a new software capability. In business, these systems can be bespoke applications developed for a very specific capacity; In many cases, it can be an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution based on applications from SAP, Oracle / Peoplesoft, or Microsoft Dynamics, to name some well-known ERP solutions. However, a system can be anything: an airplane, a ship, a spacecraft, a car, a power generation plant, medical devices … really, anything that meets the definition of “a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole . ” Think of non-software-based systems that failed to deliver as promised or processed delays and cost overruns: The Ford Edsel and Pontiac Aztec, which had market failures (requirements developed in a market vacuum), the Airbus 380 and Boeing 787 (requirements and implementation mismatch), and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), to name a few.

Now that I've defined what a system is, I want to return to the fictitious, but very familiar, story I crafted for the introduction to this article. I posited the question of whether project managers and systems engineers need to read minds or should have changed the process to avoid the disaster. Well, it turns out that mind reading is not a prerequisite for either of these positions. What could have avoided the problems is employing chaos theory and emergence as the approach to systems development. These theoretic constructs are what drive Agile development, which I will provide an overview on how Agile methods work and their implementation.

Agile development, which includes such techniques as Scrum, eXtreme Programming (XP), and Design Systems Development Method (DSDM) are rooted in the idea that the end users must be involved in the entire development process, and that nobody really knows what the end state of the system will look like: the end state emerges from the entire process. This article will not discuss how to implement an Agile process; rather, it will describe some key aspects of the approach and why it works.

Agile methods are fundamentally designed to facilitate communication between all the stakeholders in a project. The processes encourage teams to develop as self-organizing systems, with people assuming roles based on their strengths and interests. Communication is facilitated with “information radiators” that have team members post their progress and issues in a “war room” planning board with Post-It notes. It also recognizes that end-users of the system are both instrumental in the development and do not really know what they want until they see it. That encourages the development of small, incremental solutions to a problem, rather than a monolithic solution that often does not satisfy anyone.

It is the antithesis of how organizations typically operate, because there is a great deal of unpredictability in what the final system will look like and the apprehensive lack of control during the development process. Further, Agile processes tend to have sparse documentation: “ornamental” document deliverables, which provide no value to the team's ability to develop and deliver a solution are almost entirely eliminated; Much of the text-based documentation are replaced by diagrams, models, and storyboards. Metrics that are grouped are more focused on keeping the team aware of what has been completed and what is in the pipeline rather than the classic Gantt chart progress reports and earned-value data that management is always focused on. Instead, daily “stands” are held: these are short meetings with all the team members to discuss three things: accomplishes, today's objectives, and roadblocks / problems that need to be addressed. The team members include the developers, and end-user representative, testers, user experience developers, and testers.

The focus is on delivering small, incremental pieces of functionality rather than large, monolithic solution. Remember: the users are getting things done without any new systems, so even small improvements in their operations will be appreciated. And because they helped develop it, they will be vested in its success. The interesting piece is that there's no prediction on what the final product will do: as needs change, people change, and missions change, the incremental approach allows the system to evolve as it's developed. With this approach, the problem of “You Gave Me What I Asked for But Not What I Wanted!” is a thing of the past.

In Part 2 of this article, I will discuss why an Agile, incremental, and adaptive approach works, why the old ways of doing business fail so often, and how to sell the approach to a C-suite staff that wants a predictable end- state, lots of meters along the way, and reams of documentation.

Change Is Inevitable – Don’t Throw Innovation Out Your Company Window

I just read a ridiculous article. It was about a new company hiring strategy to stop hiring creative people because they are a cost too much time and money. I understand that businesses have to find a way to control costs but without creativity, there would be no innovation and definitely no improvement of products…

I just read a ridiculous article. It was about a new company hiring strategy to stop hiring creative people because they are a cost too much time and money. I understand that businesses have to find a way to control costs but without creativity, there would be no innovation and definitely no improvement of products and services. These companies may weather some storms but it is inevitable that a non-questioning culture within their work will not be resilient and unable to cope with change. Have you ever read “Change is inevitable?”

The argument is that when company attempts at something new have failed, employees use the excuse that at least they tried something? There was the feeling that there was no discipline to follow through and make the ideas stick or be sustainable. As a creative person, I will be the first one to say, I recognize that possibility. The key is as a leader and a manager of people to build a team with different strengths and styles. I would never have an entire team full of creative people. I would never have an entire team of very number-driven logical people. You do not have nine pitchers on the field at the same time in baseball? Why would I have nine pitchers on my work team? It does not make sense.

Let me give you another example. A friend of mine is a great salesperson. He is constantly finding new ways to advertise and coming up with clients that did not know that they needed to advertise. However, he can not stand paperwork and is very disorganized. His boss made him a deal. She said I will do your closing paperwork if you just go out and sell. He tripled his sales in one quarter alone. He was doing what he liked to do and his boss recognized that she would get more out of him if she helped him be successful. Her team of individuals with different strengths earned the company an award for the highest sales growth this year in the company.

Here are a few more ideas that coincide with removing creativity from the workplace. Brainstorming sessions were replaced with strict bench marks and metrics. Employees were not encouraged to come with anything on their own, just borrow from what was already working. Salespeople were told never to improvise and definitely no innovative marketing strategies because only they thought only a few companies could get away with gimmicks. Finally, the employees felt the pressure or consequences if they failed.

I am the first person to say that if we do not measure our performance, we have no idea what we need to improve. But is it OK just stay at 75% because up to that point it has been working? Any Six Sigma guru will tell you that 99.9% is not a good number when you are talking about plane crashes or water purity. 1% means you crashed or possibly drank contaminated water. We can always do better. I will never advise someone to be OK with the status quo. I am also completely alright borrowing from something that is working. Borrow shamelessly as long as you give the originator the credit. We would not have energy light bulbs or the light bulb at all if we did not improve on the technology. What about faster phones, better internet capability, energy efficient cars? I do not know about you but I am kind of glad we moved past the Model T and the clunky first cell phones from the 1970's. Steve Jobs did not invent the cell phone, he just improved upon it. I will also tell you that when you are dealing with customer service in any way, shape or fashion, one size doe s not fit all. If you do not allow your employees to help meet the customer's needs, you are not providing top service or the best product. I promise you, they will go elsewhere. In a society of many choices and options, I will go where I feel like I am wanted. I do not have to settle for what you are offering just because. Finally, I am not a big proponent of a fear-based leadership mentality. When your employees fear that they will be fired or punished for coming up with ideas, usually the quality and quantity of what is being produced lessens. You also get complacency. Complacency is safety standards. Complacency in everything standards.

Maybe the answer is a compromise. Have a little of both philosophies mixed into your business. Be cautious but do not be afraid to try some innovation that falls within your business comfort level. Mistakes can be cost but you can go online and find hundreds of companies that exist fifty years ago that are no more. Did they get passed because they just carried on business as usual? Fifty years ago, the majority of advertisements were geared towards male shoppers. Today, women have a huge share of the economy's buying power. Companies that decided to keep their trial and true marketing campaigns may not be selling much these days?

How To Be An Agent Of Change, Even If Unknowingly

I was recently privy to an act of faith in transformational change that when studied closely reinforced many of the important messages required for affecting change in a meaningful and positive way from within an organization. Interestingly enough, this lesson did not occur within our humble firm, nor was it intended as an act of…

I was recently privy to an act of faith in transformational change that when studied closely reinforced many of the important messages required for affecting change in a meaningful and positive way from within an organization.

Interestingly enough, this lesson did not occur within our humble firm, nor was it intended as an act of change by the individual involved. In fact, it actually occurred as far removed from any traditional business setting as one could imagine. It was a government organization.

The agent in this case was not a top level manager or executive, but rather a front line worker, which is why this act of awareness is so much more inspirational. This individual was not driven to change by a directive from upper management; rather she instinctively understood that how she and her colleagues approached their work had to fundamentally change. In fact, as you will read, CHANGE in their situation was a matter of survival.

I can personally attest to the powerful change this individual will have on her department. I know her to be a bright, inventive and knowledgeable professional. To work in her field requires severe victimization. Her and her colleagues do the work many of us are incapable of doing. They deal with heartbreaking scenarios on a daily basis. Unfortunately their work also has emotional dangers, which historically drains the spirit from the very best of them, yet, they regroup and carry on day after day without recognition or gratitude from those of us who understand the importance of what they do but have not the courage or resilience to do it ourselves.

I know this particular change agent intimately, partly because of the heroic work she does, but more importantly through the pride I feel knowing she is not only all of the above, but also my loving niece. She has allowed me to share her story in her own words The day I reiterated perspective and respect for my profession which is included in this segment.

Those with experience in the art of change management will no doubt recognize within Justienne's letter, several important change items; AWARENESS – TIMING – COMPETENCY & KNOW-HOW – DESIRE and my favorite MENTAL TOUGHNESS. Although it is arguable that acting as a change agent was most certainly not the intended reason for expressing her message, she non-the-less has unwittingly set in motion the seeds for change.

Regardless of the intention however, there is one final element not mentioned above that is clearly evident through Justienne's journey. That element element PASSION and without it change is simply a word. She has it in spades and that is why a positive exit is assured.

Congratulations Jus you are truly an agent of change.

The day I restored perspective and respect for my profession

Five years ago my career path changed. I was considering an occupation where I would work closely with children and families. My big concern was that I did not want to be one of 'those people', you know the ones society talks about who just go out and take children from families. I wanted to be able to work closely with those I was there to help, think outside the box and really make a difference. Thankfully I had a wonderful support system that encouraged me to pursue this challenge.

I joined this profession jumping in feet first with all the zest and vigor only a new worker can. I was quickly faced with situations beyond my realm of understanding however never lost my resolve to continue to ensure our children and families were as safe as possible before I ended my day.

Often times the first thing someone says once they hear what I do is 'I can not imagine how hard that is, I do not know how you do that job'. I shr it off and move on as the reality is I do not often stop to consider that and would not be able to explain it to someone who does not do it.

I have met children and seen situations that will forever affect my life. I will not ever be able to forget some of the information that has been shared with me. I have sat through interviews that have literally made it feel as though my heart is breaking. I have been confused and angry witnessing what our most vulnerable population lives through. I have seen the hurt and frustration of parents who want the best for their children however do not feel as though they have healthy and appropriate supports. Through all of it I have been thankful that these individuals have trusted me enough to share their life with me and put their faith in a belief that I can help.

It is for these individuals that I get up every day and do the best I can to support them no matter what their circumstance. Unfortunately during this process the people I have forgotten about are my colleges and I. I have seen new and promising workers leave and amazing seasoned workers become tired and unable to perform their work in the manner in which they previously could. It is a profession in which no matter how hard you try there are days in which it will affect your personal life. At times it will challenge your ability to have faith in other human beings or your desire to interact with people at the end of the day.

Although not always, there have been times in which my colleagues safety has been at risk and I have talked with them, encouraging them to take precautionary measures to ensure their safety. I have also been frustrated watching them seemingly push it away and move forward. What I have forgotten is I have done the same. It is something we feel we have to do in order to go to work every day and continue to do the work we are passionate about. Thankfully often times the situation dies down and we are able to move forward.

What I never stopped to consider is what happens when that does not happen? What happens if the threat escalates and continues to present itself? Who is there to support my colleges and I? … read more

Kanban in a Nutshell

Kanban method as formulated by David J. Anderson is an approach to incremental, evolutionary process and systems change for organizations. It uses a work-in-progress limited pull system as the core mechanism to expose system operation (or process) problems and stimulate collaboration to continue improve the system. One example of such a pull system is a…

Kanban method as formulated by David J. Anderson is an approach to incremental, evolutionary process and systems change for organizations. It uses a work-in-progress limited pull system as the core mechanism to expose system operation (or process) problems and stimulate collaboration to continue improve the system. One example of such a pull system is a Kanban system, and it is after this popular form of a work-in-progress, limited pull system that the method is named .

Basic Kanban principles

The Kanban method is rooted in four basic principles:

1. The Kanban method starts with the roles and processes you have and stimulates continuous, incremental and evolutionary changes to your system.

2. The organization (or team) must agree that continuous, incremental and evolutionary change is the way to make system improvements and make them stick. Sweeping changes may seem more effective but have a higher failure rate due to resistance and fear in the organization. The Kanban method encourages continuous small incremental and evolutionary changes to your current system.

3. We need to facilitate future change by agreeing to respect current roles, responsibilities and job titles we eliminate initial errors. This should enable us to gain broader support for our Kanban initiative.

4. Acts of leadership at all levels in the organization from individual contributors to senior management should be encouraged.

Kanban – 5 core practices

David Anderson identified five core properties that had been observed in each successful implementation of the Kanban method. They were later relabled as practices and extended with the addition of a sixth.

1. Visualize

Visualizing the flow of work and making it visible is core to understanding how work proceeds. Without understanding the workflow, making the right changes is more difficult. A common way to visualize the workflow is to use a board with columns and swimlanes. The columns represent different states or steps in the workflow while horizontal swimlanes may indicate different project, department, person or priority.

2. Limit Work-in-Progress

Limiting work-in-progress implies that a pull system is implemented on parts or all of the workflow. The pull system will act as one of the main stimuli for changes to your system.

3. Manage the work flow

The flow of work through each state in the workflow should be monitored, measured and reported. By actively managing the flow the continuous, incremental and evolutionary changes to the system can be evaluated to have positive or negative effects on the system.

4. Make Process Policies Explicit

Set your own rules and guidelines of your work. Understand your needs and make sure everyone follow these rules. The policies will define when and why a ticket is moved from one column to another. Change the rules when work variables change.

5. Use models to recognize improvement opportunities

When teams have a shared understanding of theories about work, workflow, process, and risk, they are more likely to be able to build a shared comprehension of a problem and suggest improvement actions which can be agreed by consensus.

Questions Are the New Answers

How can the power of positive inquiry affect your life for the better? In its most basic form, inquiry has to do with how you and I think. Some say thinking is nothing more than asking and answering questions. At the least, it is true that the questions we ask ourselves influence our thoughts and…

How can the power of positive inquiry affect your life for the better? In its most basic form, inquiry has to do with how you and I think. Some say thinking is nothing more than asking and answering questions. At the least, it is true that the questions we ask ourselves influence our thoughts and our behaviors. One way to understand the power of questions is to look at how they can affect the results you achieve. For example, please examine the following chain of causes and their effects. To change your results, you must first change your behavior. To change your behavior, you need to change the way you think. How does one do such a difficult task? To change how you think, change the questions you ask yourself. In this manner, there is a direct line from the questions you ask to the results you obtain. Quite simply, asking the right questions gives you the opportunity to think more constructively.

First Principles

In this paper, I will discuss how positive inquiry is used to manage change at the individual, group and organizational levels, and I will present two processes that use positive inquiry to help you to manage change more effectively. In regard to the forces at work in the change process, two principles are essential to a proper understanding of how positive inquiry works. The Simultaneity Principle states that “Inquiry is intervention.” The moment we ask a question, we begin to create change. “1 The Anticipatory Principle concludes that” Human systems move in the direction of their images of the future. images of the future are, the more positive the present day action will be. “2 Given the power of questions to drive change and given the fact that human beings move in the direction of their images of the future, what does this indicate about the types of questions we should ask? Is it not obvious? To get positive results, ask positive questions. The energy for effective change is derived from the dynamic ingrained in asking positive questions.


What follows are two methodologies you can use to transform your life and the lives of those around you. The first technique is called Question Thinking. It was originated by Marilee Adams and described in her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. The second approach, in the paper, will be Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry was developed by Professor David Copperrider of Case Western Reserve University in the early 1980s. For a detailed description of how Appreciative Inquiry works and the outstanding results it produces, I recommend the book The Power of Appreciative Inquiry by Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom. Both Question Thinking and Appreciative Inquiry can be used to manage individual or group change. However, it is true that Appreciative Inquiry can more readily be applied to system-wide change at the organizational level.

Question Thinking

Now, let us examine the use of Question Thinking. Question Thinking is about how the questions we ask ourselves and others provide opportunities for new thinking and new direction in our lives. As Ms. Adams describes it, “… real change always begins with a change in thinking — and most specifically in the questions we ask ourselves.” 3 Question Thinking postulates that at any given moment, we are faced with a choice. The choice of which mindset we will use: the Learner Mindset or the Judger Mindset. The Judger Mindset is often entered into a reaction to a negative event. For example, someone receives a poor evaluation on their performance review at work. If that person begins to think about who is to blame, they will immediately assume a Judger Mindset. They may rarely ask themselves questions like, “What is wrong with me? Why am I such a failure?” 4 These questions will keep them mired in the quicksand of the Judger Pit. If they want to leave the Judger Pit, they will need to begin asking themselves different questions. They should ask themselves questions like, “What can I learn? What are the facts? What assumptions am I making? What do I want? What is possible?” 5 These questions will lead the person out of the Judger Pit and onto the path of the Learner Mindset. The Learner Mindset is a way of thinking that leads to thoughtful choice and positive solutions.

Ms. Adams' thesis is that the questions we ask ourselves influence our mindset, thinking and behaviors. If we change the questions we ask ourselves, we can change our mindset. Consequently, we can move from a negative thought process to a more positive one.6 A negative mindset tends to close us down. It removes our awareness of possibilities. It keeps us in a self-reinforcing loop of criticism and regret. A positive focus opens us up to possibilities, and it provides a pathway to potential solutions. The merits of Question Thinking are substantiated by the field of Cognitive Psychology. According to Cognitive Psychologists, our internal dialogue plays a significant role in what we think, what we feel, and how we have. Here is how you can use Question Thinking to improve your performance at work.

If you need to make an important decision or if you find it difficult to be objective, try using what Ms. Adams' calls the ABCC Choice Process. The technique is stated as follows, “(A) ware: Am I in Judger Mindset? (B) reathe: Do I need to step back, pause and look at this situation more objectively? (C) uriosity: Do I have all the facts? What is happening here? (C) hoose: What is my choice? “7 This handy tool will help you be less judicial and more solution focused. In addition to the ABCC Process, you can use these four questions8 prior to team meetings to create a learning environment:

1. “What do I appreciate about them?”
2. “What are the best strengths of each one of them?”
3. “How can I help them cooperate most productively?”
4. “How can we stay on the learner path together?”

As Adams 'recommends, these questions “' … invite everyone, including you, to listen more patiently and carefully. possible for everyone to get curious, feel safe taking risks, and participate fully, even when they're facing tough challenges. '”9

Achieving outcomes like these are critical to any organization, department or manager's success. Any manager who gets his / her team to fully participate during challenging circumstances will make significant contributions to the success of his / her company.
Appreciative Inquiry

The second methodology that uses positive inquiry to manage change and that is presented in this paper is Appreciative Inquiry. This approach is based on the inherent energy that is released when questions are focused on the positive. According to Whitney, Trosten-Bloom, “Appreciative Inquiry is the study of what gives life to human systems when they function at their best. This approach to personal change and organization change is based on the assumption that questions and dialogue about strengths, successes, In short, Appreciative Inquiry suggests that human organizing and change at its best is a relational process of inquiry, grounded in affirmation and appreciation. “10 You may be thinking, 'That sounds too good to be true? '

Frankly, my first thought when I initially became acquainted with Appreciative Inquiry was exactly that. I thought Appreciative Inquiry seemed too good to be true. I was so steeped in the view that to solve a problem, I needed to analyze it. I did not realize there was another, better way. When organizations face problems of poor customer service, low sales, or internal conflict, they frequently look to consultants for help. All consultants are familiar with techniques and prescriptions for problem solving. The typical consultant will work to “fix” the problem by first thoroughly examining it. Appreciative Inquiry does not seek to “fix” the problem. Instead, it strides to nurture the growth of the positive core whose seed is already present in the organization. Appreciative Inquiry is not prescriptive. It creates a framework in which employees themselves unforgettable what is best for them. Appreciative Inquiry develops an environment in which employees capacities for courage, confidence, growth and understanding are nourished and enhanced. Appreciative Inquiry is about strengthening the system organically, from its core outward. Appreciative Inquiry is unique and in some sense counter-intuitive, yet it most certainly is effective. It has a 30 year record of success in the fields of business, healthcare, religion, charitable giving and government.

In the reminder of this paper, I will demonstrate how and why Appreciative Inquiry works. One key reason Appreciative Inquiry works is its use of the activity called Affirmative Topics. The following example illustrates this point. In the late 1990s, British Airways (BA) decided to use Appreciative Inquiry to handle a variety of concerns it needed to address. One of these issues was late baggage. The consultants on the project asked the group of BA employees to provide more detail about this issue. The Appreciative Inquiry consultants wanted to understand why this was such an important concern for the group. The BA employees cited many examples of how late baggage and the problems it entailed for customers caused problems for the company.11 – – A particularly problematic incident occurred when a wedding dress did not make it in time for the wedding, and the airline had to pay to replace the dress.12

The consultants paraphrased the responses they heard. Then, they said, “'Given that organizations move in the direction of what they study, what is it that you want more of at BA? In this case, we know you do not want more lost or delayed baggage. want more of? '”13 Eventally, the BA group determined what they wanted. They decided that they wanted customers to have an “Exceptional Arrival Experience.” One of the areas of focus for the project then became how BA, its employees, and the entire organization would create such an experience for its customers. The old, less effective, technique was to analyze the problem. This leads to the creation of a solution that is grounded in the soil of negativity, focused on what went wrong. The more effective Appreciative Inquiry approach emphasizes what employees want more of, and what is right with the organization. It is upon the base of a strong and positively focused Affirmative Topic that the entire Appreciative Inquiry project will grow. As Whitney and Trosten-Bloom describe it, when employees begin to understand the impact of selecting an appropriate Affirmative Topic, “Light bulbs go off as they realize that no amount of research or knowledge about turnover will help them create a magnetic work environment where long -term, committed employment is the norm. Nor will an understanding of obstacles to profitability help employees develop business literacy and enhanced margins. “14

This section began by asking the question, Does Appreciative Inquiry work? My first attempt at answering that question discussed Appreciative Inquiry in general terms. Next, I will share my thoughts on my personal experience with Appreciative Inquiry. My first experience with Appreciative Inquiry occurred in the fall of 2012. At that time, I attended a four day seminar titled “The Appreciative Leadership Development Program” (ALDP). The seminar was conducted by the Corporation for Positive Change. This workshop was designed to evaluate my leadership abilities. It also gives me the opportunity to develop leadership skills in the areas of inquiry, inclusion, illumination, inspiration and integrity.15
My Appreciative Inquiry Experience

I had many incredibly uplifting experiences during the four days of the ALDP workshop. However, the activity that stands out the most, above everything else were the Appreciative Interviews. The Appreciative Interviews comprised a day and a-half of seminar time, but to me, they seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. First, we paired up into interview teams. Then each person took a turn answering questions like.

“What do you love most about your work? Describe a time when you had a highpoint experience as a leader? What do you value most?” 16 As I answered these questions, I felt fantastic. It was wonderful to be able to speak about things that were so valuable to me and emotionally significant. In most of our working lives, we are discouraged from acknowledging our emotions. This leads to behavior that is inauthentic and often devoid of passion, enthusiasm and energy.

Appreciative Inquiry encourages the discussion and expression of your unique identity including your values, feelings, thoughts and behaviors. This process supports everything that makes you unique. During and immediately after the interviews, I had a tremendous feeling of acceptance and a sense of being truly heard and understood. I felt supported, and I was encouraged to move forward with my personal and professional goals. Some of those goals had remained dormant for a long period. During the ALDP workshop, I certainly found being interviewed helpful and inspirational. Yet, my experience as the interviewer was also powerful, perhaps even more so. To share someone's most intimate thoughts and heartfelt longings was clearly moving for me. It was an honor to be given such a gift. As the interviewer, my task was to listen to my partner with all the attention I could muster. I focused on my partner as completely as I could. I watched my partner's body language and facial expressions. I listened carefully for my partner's use of language and intonation. With my partner, I tried to be encouraging, supportive and hopeful. I would characterize the interview activity during the ALDP workshop as rewarding, but it went much further than that for me. The experience had a sacred quality to it. This sacredness lifted it into the realm of the spiritual. There is simply no other way to describe it. After experiencing Appreciative Inquiry first hand, I can attest to the fact that it is instrumental in forming solid relationships. Appreciative Inquiry gives you the opportunity to refer to your colleagues at work as people. This is a rare gift in a work world that values ​​titles and highlights one's received status.

In addition to creating rich relationships, I also felt many other positive emotions during the ALDP workshop. I felt a great deal of personal reinforcement. I felt charged up and confident in a way I had not experienced before. After the ALDP workshop, I was ready to take on new challenges. I came to realize why having my own consulting business meant so much to me. My business is important to me because it gives me the chance to express the best of what is in me. In answer to the original question, does Appreciative Inquiry work? From my own experience, I can answer that question with an enthusiastic, yes!
To summarize, so far, I have presented a general description of Appreciative Inquiry along with my own personal experiences of it. Now I will examine how Appreciative Inquiry works and the results it produces for organizations. Appreciative Inquiry uses a 4-D Cycle to achieve results. The first D is Discovery. The first activities in the Appreciative Inquiry process involve discovery of what gives life to organizations. This stage also includes the creation of a Change Agenda and Affirmative Topics. Discovery is a reflection of what is best about the present. The second D is Dream. The Dream stage is a time to imagine bold possibilities for the future. The next D is Design. This stage drives innovation, and It is in this stage that the outlines of the new organization begin to take shape. The final D is Destiny. In this stage, the organization delivers on the Change Agenda.17 As Whitney and Trosten-Bloom state, “The 4-D cycle can be used to guide a conversation, a large meeting, or a whole-system change effort. as a framework for personal development or coaching, partnership or alliance building, and large-scale community or organizational development. Whatever the purpose, the Appreciative Inquiry 4-D Cycle serves as the foundation on which change is built. “18

Appreciative Inquiry Results for Organizations

Yet, a key question remains, what kind of results does Appreciative Inquiry produce for organizations? An example from the book The Power of Appreciative Inquiry is an Appreciative Inquiry project begon in 1998 at Hunter Douglas Window Fashions Division (HDWFD). The project was designed to accomplish several critical things19:

• To create a collective vision that could engage and excite the entire organization and its stakeholders.
• To re-instill the creativity, flexibility, intimacy, and sense of community that had contributed to the division's original success.
• To strengthen the skills of existing leadership and build bench strength by identifying and training future leaders.
• To transcend the silos that had recently emerged between management and the general workforce, across business units, and between operations and support functions.

Here are the results that this five year project produced from “… 1998 to 2003, HDWFD experienced significant gains in sales, profitability, and efficiency: sales up 30%, profitability up 37%, employee turnover down 52%, returned goods down 55%. “20 As these statistics clearly demonstrate, Appreciative Inquiry also creates results at the system-wide, organizational level. As previously mentioned, I can attest to the fact that Appreciative Inquiry works on a personal and small group level. Yet, one final question needs to be answered. Why does Appreciative Inquiry work? Whitney and Trosten-Bloom attempted to answer this question through a series of client interviews. The most noticeable and significant interviews occurred with the employees of HDWFD. Through these interviews, they discovered that Appreciative Inquiry works by liberating personal and organizational power. They call the six conditions of liberty the Six Freedoms.21

The first freedom is the Freedom to be Known in Relationship. Appreciative Inquiry gives people the chance to be known outside of their role at work. It also creates a context in which relationships can grow. Often, these relationships are built across organizational boundaries.22 The second freedom is the Freedom to be Heard. Appreciative Inquiry supports listening with compassion and curiosity. The listener strives to understand the speaker at a defect emotional level that goes far beyond the mere understanding of the words themselves. Through deep understanding and cooperation, meaning is created. Occasionally, positive stories begin to spread through the organization, and people who are typically marginalized are given a voice. 23

The third freedom is the Freedom to Dream in Community. In this freedom attention is paid to the visionary. There is a focus on the future, not the past, and individual dreams became known by the entire organization.24

The fourth freedom is the Freedom to Choose to Contribute. This aspect of Appreciative Inquiry enhances one's capacity to contribute and learn. Because people join Appreciative Inquiry activities on their own initiative, they have a greater commitment to accomplish their goals.25 The fifth freedom is the Freedom to Act with Support. With Appreciative Inquiry, whole-system support promotes the acceptance of challenges, and it prompts cooperation. Because people are called upon to act on things that find inspirational, they will act in service to the organization.26 The sixth and final freedom is the Freedom to be Positive. In today's corporate world, being positive is not the norm. Appreciative Inquiry provides a bold invitation to be positive and to be proud of the work that one does.27 In the Appreciative Inquiry process, the Six Freedoms combine to produce a powerful, self-perpetuating force for good in organizations and the world at large.


The energy and force behind positive inquiry comes from two principles. The Simultaneity Principle and the Anticipatory Principle. The Simultaneity Principle states that questioning is intervention. The Anticipatory Principle states that human beings move in the direction of their images of the future. Like the plant that grows in the direction of the sun, human beings move toward what they imagine the future will be. In this paper two methodologies, Question Thinking and Appreciative Inquiry were presented. These techniques use the force of positive inquiry to effectively manage change. These processes were described in the hope that they might be helpful strategies you could use to effectively manage change at the individual, group and organizational levels. As we saw, the questions we ask matter. The questions we ask ourselves, the questions we ask others, and the questions we ask in organizations, make a difference. One concept is quite clear, if you want to change your behavior, change the questions you ask yourself, and pay attention to the types of questions you ask. Because the more positive the initial question is, the more positive the future result will likely be.

Reference List
3 – 9 Adams, M. Change Your Questions Change Your Life: 10 Powerful Tools for Life and Work, Second Edition, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009.

1 -2, 10-14, 17-20 Whitney, D. and Trosten-Bloom, A. The Power of Appreciative Inquiry: A Practical Guide to Positive Change, Second Edition, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010.

21 – 27 Whitney, D. and Trosten-Bloom, A. “Why Appreciative Inquiry Works,” Excerpted from Chapter 12 “Why Appreciative Inquiry Works,” The Power of Appreciative Inquiry (see above)

15-16 Whitney, D. “Learning Guide: Appreciative Leadership Development Program,” Corporation for Positive Change, September, 2012.

Jim Domino is a change management consultant who specializes in working with healthcare organizations. He helps these organizations increase their performance through the use of positive change. His web site is phaseivinc.com .

Interested In Starting Out Your Drop Shipping Business?

Drop shipping can be an exciting new way to start your e-commerce venture. In fact, a lot of budding entrepreneurs are interested in drop shipping because it offers them the opportunity to earn without being stuck in your traditional brick and mortar store set up. Although doing drop shipping can be an exhilarating new approach…

Drop shipping can be an exciting new way to start your e-commerce venture. In fact, a lot of budding entrepreneurs are interested in drop shipping because it offers them the opportunity to earn without being stuck in your traditional brick and mortar store set up. Although doing drop shipping can be an exhilarating new approach to earn, many entrepreneurs come out of it as failures.

Many people jump into the bandwagon without first doing a study of their intended market. By learning about the whole process and the drop shipping types, one would be able to prevent mistakes from occurring and launch their business successfully.


To make your drop shipping successful, it is important to note the type of supplier that you will come across in the business and choose the ones which suit you best. Aggregators and Manufacturers are the two types of drop ship suppliers that you will be exposed to in the industry. Aggregators are what one would call middlemen or those are the companies that directly negotiate with the manufacturers themselves.

They often offer clients thousands of products to choose from as well as pre-made websites where the products chosen by the client will be loaded. One of the benefits of having aggregators as your middlemen is the fact that they handle all or almost all of the problems that come with drop shipping including sourcing out reliable manufacturers, sorting out available stocks as well as handling all technicalities for you. This way you would be able to focus more on selling the products you are interested in and not having to stress on the backend of the sales process.

The bad thing about having to negotiate with middlemen is the fact that the profit that you will earn is reduced as they mark-up manufacturer's prices in order to also earn from the transaction. However, some aggregators or middlemen also offer competitive packages so you can augment your sales process to not be affected negatively in whatever manner with the reduction of the income.

For those who are interested in approaching more and are willing to do the job themselves, then they should go ahead and contact manufacturers directly for their orders. Manufacturers offer great discounts as one would be able to get products lower or at wholesale manufacturer's prices and just mark it up a bit to earn from the transaction. This helps one stay on top of the competition by offering attractive market prices. The downside to this drop shipping type is that it would require one to do more jobs and in particular, contacting a manufacturer willing to drop ship especially if the transaction is not by bulk or volume.

Although there are some companies that do this, they are far and wide and a thorough checking is in order. Another thing that one should consider is that one has to source two or three manufacturers for a particular item so that in the instance that one manufacturer is out of stock there are others that can fill in the job order. Choosing which one would work for you depends on how much work you are willing to face and the risks that you can take.

Reavulate and Adapt

The wonderfully sometimes complex world of business is constantly changing, for some, it is for the better, for others and more often than not, the majority, this change has a unique effect on our businesses and our lives. More often than not we will find ourselves mumbling away about how ridiculous it is that someone…

The wonderfully sometimes complex world of business is constantly changing, for some, it is for the better, for others and more often than not, the majority, this change has a unique effect on our businesses and our lives.

More often than not we will find ourselves mumbling away about how ridiculous it is that someone in a suit locked away in an office can dictate what is best for our businesses and there futures, our futures. We will often make comments about the fact that those who make important and most likely, life changing decisions regarding our business futures have no understanding or concept of real world scenarios, or indeed at the very least, an understanding of our business, whatever that may be.

To make such a substantial and potentially detrimental decision, one would like to believe that those who are responsible for implementing new legislation and regulations would have a comprehensive knowledge of the industry those decisions are based upon but this does not appear to be the case at all, In fact, it would appear quite the opposite.

Some of us will simply have the ability to quickly reevaluate and adapt, where others others may crumble, become confused or give up entirely, either because they are too old in the tooth or because they feel they do not understand how they can adapt and still maintain momentum, sufficient at least to sustain a living and a profit from the newly implemented laws, legislation and regulation that the business may have to adopt.

When I entered into the Private Investigation industry several years ago, my first impression was that there appeared to be many “old school” chaps Influencing the industry and in my opinion, potentially holding it back from progressing to meet the needs and demands of the modern world, I had even heard stories while some interrogators still do not use computers, “that's ludicrous” I thought to myself!

It was when I was asked to join an organization known as WAPI (World Association of Private Investigators) when I realized that the industry was predominately dominated by “old school” detectives, I was not implying this in a derogatory term, I was shocked by how important they thought they were to the industry. After all, the majority of these old school fellas were, or are “old bill”, ex coppers and detectives or higher. Having spent a year as a member of WAPI I realized my money was far better absent on alternative membership or marketing fees, I was slightly disappointed to learn that entry requirements were simply: pay your membership fee!

I then moved my attention and intrigue to another organization, one that was more active and one that seemed to have a much more influencing presence. The ABI, Association of British Investigators, which, came highly recommend by a number of people in the industry. I made an application and was pleasantly surprised to learn there was a strict vetting procedure in place. A lengthy membership form needed completing, followed by an interview with an assessment panel. In addition I received access to a very active email notice board, free legal advice, discounted insurance and more. The ABI have a much firmer foothold in the industry and as far as I see it they appear to be the representing body for the majority.

Adapting to change can be a daunting task in business, some may even consider it a stressful time and they may well be right, however, it is likely that they could be doing things wrong. Adapting to change within ones industry need not be stressful, scary, daunting or otherwise, it should be taken as an opportunity to refresh and reinvigorate your business. Many of us without realizing it can get stuck in our ways. By being able or prepared to adapt to change it prepares us for those often unforeseen events.

Take for example Bailiffs, or Certificated Enforcement Officers as they are now known. Just recently (6th April 2014) the Bailiff industry underwent a reform, many legislations and regulations governing the Bailiff industry changed overnight, needless to say there was years of preparation and warning regarding the reform. The BBC reported on the 4th April 2014 that it was a crackdown to prevent aggressive tactics

it is with any industry, builders, plumbers, mechanics, politicians! That we will encounter the odd few rogues. It's unfortunate though, that bad news travels faster than good news and has a more prolonged effect than good news.

Unfortunately the Bailiff industry has been subject to ongoing debate, criticism and backlash for many years, since it will be one of the oldest professions of our time and while I agree there will always be the odd one or two that ruin it for others I believe the industry will continue for many years to come.

Some Bailiffs, Enforcement Officers, are “old school” stuck in their ways through no fault of their own but simply because the Bailiff and debt collecting industry has been unchanged for so long. So what do you do and how do you cope with what some describe as a negative impact on their industry. Some, have almost given up and thrown in the towel, when on the other hand they should be restructating and adapt a new methodological approach to the legislation and reform.

It's never going to be easy, as some may consider it to be comparable to starting up in business all over again, an element of trepidation sets in and then so the vicious circle begins. Many of us may see this process as “industry cleansing”, to get rid of the old or unwilling and replace with the new. Others may suggest it's simply the authorities bullied into reacting to the plea of ​​the public. Whatever the reasons, we need to change, adapt and take on a new approach, soon it will become habitual and you'll be able to go about your business as you did before with what will become an ever increasing distant memory of how it all used to be like.

Making changes

I, like many, do not adapt terribly well to change, none of us particularly like it for the simple reason we are often being forced to do something against our will so speak.

The major spend years refining and perfecting their businesses and reach a plateau where they are comfortable with their achievements.

Then, usually unexpectedly, someone comes crashing into your world and messes things up. You may feel insecure, panic may set in, anxiety develops and trepidation kicks in over the prospects of losing turnover, not be able to meet the demands of the new legislation, having to make too much change that will prevent you from enjoying your work.

The first thing you need to do is sit down with a pen and paper or laptop and write what changes effect you.

Something like this:

Q. How will the new changes effect your income.

Income is of course the most substantial change that can be experienced within a business. It is one of the most fundamental changes a business can experience when large losses, or gains, are experienced. Less income causes more stress and trepidation than any other factor in business.

Once you have established what factors any new reform or legislation your business is governed by, you can then begin to establish what areas you need to focus on and concentrate your attention towards in order to maintain profitability.

In respect of the Bailiff industry, new legislation dictates a fixed set of fees across the industry in order to create consistency and uniformity, whereas before there was no such regulation in place and fees could be exuberant and astronomical, which, in many cases, where considered inappropriate and unethical.

Many of us will unduly have to get off our backsides and work a little harder. Experience dictates that when government reform is implemented into an industry it is the business owners who are the ones that suffer more so than anyone else. It's a vicious circle but I will not go into that now or I'll wear out my soap box.

It is extremely unquestionably that any reform that has been passed through government (Parliament) has not had its fair share of input from industry representatives, by that I mean the governing bodies that implement new reforms are inadvertently to certainly cause direct financial losses to an industry , it's pointless in so many ways.

It is however a hardened fact that the industry must change and by changing your business along with it should see yourself slowly but surely recovering from what you may have thought was a disaster. Consider how you can use the new legislation to your advantage as opposed to searching for the negatives.

It's a hard line to cross for certain people without guidance but once you've searched outside the box you will begin to see that your business is not just the 4 walls you once thought it was.

My business adapts by offering many services. Some will need the assistance of a contractual agent, but it's better to take the job, employ a self employed contractor and still earn from it, even if it is only a smaller percentage. That percentage has the capacity of paying the bills.

Bailiffs, offer debt collection services but some only offer the basics, such as CRAR Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery

However, if the services offered were expanded, it opens up a whole new can of worms, which, improve the chances of maintaining, or even increasing your income considerably.

Bailiffs, (Certified Enforcement Officers) are debt collecting specialists, it would be wise to consider …

Process Serving

Tracing Agents


Inquiry Agents

All the above services are usually already taken out by Certificate Enforcement Officers so it would not take much to implement them into an existing business as a stand alone service as opposed to an additional service offered at the time of carrying out debt collection work.

Dedicated process servers can be paid from £ 50.00 up to £ 185.00 for a Process Serve. Food for thought I think you'd agree, especially when you could be sat around watching time today TV or in fear of becoming a keyboard Warrior!

Make some changes to your website, if you do not have one, get one! Or speak to this guy!

Make a list of all the services you could offer

Email all your existing clients and tell them what you can offer.

Do not sit back and wait! Go out there and knock on doors

Speak face to face with people

Be determined, be willing and above all, be positive!

Good luck …

Neuroscience and Creativity

A recent 3-part report by the CIPD entitled 'Fresh thinking in learning and development' explores how our advancing knowledge of neuroscience can provide greater insights into learning. The 3-part report was written with key experts in the field and is well worth a read by anyone involved in change or leadership, not just L &…

A recent 3-part report by the CIPD entitled 'Fresh thinking in learning and development' explores how our advancing knowledge of neuroscience can provide greater insights into learning. The 3-part report was written with key experts in the field and is well worth a read by anyone involved in change or leadership, not just L & D (although you do need to be a member of the CIPD to access them).

In the third report, Prof. Eugene Sadler-Smith (University of Surrey) writes about insight and intuition. He explains how innovation is actually the 'back-end' of a multi-phase process: Insight (the 'ah-ha' moment), Ideation (conceiving and generating new ideas), Innovation (new ways to respond to survive and thrive) .

Thinking about generating ideas, or 'idea', led me to put together a short checklist to running ideas or creativity sessions, based on this report and my own experience. The list is by no means all-inclusive, but I think acts as a good starting point.

Here are my five key points to an effective creativity, problem-solving or brain-storming session:

1. Environment

John Adair suggests that our working environment contributes to 50% of our motivation. Choose your venue thoughtfully if you want to maximize on creative processes and ideation.

Ensure that:

  • the venue is out of the way, maybe off-site (but with ease of traveling)
  • it has plenty of natural light (I recently attended a motivational team meeting in a hotel conference room 3 floors below ground!).
  • there are quality snacks and beverages available (keep it healthy – no stodgy cakes or heavy sauces).
  • you have ambient music during breaks and even during activity periods. I often use Gaelic music against a slideshow of powerful nature scenes – mountains, lakes etc, all taken in the UK, so they are relevant to our own environment (not some far-away idyllic land we may never be able to afford to visit, like those posted on 'motivational posters'). Choose carefully, and ensure it suits the audience and task.

It can also be useful to 'set the scene', by creating an environment that somehow represents the problem – sometimes the use of flips or objects that relate to the problem itself in some way. Remember Archimedes in the bath? Eureka!

2. 'Scrum Team'

The team size should be between 5 and 9 (7 ± 2). For those not familiar with Scrum teams or 'Miller's Magic Number 7', it's essentially the optimum number of brains working together on a problem to reach a solution – not too many, not too few. A word of advice here – if your organization leaves creativity in the hands of one team, you're missing out on the incredible potential of your in-house talent, those people that are most immersed in your business. Make idea a company-wide initiative, do not just leave it to a select few, or worse still, 'the management'.

3. Facilitation

The group should be facilitated to ensure everyone gets a fair say, and is not dominated by stronger personalities or social styles. It is important, however, that each persons' natural style is allowed to shine through – that's when they're at their most creative. Activists are noisy, pragmatists want to keep it relevant, theorists want to know more, and reflectors want to think it over. All are valuable contributors to the idea process and together make it work, just be sure to balance it out.

4. Positive Mind-set

Ensure everyone brings a positive mind-set to the session. This can be helped by ensuring that current tasks or projects are under control, free from deadlines, and a strict 'no' phone 'policy' during the session. You should also send out a brief before the event with the usual details – timings, venue etc. It may also be helpful to outline the problem to be addressed, so people can mull it over in their own time and jot down ideas. On the other hand, some of the best solutions can come out of the blue when presented at the time – judgment call here!

5. Be curious

Suspend belief and challenge the existing conventions, processes and customary and comfortable ways of thinking. The 'that's the way we've always done it around here' thinking leads to 'cognitive inertia', an ability to think beyond the boundaries. But what's stopping you thinking beyond those boundaries? Thought is free and no-one gets hurt. Ask yourself four simple questions to any ideas postulated, however way-out they may seem:

What will happen if we do?

What will happen if we do not?

What will not happen if we do?

What will not happen if we do not?

If each can be answered in the positive, it's a pretty good bet the idea is sound.

As Einstein said, 'If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.'

How will you make your next creativity meeting more effective?

Until next time,


Case Study: Is Sustainable Change an Oxymoron?

“Is Sustainable Change an oxymoron? Would it be change if it was 'sustained' and did not change?” Obviously change is a disciple. Change is a culture . And when we talk about being sustainable we are describing a mental attitude; we are describing a discipline and not a point in time. Sustainable change is an…

“Is Sustainable Change an oxymoron? Would it be change if it was 'sustained' and did not change?” Obviously change is a disciple. Change is a culture . And when we talk about being sustainable we are describing a mental attitude; we are describing a discipline and not a point in time. Sustainable change is an environment where we are mentally and culturally focused on searching for and identifying opportunities for improvement.

As a disclaimer, a modern use of the term “sustainable” focuses on environmentally focused activities. That's not how we are using the term in this article. For us sustainable returns to maintaining a change focused perspective and a change culture.

A few years back I was involved in the major organizational transformation of a military base which involved a restructuring of their maintenance facility. The primary change tool was Lean / Six Sigma. The impact of the changes were dramatic including a 80+% reduction in some of the cycle times, a 50+% reduction in inventory, a reduction in paperwork, travel time, inspections, etc. The over-all impact was that through theput of the maintenance organization was nearly tripled.

Two years after the transformation a new general was given command of the base. This new general thought Lean was a lot of “smoke and mirrors.” He had never experienced the Lean change process and had no faith in it. He trusted tradition and changed everything back to the way it was before the transformation. He re-instituted the paperwork trail and the inspections that implemented prior to the transformation, and the throughput improvements were quickly eliminated.

What happened? Why, in spite of the obvious improvements, were the successful changes eliminated? In order to take a look at this failure we need to begin by defining some of the terminology. What is sustainability? What is change?

Change Models

There are numerous models for change, each claiming to be the answer to all your pains. Here are a few of the more popular examples:

TPS (Toyota Production System) – Within TPS we find the roots of many of our current change management models. For example TQM (Total Quality Management), Lean, Six Sigma, Quality Functional Deployment (QFD), Hoshin, etc. are all change methodologies founded on TPS. We Westerners have the habit of searching for one piece of TPS which is the golden coin that we hope will define TPS success. Over time we have migrated from the simplistic to the more complete version of TPS. Today the favorite TPS change model is called Lean.

Process Re-engineering (PR) – PR is an American grown change management model that focuses on rapid and radical change. The speed of the change is key, as opposed to TPS which spends more time on the front-end analysis before executing the change.

Concept Management (CM) – CM is an integration of the best of TPS and PR and partnerships in the concept of Breakthrough Thinking which is defined in a book by Hibino with the same title.

At Florida Power and Light (FP & L) the CEO had difficulty convicting his board that “the benefits of the change are just around the corner.” They had implemented a major organizational transformation program focused on TPS and continuous change. The program was called the Quality Improvement Program (QIP). The benefits from the improvements were so dramatic that FP & L was the first non-Japanese company to win the Deming Award, which is Japan's most prestigious national quality award. However, the implementation of this improvement program had an intense front end costs and the result was, that after about three years of losses, the board became impatient and untrusting of the CEO. The Board thread out the CEO along with his TPS based management style and all his continuous improvement ideas, and installed an authoritarian CEO that keeps everything secret. Suddenly, employees who were involved in the organization and it's changes now had no idea from one day to the next what's going on within the organization. Short term financial measures rule the day at Florida Power and Light, as they do in many United States organizations.

How do we Sustain Change?

The question that we still need to focus on is; “How do we sustain change?” In this article we will share our experiences toward the key drivers to successfully maintain change. These are:

1) Action
2) Structure
3) Support

Action – Faith is attained in the doing. Fear from change causes resistance. Tradition has a strong hold on behavior. For example, most people who are inexperienced with Lean tend to look at it as the latest management fad and expect it to blow over in a couple years. However, these same individuals, having experienced a lean process improvement exercise, tend to become converted believers. They tend to be ruined for life in that they can no longer walk into a McDonalds without looking for process improvement opportunities.

Sustaining change requires people to be comfortable with the way change occurs. And that requires them to have experienced the types of changes we are talking about. If we are talking about a Lean change process, then they need to have been involved in a lean transformation and have seen the improvements that have been generated. The result is that fear is eliminated and they are now looking forward to the change rather than resisting it.

Structure – Sustaining change requires a structure that supports the change process. This typically takes the form of a training and certification program. It also requires a change management organization. For example, if we are focused on Lean, then we need a hierarchy of Lean change management experts. The group of experts typically takes the form of a lead Master Black Belt and is supported by as many Black Belts as are needed. This team of individuals would work with management to identify opportunities for change and then organize and execute the change process. The Lean experts would also administer classes and offer certification training.

Support – Top management support is critical. As we saw with the FP & L example top management can go even higher than the CEO. Also, in the military example we saw how a change in leadership can quickly squash a successful change culture. Without top level support, the change management process will die a quick death.

The end result of implementing these key sustainability drivers is ownership. Ownership is experienced by all levels of management and with all the employees. With a spread of ownership throughout the organization we quickly find the right hand and the left hand pushing each other toward improvements.


Why change? Because if we do not manage change than change will manage us, and it will tend to move us in directions we would prefer not to go. And why sustain change? Because a change culture takes a lot of work and once you have it you do not want to lose it. Maintaining the change management momentum is what makes successful companies great. With the key drives to successful and sustained change management that are outlined in this article organizations can find themselves at the top of their game.

5S Solutions For An Effective Visual Management System (Part One)

The 5S solutions is a system used in workplace as a platform in which to create a visual management system. The stages include SERI, SEITON, SEISO, SEIKETSU, and SHITSUKE. SEIRI The very first stage of 5S involves removing all unneeded items from the work area. Be drastic! If in doubt, throw it out! An effective…

The 5S solutions is a system used in workplace as a platform in which to create a visual management system. The stages include SERI, SEITON, SEISO, SEIKETSU, and SHITSUKE.


The very first stage of 5S involves removing all unneeded items from the work area. Be drastic! If in doubt, throw it out! An effective 5S system depends on an uncluttered working environment. This reduces wasted time spent searching for tools, flags up production problems before they happen, reduced waste costs associated with maintaining unnecessary items and makes staff communications easier and clearer. Normal practice is to identify with a red tag any items which are not needed or incapable of performing effectively. These are then taken to a central area for disposal or reassignment.

SERI Tools

  • Printed or plain cardboard tags
  • Tuff-Tags are made from rubber type polyurethane which makes them extremely strong and flexible. They accept all types of marking inks, suitable for use in wet environments, and can be simply washed and reused. As well as 'red tagging' defective items they can also be used as a simple way of color coding items. Available in packs of 25 in red, blue, yellow, green, black, orange, purple and white
  • Metal detectable Tuff-Tags are also available for use in food factories. These are differentiated by their darker shade
  • Colored cable ties are used to secure printed tags and for color coding items. These are metal detectable as standard, making them ideal for food factories. Sold in packs of 100 in red, blue, green and orange

SEITON – Set in order / Simplify

At this stage, the essential items, identified in the Seiri stage above, are organized in such a way that they are easy to find, easy to access and so that anyone can recognize what items are missing at a glance. Locations are clearly labeled, often with the use of a graphic or a 'shadow' which replicates the shape of the item. Shadow boards, floor tape and floor graphics are fundamental to the Seiton stage. Shadow boards utilize a shadow of the items to indicate where each one is kept, and often use colors that are different to the tools themselves so that missing items are immediately noticeable, even from a distance away. Keep signage concise and simple. A well signed facility is not only more efficient; it saves time, reduces errors and therefore saves endless frustration as well as waste.


  • Shadow boards – All that is needed is a photograph of the tools and some measurements. The example board shown above incorporates extra-heavy duty fittings as the shadow boards were installed in commercial vehicles. These fittings come from America where they are used to hold equipment in fire engines!
  • Floor marks- From standard floor tapes, through to fully bespoke floor graphics – we would be very pleased to quote on a solution specifically tailored to your needs
  • Prints signs on a wide choice of materials for an even wider range of applications!

Change: Best Intentions, Bad Results

A few years back I was working with the US Air Force developing a strategy methodology that would have executed using Lean and Six Sigma tools. During a meeting with one of the generals he was told; “We have been running improvement projects here for 10 years and I have no idea if we're doing…

A few years back I was working with the US Air Force developing a strategy methodology that would have executed using Lean and Six Sigma tools. During a meeting with one of the generals he was told; “We have been running improvement projects here for 10 years and I have no idea if we're doing anything better.

The author asked the general; “What was the metric that you used to measure success?”

The general replied; “I have no idea.”

This example strikes at one of the key failure points of any change management project. If you do not measure the improvement, how do you know if you succeed? You need a base line measurement at the start of the project and you need to follow the metric through the improvement process to its completion in order to see if any improvement actually occurred.

This article looks at change management failures and makes recommendations that will help the reader to avoid these pitfalls in the future.


For the purpose of this article we are focused on change management projects. We are specifically looking at projects that focus on organizational transformations. For example, we may want to improve the cycle time for processing the paperwork around a production order, or focusing on inventory reduction in the maintenance area. These are specific improvement projects and we can clearly define what is in scope and what is out of scope for this project.

Another point that needs clarification is whether a failure is real or perceived. In the Air Force example above we have no idea if there is really a failure here or if improvements actually occurred. For the general the improvements were perceived to be failures because there is no evidence of their success. The only thing that is important is what is perceived, and if we have no data to support an actual improvement, perception becomes reality.

The Root Causes for Change Management Failures

In this section we will look at specific Root Causes for failures. We will explore areas that have been identified as failure points for change management projects. This will offer the reader a set of pressure points that he or she will need to watch out for.

1. Lack of Strategic Perspective – A key question to ask when engaging in any change management project is; “Is there a strategic purpose for this change or is this something on someone's random list of things that they would like to see accomplished?” There needs to be a strategic reason for what you are doing. It needs to fit into a larger purpose, or we should not waste our time doing it. The author has often encountered improvement initiatives that were later deemed unlawful because of a more strategic event, like an acquisition, or the elimination of a process that we just improved. Strategic direction is critical in the identification and execution of any change management improvement project.

2. No top management commitment – Strategic alignment should offer us top management commitment, but unfortunately there is no guarantee. For that reason it is important to get management to “sign on the dotted line” for any change management project that we may be engaged in. That line is on the project charter and the project should not be started without the necessary signatures.

3. Poor project definition – Hand in hand with a lack of strategic perspective goes the principle that far too often projects are not clearly defined. Far too often the scope that the sponsor is focused on turns out to be different than the scope the change management team has assumed. Or, because of a lack of clear definition, the change project takes on a life which is completely different than the one that was originally intended. The key to clear project definition is a well-defined project charter that includes a definition of scope, metrics, team members, and sponsors.

4. Incomplete participation – Project failures occur if we “assume” that a specific change will not affect other elements of an organization. For example, if we leave out a critical team member we may unintentionally disrupted something that should not have been disrupted. For example, the author encountered a situation where a grinder was moved to a location which significantly improved the process flow and reduced cycle time, but the new location of the grinder caused a dust that seriously affected a near-by paint booth. The result was that the project was deemed a failure and the grinder had to be moved back to its original location. Similar problems occur if we leave the IT or quality departments out of change management decision processes. These types of failures can be avoided if we carefully include all the appropriate and necessary individuals on the change management team.

5. Missing or invalid Metrics – As mentioned in numerous articles, metrics should not be focused on data collection, they should be focused on motivation. Metrics drive a guided response. Appropriately defined metrics can mean the difference between guiding a team toward success or failure. Additionally, metrics are the only meaningful evidence that anyone accepts when it comes to proving that the change management project actually made a difference.

6. No Project Management – The PMO (Project Management Office) role is a critical role. Without it change management efforts often spin out of control and generate their own work streams which can go on forever. The PMO process offers guidance and direction. It gives the process follow-through. Part of the PMO function is to develop a dashboard that tracks the metrics and the time-line of the project allowing the project sponsor to see if the project is on track.

7. The Random Event – In spite of all our intentions, we can get hit by the random event which is unforeseen and unexpected. For some reason we are not able to executed as anticipated. In a recent article in Quality Digest Magazine focused on Lean Six Sigma failures the author Carly Barry recommends the use of a Risk Assessment table as a tool that we can use for assessing the potential success or failures of change management projects. It would need to be customized to specifically fit the reader's environment, but it's use will at least draw attention to potential failure points as we go through the project planning process. The random event may not be avoided, but we can at least take steps to prepare us for it.

The Keys to Avoiding Failures

I was the lead on a project initiated by the CEO of the largest company in the world (based on revenue). The scope of the project had been defined and the metrics identified, and the sponsor was the CEO. But this was in a country where commitments of this type were temporary, and the scope was constantly changing. There were a multitude of hidden agendas that came into play and if the leadership did not agree with the results that were coming out of the project, they would simply redefine the project to make it fit. In the end, the project became something completely different than what was originally defined. If we evaluate the project based on its original definition it would need to be labeled a failure. But if we look at the project after all the scope changes, it would be labeled a success. What the project ended up becoming was something that was not even on the radar of the original project proposal.

The random events of the project described in the previous paragraph can not be avoided. Sometimes the project becomes one of satisfying some underlying hidden agenda. But normally projects can and should be constructed with clear definitions. The two key principles necessary for successful project execution are:

  • Have a clearly defined and approved project charter
  • Manage the project for its entire life

A project charter should contain the following:

1. Strategically aligned goals

2. Project scope

3. Participants for both oversight and the active team members

4. Clearly defined metrics

  • What do we measure?
  • How will they motivate the desired results?
  • What is the current state benchmark?
  • What is the desired future state which will be used to define success?

5. Signature of the project sponsor and owner which signifies approval of the project and which gives us the go-ahead to execute

The management of the project also requires some type of oversight structure which includes a Project Management office and a project manager which is personally responsible for the success of this specific project. This function will use a dashboard to monitor the performance of the project.

It seems simple that only two elements are required in order to avoid poor project performance. Obviously there is much more to the formula for the successful implementation of a project, like the performance of the team leader and the team itself. But, from the experience of this author, projects fail in the structure and management of the Charter and the PMO function.

Why Is “Why” So Powerful?

Why is “why” so powerful? Because it allows us to understand the world and inevitably identify root causes of issues and problems. Without the answer to “why” we can not hope to discover the “how's, when's, where and what's.” George Stalk, from the Boston Consulting Group, in an article in the Globe and Mail (link…

Why is “why” so powerful?

Because it allows us to understand the world and inevitably identify root causes of issues and problems. Without the answer to “why” we can not hope to discover the “how's, when's, where and what's.”

George Stalk, from the Boston Consulting Group, in an article in the Globe and Mail (link is below) points out that too often people stop the questions because the norm is to accept and move on. To fix what is obvious and not spend time on delving too deeply into an issue to find a root cause.

Stalk quotes an interesting example identifying the risks associated with defying the conventional norm:

“But the risks of asking” why “are real.” The “Lord” in his fiefdom can inflict great pain on the questioner. results Ignaz Semmelweis is the man who first hypothesized the basic relationship and proposed and tested a change to clean hands. that occurred after his death in an insane asylum. ”

If you are an agent for positive change, you've probably recognized the exasperated looks on the faces of people when you've challenged the status quo and asked the ever-threatening question “why?” The looks say “Are you nuts?” as your question is seen as a threat, not as an opportunity for advancement and improvement.

Yet imagine if the three-year-old child stopped asking “why” and just accepted things as they are? Imagine if Einstein, Madame Curie, Galileo, Steve Jobs and a myriad of others would have accepted the answer “because” or the more advanced version “because we've always done it this way!” Â € ¨

Stalk recommends asking “why” five times. I believe if there is an attempt to “red herring” any changes, five is the minimum.

Corporations and Governments that hail the advances of others, believe they are being appropriately cautious when not allowing more of the “why” questioning. But the reality is that they are stifling creativity and enabling their enterprise to remain on an ever-revolving hamster-wheel.

People are afraid of “why” because a simple three-letter word that can open up an entire new way of thinking.

But as Shakespeare said “aye there's the rub” -because many are happy with mediocrity and why might mean more work!

(Click here to link to the Globe and Mail article)

Moving Up The Evolutionary Timeline

When most people think about the procurement team, (of course that is assuming that some do think about it), they often perceive a group that is so focused on savings that it misses the bigger picture. Of course, for procurement, one of the key measures of success often lies in the “savings metric”, but as…

When most people think about the procurement team, (of course that is assuming that some do think about it), they often perceive a group that is so focused on savings that it misses the bigger picture.

Of course, for procurement, one of the key measures of success often lies in the “savings metric”, but as always, be careful about what and how you measure something because it will not need the drive the correct behavior.

Would not it be beneficial to create an entrepreneurial organization, which is focused on both the top-line and bottom-line? A group that emphasizes the provision of frameworks and act as something of a consultant for organizations in all matters relating to procurement? The team can also ensure that effective partners are pursued with vendors (note that I mean real partners which means walking the talk, not just talking and tripping when push comes to shove), and that innovation within the supplier community is utilized for enhancing the overall business model for the corporation.

Depending on where your organization is on the procurement's evolutionary timeline this may need to be done incrementally and not in one fell swoop. The stepping-stones that get you to entrepreneurial procurement are:

• If your team is mostly tactical and administrative and decentralized – focus first on centralizing and moving the team up the ladder by developing effective processes / procedures in concert with your constitutionality – internal and external.

• Focus on understanding the business as a whole, not just from your world. Although you can not cut lose the savings umbilical cord, (as this is what binds you to the organization), start working with your internal business partners, with a view to understanding the business from their perspective and then develop your strategies to align with those of the business.

• Reach out to your suppliers. Visit them and meet with their key people, including their procurement and supply chain folk. You might find that there are some common issues / challenges which you can solve together. Utilize your suppliers' knowledge of the marketplace as a whole. Find out what innovations they see happening in the future and think about how these can potentially advance your corporation's competitiveness.

• When you have gained trafficking within the organization and a centralized model is working effectively, it is now time to decentralize (please stop the screaming). There is an old adage that before you can let go, you need to take control, so the first step is taking control. When it is in the organization's DNA to understand the procurement protocol, it is time for procurement to become more of a high level consultant to the organization.

The procurement group can begin working with the internal teams to ensure that they:

  • have effective go-to-market strategies for procuring goods and services and that all options have been considered.
  • maintain the relationships and tap the innovative supplier corridor.
  • provide high level negotiation and dispute resolution skills.
  • act as an ombudsman for issues / challenges.

There are more approaches, but you get the idea. The senior leader of procurement should be a member of the executive leadership team and must actively participate in corporate strategy development and discussions.

Being identified as just the savings entity is not helping move procurement to the boardroom table.

Think differently and enhance your team's influence.

How to Develop Lasting Behavioural Change in Teams

As we look to improve team performances in organizations there are many aspects to consider, from the quality of leadership to the environments our teams are working in. Often, in order to make forward steps, behavioral change is required and this is where many teams run into problems. Leaders regularly fail to understand why people…

As we look to improve team performances in organizations there are many aspects to consider, from the quality of leadership to the environments our teams are working in.

Often, in order to make forward steps, behavioral change is required and this is where many teams run into problems. Leaders regularly fail to understand why people find it so hard to change – but it should not be such a mystery. All we need to do is to consider human nature a little more closely.

A Compelling Reason to Change

In short, without a reasoning reason, it's definitely anyone will change willingly, because they do not see the benefit in doing so.

People need a sense of progress in the teams they are working in. They need to perceive that they are 'getting somewhere' personally and / or professionally. Without we build this sense of progress into our organizations then change will always hit stumbling blocks.

Ultimately people have a limited amount of time and energy, so they will invest it in ventures that are beneficial to them. If, for example, money is the most important things to a person, then simply instructing them to change or face the prospect of losing their job (and there before their income) may produce some desirable short-term changes.

However, most people aspire to something a little more than just financial gain and they want to know that they are making a contribution to something more profound. They want meaning in their work. This is the compelling reason that they need to see before they will follow through with the desired change.

A Model for Implementing Change

As we may guess, unless the process of change is managed by a skilled leadership, it will often be met with resistance.

Stanford University professor Dr. BJ Fogg designed a model of behavioral change that highlights some valuable considerations for leaders. According to his model, for any behavior to change, there needs to be three qualities present: motivation, ability and a trigger.


In Fogg's model, behavioral change first depends on the organization raising motivation levels. In the context of what we discussed above, a perception of progress in employees' minds is one of the main motivators in the workplace. Work needs to be perceived as part of the larger vision of the organization, which means communicating this vision and the organizational values ​​to all; then tasks need to be broken down into achievable steps and all the little 'wins' along the way celebrated and rewarded.


People need the ability to carry out the desired behavioral change . If the task is easy then ability levels may be considered high, and vice versa. Effectively this means that we can increase employees' ability levels by simplifying the task or increasing their skill-sets.

The latter way is often the most difficult, but organizations can often achieve a great deal by simply making it easier for employees to do better jobs. By providing the resources and support to allow people to do their jobs more efficiently we may avoid the need for 6-month training courses.

A Trigger

If the motivation levels are high enough and employees have the ability to make the requested changes then they will do so, providing there is a trigger or cue. Fogg talks about the ' activation threshold', which determines whether a trigger will succeed or not.

The three factors in Fogg's model are well worth bearing in mind for any leader; and remember that all three are needed for meaningful behavioral change. This becomes sustainable when leaders are able to regularly revise the model and assess whether the three key factors are present over the course of time. How often have we seen changes 'successfully' implemented only for people to resume old behavior after a few weeks?