Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reflections as 2009 draws to a close

Wow, blogging isn't as easy as it looks. There are the usual challenges: finding time, making it a priority, and making it a part of my periodic routine. As the limited number of posts since I started this blog attests, these challenges have largely prevailed. And the end of the year is a perfect time to reflect on these learnings, and make a plan of action for the coming year. So here are a few things I am planning to overcome these challenges in 2010:

1) I have decided to take back control of my email inbox. I'm currently in the process of unsubscribing my primary email from most bulk lists. I am hoping this will help me better manage my time and attention.
2) I've decided to continue blogging, with the intention of posting more frequently.
3) I am enlisting technology to help make blogging more integral part of my routine. As evidenced by this post, I've added blogpress lite to my iPhone. My iPhone is with me wherever I go, and I am hoping that allows me to find time to post more frequently (for example, in airports, waiting rooms and on the Metro.). Added bonus: supports uploading photos:



(Yes, that is a CAE ornament near the top.)

As 2009 draws to a close, what is on your mind? What will you do differently in 2010?

Friday, October 9, 2009

So why did you do it?

I received an interesting email this morning that began:

"Hi Greg,


We realize that we just sent out the first announcement about the new social media webinars and don't want to overwhelm you with too many emails about our offerings in a short period of time. The deadline to save $10 on any of our social media webinars is the end of today, Friday, October 9, 2009 so I could not help myself."


Like you, I receive lots of email. In fact, I receive so much that I rarely give much thought as to why a marketing email has been sent to me ... I just presume that the sender wants to market their product or service, and I generally read it in hopes of finding savings or to see if the product or service will make my life easier or more enjoyable. Often, the product is not of interest to me, but I'll forward the message on to others whom I believe may be interested.

But the message this morning struck me in a different way. Clearly, the sender was attuned to the fact that I, like you, receive lots of email and did not want to "overwhelm" me with too much, too soon. Call my cynical, but I believe that the sender is more concerned getting my registration than helping me save $10. My take is that the sender decided that his interest in me registering before tonight's deadline outweighed his concern of overwhelming me with emails. All in all, these two sentences had the effect of making me aware that the sender had considered -- and subsequently dismissed -- the notion that the message might annoy me.

It did. As a result, I've added myself to the sender's 'do not contact' list. Which is a shame because just yesterday I had forwarded one of their messages to a colleague that I thought might have an interest in enrolling and helping to promote the programs. Now, just one day later, the sender has lost the opportunity to communicate with me and my broader network -- all due to two sentences that I feel have betrayed my trust.

Trust is an essential element of change. Every action and interaction involves an element of trust. I like this blog post on building trust. A more extensive resource on the topics is The Speed of Trust.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Change at the Beach

Leave it to Jamie Notter to evoke deep thinking and longing for vacation at the same time. Check out his reflective vacation poem on change. I think it's great.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

There's always more than one way

I first learned about Systems Theory at college through The Social Psychology of Organizations. Since then, I've been a big fan of systems thinking, and always look for opportunities to introduce its concepts to others -- including my four year old daughter, Francesca. And it seems that she's really getting a good grasp of at least one of the concepts! On the way into work this morning, when 29 Ways came on from the Marc Cohn CD, I said to Frannie that it was a song about all of the ways the man could get to his girlfriend's house. "Daddy", Frannie replied, "It's about equifinality."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

You're invited to a retirement party!

Despair.com is having a retirement sale. Apparently, sometimes sarcasm and humor DOES get old. There's some pretty funny stuff there, including a notepad memo cube with inspiration for your favorite consultant. There are a couple of shirts that would come in handy too, but wouldn't fit the attire expectations for the applicable events. (Although I could wear the Blog Shirt just about anywhere!)

I can see humor in most of the items, but was also surprised to think about the wisdom on one poster which reads: Change: When the winds of change blow hard enough, the most trivial of things can turn into deadly projectiles . There is a thread of truth and useful piece of advice here: With sufficient force and momentum, small and seemingly trivial things can seriously injure or impede change. While you will likely have to be willing to let many things flow beyond your control in a change environment, I think the challenge is to seek to identify those building forces and their relationship to those seemingly small elements. Look especially to what your colleagues and stakeholders bring up. What you may have thought was trivial may be viewed very differently from their perspective.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Is your organization able to adapt and evolve repeatedly and rapidly?

Another great post today from Stephen Shapiro on How To Create a Culture of Innovation. Here are three take away quotes from Stephen's post:

1) The first step in creating a culture of innovation is to surface, identify, and codify challenges

2) Every challenge has multiple potential solutions.... Your success is often based on your ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. The next step is to strengthen and select the best ideas, combining them into a comprehensive solution.

3) The final attribute of a culture of innovation is the ability to take all of the selected solutions and turn them into programs/projects so that they can be converted from ideas into reality. During implementation, it is critical that you keep track of the value proposition for each project, having the courage to change direction, or, in some cases, killing ideas altogether.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You can learn a lot from job postings

Many years ago during my first career as a catering sales manager, I used to openly read the employment section at my desk, much to my boss's chagrin. On more than one occasion he warned me that our property's general manager would get a bad impression. I countered by saying that I'd be glad to explain what I was doing, but I wasn't going to give it up. You see, I wasn't looking for a job ... I was looking for company prospects for corporate holiday parties and special events. And the employment section of the paper was pure business intelligence gold, often citing or reflecting the hiring company's size, growth, values, culture, and benefits generosity ... often listed just above the contact information of the decision-maker for catered staff events. Of course, I'm not sure that the strategy would work as well today given that the printed ads of the past have been severely reduced by online listings and the web. And having moved on to other pastures, I don't have the same needs anymore either. But it does go to show that you can find value in unusual places - even job postings - when you keep open to looking at things in a different way.

Which brings me back to the inspiration for this post. A few days ago, I received notice of a job posting for Royal Dutch Shell in Houston. I've long admired Shell for their innovation program, to which I was introduced by a gift from a former superior of The Art of The Long View. So, I decided to read the full job posting. Here are a few of the details from the job listing:

Responsibilities:


This position is built around a team of unconventional people who find and fund exciting concepts through an early stage development process (team members work as “sponsors” for idea “proponents” until
their concept is proven/not proven, and thus ready for pick-up by
other R&D or business processes)


This individual will need to navigate through a land for which
there is not yet a map (this requires a curiosity to pursue the
interesting without getting distracted by the unimportant)

Establishing productive plans for novel ideas thus requires
people who are comfortable with ambiguity and thrive on change

Create new technology opportunities, new directions for the
enterprise, and positive futures for people all around us


Key Accountabilities:

Recognize and stimulate unusual ideas that could have high
potential impact

Use personal networks to link ideas and people that might not
otherwise interact

Apply your own individually unique skills and interests to
develop new opportunity domains

Ask tough and insightful questions as a participant in team
portfolio review and decision making panels


Requirements:

Proven experience helping other people turn their ideas into
reality; the incumbent will be required to work with multiple fluid
team structures and that requires trust and integrity



Wow, what a great piece for thinking!
There is so much there, but my favorite part is "this requires a curiosity to pursue the interesting without getting distracted by the unimportant." I may even post it above my desk.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Hold the mayo" inspires thoughts on innovation

Check out how a bottle of mayo past its expiration date sparked
Steve Shapiro's thinking about innovation. Take a look at what he has to say, and consider how you can live up to his challenge to find the innovative in your daily life. And remember, innovation isn't always about creating something entirely new ... it's also about making meaningful adaptations to improve existing products.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Leading Strategic and Cultural Change

Stephen Haines has some perspectives worth consideration. Drawing from his Naval Academy training, a wide array of examples, and systems science, his focus is on strategic management and organizational change. I have had his company's site bookmarked for some time, but it was only yesterday that I watched his free executive overview of "Leading Strategic and Cultural Change".

Here are three things I really liked:

"“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside,the end is near.” Quoting Jack Welch

Clarity and simplicity = success (simplicity wins the game every time)

State of the Art Best Practice:
Problem: Lacking the Organizational Capacity for Change
Best Practice: Invest in, Hire and Develop the Capacity to make change succeed

And there's more great stuff. If you're interested in leading change in organizations, be sure to check it out.

Friday, May 29, 2009

When you really need it, it’s too late

I had the pleasure of participating the past few days in the Georgia Society of Association Executives’ Annual Meeting in beautiful Asheville, NC. One of the most thought provoking part of the conference was a session led by Cynthia Mills, CAE.

Working from a series of scenarios drawn from her professional experiences, I joined other participants in discussing the ethical, legal, and leadership issues encompassed in the situations. It was an engaging learning opportunity. One takeaway was that it is not uncommon to find yourself or your organization scrambling to react to a sticky ethical issue for which there is a lack of previous preparation or training. Cynthia wrapped up the session by noting that association professionals can serve as the core of an ethical renaissance, influencing not only our own organizations, but also the industries and professions that we serve.

A good place to start would be to ensure that your organization has clearly stated its ethical values, expectations and practices. These should be centrally integrated into your organization’s policies, procedures, and culture, and be front and center in the way you orient staff and volunteers. Fortunately, advice abounds to help you, including some quick tips from SCORE, trainingethics.com, and the Ethics Resource Center.

I encourage you to consider how you can create, strengthen or revitalize your organization’s approach to ensuring the ethical behavior you want to see – before the behavior you don’t want occurs!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The World is aTwitter

There has been a great deal of discussion around Twitter lately. The statistics reflect wildfire growth, including surpassing unique visitors to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times websites in April 2009. But other statistics including research showing that up to 60% of those who sign up for a Twitter account leave the service within a month has left others asking whether Twitter’s record-setting growth means it is staying alive for years to come, or headed for the same shelf as Stayin’ Alive records.

I don’t whether Twitter is serious or not. James Karl Buck probably thinks so. So to, I suspect, does Kwanza Hall. And Dell probably thinks so too if it did in fact bring in an additional $1M in 2008 holiday sales due to its use of Twitter. But I suspect that Sockington the Cat might pussyfoot around the issue, in spite of his half a million followers. I also don’t know whether Twitter is the next Federal Express or People’s Express. As others have pointed out, the popular services of today can easily be gone tomorrow. (I particularly like the fact that the 2006 article is prescient in pointing to the coming importance of cell phones in social networking, but also rather dismissive of Friendster, which has subsequently repositioned and grown by tapping into the Asian marketplace.)

Explore why people think Twitter may be successful as well as why others have concerns for its future. Sign up and experience what it’s all about. Consider advice from others about using Twitter – either for your business , nonprofit or your own creativity, to improve your finances or whatever best suits your interests. Get your bearings established so that you’ll be ready to really use Twitter if the upward trends continue – or able to speak with a personal perspective about the historic social phenomenon if it turns out to just be a fad or step along the way to the next great thing.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Welcome to Capacity to Change!

Welcome to my blog where I will record some of my thoughts, and hopefully also hear thoughts from you. I’ve chosen the title “Capacity to Change” not only because I am interested in a wide variety of topics related to individual and organizational change, but also because I hope that this blog can help both you and me look at things in new ways, consider different perspectives, and be exposed to new and interesting information, which is often an essential element to change. So, welcome and please make yourself comfortable as either a reader or participant by posting a comment. I look forward to seeing where this conversation goes.