Change Management is evolving 2

Four Approaches for thinking about Organisation Change

I recently attended a  Change Management meet up to discuss ‘Top down, bottom up, or middle out?’ change management approach’s and think about the different ways we can implement organisation change (thanks for the invite Jude). I had also recently been thinking about how change management has evolved since I started working in the space 20 years ago and what are some of the fundamental choices people need to make when going about change, which I have broadly summarised into the following approaches.

If your method for implementing change is ‘just tell them to do it’, or ‘we are going live on this date, make it happen’, then chances are you could be in the ‘Installed Change’ world of thinking. Installed Change is not necessarily devoid of any change management activities, however the chances are that the actions will be mainly limited to one way communications and possibly some just in time training (if it wasn’t forgotten about). Installed Change can occur when timelines are tight, budgets are lean and understanding of change management practices are low. It is often justified by the belief that people will follow the chain of command and that people will ‘just do it’ when they have to. What isn’t usually discussed is the resistance, the pain and the anxiety this sort of change can cause, with the fallout potentially damaging employee engagement and your customer experience (‘let me transfer you to someone who can do that in the system’). Another common outcome of this type of change is for people to ignore the change completely and wait for the next change to come along.

Managed Change represents how people usually think about change management today. Heavily influenced by John Kotter, it is the classic senior leader driven change. If you have heard about ‘burning platforms’ and ‘guiding leadership coalitions’, you have experienced some of Kotter’s core beliefs. This change is really about convincing people through rationale argument that they need to change and having people’s leaders as the key voice for reinforcing the change.  Managed Change usually generates lots of activities to help people understand the change. It typically includes tasks such as creating a compelling future state vision of what the changed world will look like, as well as determining the change impacts that will result from implementing that vision. Managed change differs from installed change in that it spends more time considering and engaging with the people that will be impacted by the change and looking at all the actions necessary to support people through that change. Actions such as building leader’s capability to lead the change, aligning the desired behaviours for the change to employee’s KPI’s and updating the mechanisms by which this change will be embedded in the future (e.g. updates to policy, procedures and induction training) are the types of tasks you typically see in this approach.

Change Management is evolving 2

Integrated Change comes about when we truly ‘begin with the end in mind’ and change is initiated with the people that will actually own the change in the end. Therefore change is instigated through a much better understanding of what actually needs to change in the first place in order for things to improve. This has the benefit of creating stronger trust and relationships between the people impacted by the change and those who will sponsor the change. Integrated Change is often planned through open approaches such as the World Café, utilising a co-creation approach for designing and embedding the change. Integrated Change does for organisation change, what social media and activist funding has done for charity fundraising, it is about empowering people to be advocates for your cause, then providing them with the tools to bring others along on that journey.

Evolving Systemic Change actually relies on very stable systems and processes in order to make changes that are a usually a tightly scripted set of actions, with planned hypothesis on what those actions will do and tight measures as to the impact of those actions on the system that is undergoing change. This is the world of continuous improvement, Lean, Kaizen / 6 Sigma and Systems Thinking whereby change is constructed with the people that will own the change and some there are some very clear boundaries to observe the change effort. This can be very powerful and robust change, but ultimate success relies on a stable environment within which to execute planned changes.

Deciding on the sort of organisation change approach you want to take can depend on many factors, but most important is to ensure that the people involved in implementing the change are implementing a method both they and your key stakeholders have confidence in delivering on the expected change benefits.


5 Tips for Rejecting Change

Organisations are often striving to be the ‘best place to work’ or have the ‘best customer’ experience and being the best really requires us to be in tune with our employees or customers.  In doing so, we may receive many suggestions for improvements or feedback which may not be actionable or aligned to the direction we are heading.

We may have some really valid reasons for not making those requested changes; such as the flow on impact the change has on other positive aspects of the business (‘that will slow our production run by half’), it may undermine the brand we are trying to create (‘we aren’t a ‘fries on the side’ sort of establishment’) or it may just be too large of investment for us to do something about that now (‘we know it would be great but it isn’t in the budget’).

So how do we deal with having to say ‘no’, but not disenfranchise the people that we were trying to get on side in the first place?  Following is an example from my daughters experience,  Esther (8 years old), whom completed a research project with her class about being more environmentally aware and using less paper. Having learnt the good message of ‘Wipe for Wildlife’ on one of our visits to the Healesville Sanctuary (nothing like an impressive bird show to drive home a good message), her follow up action was to write to the School Principal and find out if the school used recycled toilet paper (Exhibit A) and received a reply from the Principal (Exhibit B).

Which leads me to the 5 tips for rejecting your people’s change request

1. Provide timely feedback to the request

Unfortunately Esther waited 2 months for a letter that was written 3 weeks after the initial request made.  Timely feedback helps to manage expectations and reduce the potential for pent up emotional energy being channelled into a cause.  If it is not going to happen, nip it in the bud quickly with a respectful reason as to why not.

2. Be respectful of the original suggestion

“People think that recycled paper is always better.. But”. Reply’s that are condescending, or dare I say ‘poo poo’, the original request only serve to alienate the audience you are trying to keep onside. Try and walk in the requestors shoes and look to acknowledge the merits of the original request no matter how strange it may seem to you.

3. Know your audience

I’m not sure how many 8 year olds really care about “steam being used instead of water” in the paper making process (that is supplied from a geothermal source no less), but it sounds like a little too much vapour to me!  Pitching a high brow response for an audience that requires the straight up facts, only serves to disconnect you from your people or customers. Showing you are in tune with your audience may actually win you respect even though you are saying no to their request.

4. Keep your message simple

So we know you may be really into the brand of toilet paper you are trying to defend, but pitching to me the company is ‘committed to purchasing virgin fibre only from certified sources’ and I am 8 years old? Simple is always good. Making things simple is not always easy, but it’s definitely possible and it can prevent you from appearing to be hiding the truth.

5. Tell the truth

Regardless of this toilet roll supplier being ‘internationally recognised  standards for responsible forest management’, I suspect there is too much information here covering up what could be the real truth. If you have a locked in supply contract with another non recycled provider, well let them know the truth.  Sometimes the truth is not the easiest story to tell, but when you try and bend it, chances are your stakeholders BS meter are going to go off really quickly!

Key message

Change that has been initiated on the basis of your customers or people’s feedback can be very successful change, as the people we want to impact are bought into the idea from the very beginning. So it is really important that when we are not going to act on feedback provided we let people know why, so those people are still willing to still provide feedback in the future, which may just lead to that really powerful change we are hoping to achieve.


shifting your culture

Shifting your culture with one message

If you were to simplify your company’s reason for existence to one word or one short sentence, what would it be? You may be finding this difficult, as it isn’t always easy to pin things down to one word thing. But when doing so, try to distill all the key messages coming from your CEO, the most senior leaders, your mission, vision, strategy and values down to one word. What do you come up with?

If you had trouble distilling your company’s key message are you are not alone. A key message or elevator pitch if you like, is core to what your company is about. Unfortunately these key messages are often lost in the complex layers and volume of messages that are active in your company at any one time.

If you managed to distill your key message, try this experiment to determine the effect.  Next time you are in a meeting repeat your key message like a mantra over and over in your head, as if it was on the radio in the background, playing the tune of your company.  Let it permeate your thoughts, feelings and actions.  Let it help you guide the decisions and the actions you take. Then post your meeting consider what effect (positive or otherwise) it is having on what you are doing for your company.

Finding and knowing your company’s core message is paramount for you and the people, as it provides the true north for the actions you take. Often we find ourselves and our leaders waxing and waning from your companies stated purpose, saying things like ‘it is all about the customer’ but then focus on other actions (e.g. cost cutting) that are likely to be sending your people the message ‘it is all about shareholder’.  So what is the impact of this?

Well, see for yourself. Try the mantra exercise in two more meetings, but in one think about ‘customer’ (i.e. delivering a great customer experience) and in another think about ‘shareholder’ (i.e. more revenues and lower costs).  Two important forces in shaping decisions, but see what a difference it can make in your actions and decisions.  You may argue that ‘I am thinking about shareholders, but using the customer to get there’ – for the sake of this challenge keep your focus exclusively on each one and experience the difference.

A strong corporate culture is all about having your key message ringing in your peoples’ ears as they make decisions and take actions.  Those actions will quickly become the evidence points that enable your customers to understand what your brand is about and what you really stand for.

Let me know how you go finding your key message in the comments.


AFL Logo

Creating a coaching culture

As a keen Australian rules football (AFL) supporter, I loved this article mapping out coaching dynasty’s that exist in AFL football. The basic premise of the article suggests great coaches aren’t born, they are bred.

After reading this I thought about the challenge of building good coaching and leadership in organizations today. For the most part there is not the same public scrutiny and very visible performance data available on our companies leaders as there is with any major league sport, but there are definitely similar challenges. How do you reinforce the same themes and key messages week on week, and still keep your team engaged? How do you provide feedback, build confidence and the capability of your team? How do you make the right choices at the selection table?

Clearly there are some common themes and challenges for organization and sport. So what are the common attributes that separate a dynasty successful coach from a regular coach? Here’s three themes I believe are key:

Positive role models

Of all the key attributes behind a good coach, providing a positive role model is a prime factor in establishing a coaching dynasty. Approximately 90% of what we learn is through our experience and observation. It is then no coincidence that the writer of the AFL coaches article observed many of the top coaches in AFL had all been exposed to at least one of the great coaches that came before them. Through observation and indoctrination of successful coaching practices, they were able to learn their coaching craft and also become very successful coaches.

A winning culture

Successful coaches set up their teams for success by creating a winning culture, by reinforcing some very clear standards of behavior, which become part of the fabric of how a team behave. It is then by no means a coincidence that coaches whom are a part of and have experienced a successful coach learn the power of establishing a winning culture that builds accountability, trust and loyalty amongst a team.

Story tellers

AFL football can be a very complex and intricate game, yet teams play it best when the do the routine, basic things required by the game in a consistant and repetitive fashion. Coaches therefore need to rely on simple messages, retold and reinforced many different ways, reinforcing what needs to be done on a week in, week out basis. Like any job, football can be monatonous, so the challenge as a leader is to be able to help their team members understand and be inspired to change or maintain their behavour in order for them to become a more successful team. Consistency and quality require a fair degree of repetition no matter what the profession. Being able to learn new perspectives and new insights from great story tellers, supports not only successful teams, but role models to a future generation of coaches.

What other themes do you believe should be here? I look forward to your comments.

Weapons of choice

Is social media the enemy? Lessons from the London Riots

“LONDON — Seeking to reestablish his authority after England’s worst rioting in decades, Prime Minister David Cameron told an emergency session of Parliament on Thursday that the authorities would consider curfews, constraining smartphones and social networking sites, and filling some police functions with soldiers to keep more officers on the street.” (NYTimes)

As the flames simmer on the aftermath of almost a week of violence in London and across Britain, people are searching for answers as to what sparked the London riots and discuss what measures should be taken to quell such violence, it seems top of the list of suspects and potential accomplices is social media. Along with the army, social media has become a weapon for both sides of the law.

Social media has featured heavily in this story. Be it a tool for thugs to organize riots, vigilantes to assemble anti riot posses, police to gain support from concerned citizens and or leveraged as a virtual police line-up to try and identify the culprits and prosecute the looters – social media has played a significant role at the forefront. The spectrum of uses mentioned here proves at the very least that social media is a ubiquitous tool, that can be a great enabler for good or evil. It all depends on your perspective.

So what have we learnt from this? Is the medium that was hailed a hero in instigating a sweeping change in Egypt and continues to be a catlyst for reform in Syria, can now be the villain because of how it has been used in London? Do we need to follow in Egypt’s footprints and try and shut down the internet and social media when things go wrong in your country?

The simple answer I believe, is ‘don’t shoot the messenger’. But I think more interestingly, from someone who tries to drive adoption of social media in the corporate world, is to answer the question around what is actually driving people to use social media as such an effective ‘weapon’ in times such as these? As a comparison, I must say the use social media for collective good in organizations I have seen to date, has had less compelling results (when compared to mass breaking and pillaging).

We only need to look further into the story on London to find the Prime Minister Gordon’s answer for this one.

“This is not about poverty, it’s about culture,” he said, “a culture that glorifies violence, shows disrespect to authority, and says everything about rights but nothing about responsibilities.” (NYTimes)

So if the answer is culture, what have we learnt from the riots that made the social media so powerful, that the government wants to shut it down? How do we leverage social media for good and invoke powerful positive organisational change, using social media? How do we help a culture embrace social media? The lessons I have taken from London include the following.

Have a compelling purpose

The rioters were united in a broad purpose. Initially seen to be a response to the police shooting of a black father in a poorly explained police arrest, this event provided a spark, which then became a catalyst for the overwhelming feeling of the ‘have nots’ versus those the ‘haves’. A feeling of repression that welled up into collective acts of violence, theft and destruction.

For organizations we take from this that social media tools by themselves do not spark initiative. The purpose for the organization and its’ underlying networks (including virtural / social networks) must be clear to the participants. There is no purpose in using a tool for the sake of using a tool. Instead we must find the purpose and illustrate to the people how the tool will help us unite with each other in achieving that purpose.

Unite people with a story

The story each rioter heard in London, probably had many variations as to why people should riot, but from the actions taken, clearly it was a compelling one. The thing about a good story is, if it is short, appeals to the emotions and people can then quickly see it playing out in front of them, then the chance for individuals to jump into the fray becomes very inviting.

In organisations we lose a story in pages of facts and powerpoint slides. We fail to connect with people emotionally for fear of not making good business sense, then we demonstrate we are not that confident in the story ourselves, by not following through with our own actions. Clearly we must do the reverse of this.

Empower people through autonomous colloboration

There is no evidence to date to suggest the rioters in London spent months planning their tirade. Or had some of pre formed manifesto, or any form of strategic battle plan or probably even one PowerPoint slide, let alone a 100. There were no role descriptions and not everyone had the exact same outcome in mind, but the outcome was pretty overwhelming. People, through their own choices played different roles, whether that be fighting the police lines or carrying out looting, the results were there for all to be seen.

Autonomy is a powerful thing. If you can harness a persons passions and align them to that direction, you never know what may be achieved. Helping them to then colloborate, using social media and other vehicles, can only thus increase this powerful force. Without some degree of autonomy, the need for colloboration and social media will not be as strong, as people don’t need to seek out the answers, they are too busy waiting to be told.

What lessons from the London riots and the use of social media did you learn?

Photo Credit

Swap It Logo

Good leadership, like losing weight, requires consistent effort

In an instant ‘on’ society, we don’t have time or patience for many things. We want change and results quickly. We want to take a pill to shed excess weight quickly. We want our leaders to attend a training course and change their behaviour over night as a result. But we all know the reality of life is very different. People don’t lose weight and remain slim with one weight loss treatment. Good leaders aren’t made with one leadership program. The key is about building routine and consistency.

As I find myself again looking for answers to assist people in organisations  become better leaders, I have been thinking more and more about how to integrate what a leader needs to learn and do, into their every day work.  There is plenty discussion at the moment about informal learning. In essecense most of what we learn occurs when we are working. The theory clearly makes sense and seems to be a no brainer. That’s until you try and put it into practical application, where old world learning values are still pre-dominant.

‘Learning and working, won’t that decrease my capacity?’

‘How are we going to measure what has been done – how many courses have been delivered?’

So if activity measurement is key, as we know ‘what get’s measured, gets done’, yet we still want to have the activity occur on the job – how can that happen? Well here is one idea stolen from the world of weight loss. Currently there is an initiative by the Australian Government to help reduce obesity, the Swap It, Don’t Stop It, campaign. The premise being, swap one less healthy activity / eating habit, for a more healthy activity or eating habit.

I downloaded the iPhone app and thought it was pretty nifty actually. It included alerts to remind you about different activities and gave you a way of checking things off. Maybe by offering a similar tool for leaders, I thought we could help leaders to help themselves to change their behaviour (see my example).

Improving leadership, like any behaviour change takes consistency and effort. Re-programming our brains into new patterns, requires us to continually repeat new behaviours, so they can become instinctual. Integrating a tools such as this sort of application, into a broader reinforcing system designed to change leaders behaviours (e.g. role modelling, mentoring, coaching, reinforcing of core values, ‘calling’ of behaviours) surely can offer us another way of helping our leaders adapt to new ways of working.

I would be keen to hear your thoughts and comments on this idea. Please comment on my blog below.






Introduction - Slide1

How to attract and retain good staff for small business

Thank you for taking time out of your day to come to this session today. I’m really pleased to be here today, to discuss a topic that has been a passion of mine for sometime. I’m also keen to hear about your stories. Just so I understand who is here today. Who here is a small business owner? Who works for a small business? Who works for a medium business? Anyone work for a corporate? Thanks.

First up I want to say, that I really admire people who have started their own business. You have started something. You are initiators.

I hope from this session today, you take a few things away with you:

  1. You think about what got you started in small business and use that motivation to help attract others, and
  2. That you think about how you lead your business and the people you are trying to retain in your business.

I’m not here today to tell you how to try and run your business, or reveal any ‘sure fire ways’ to attract and retain people to your business. I’m merely someone that hopes to challenge your mindset and inspire you to think about things in a different way. I want you to think about what your unique employee value proposition is for attracting and retaining staff in your business. An employee value proposition simply describes the different discrete elements that make your business attractive for others to come and work with your business.

Why are you in small business?

So, for those in the audience that are owners of a small business, I want you to discuss with someone near to you, your story. I want you to try and remember, if it was a long time ago, what made you decide it was a good idea to mortgage your house, or invest some money you had worked hard to save, in order to pursue your dream.

What was that dream? What is it today? Is it still the same?

If you are working in small business, share what get’s you out of bed in the morning. Why do you turn up to work? Obviously we need money to live, so talk about what other than ‘making a living’ gets you motivated to get up in the morning. Spend 2 minutes then sharing with someone near to you your story

Poke the Box

Chances are, given many of you work in small business today, that you are initiators . You are tinkerers. You like to try new things and see how they work. So how do we become good at the things we do?

In Seth Godin’s recent book, ‘Poke the Box’, Seth talks about the value of initiators and the ownership they can gain by ‘poking’ and initiating.

“How do Computer Programmers learn their art? Is there a step by step process that guarentees you’ll get good?

All great programmers learn the same way. They poke the box. They code something and see what the computer does. They repeat the process again and again until they figure out how the box works.

The box might be a computer or it might be a market or it might be a customer or it might be your boss. It’s a puzzle, one that can be solved in only one way – by poking.

When you do this, what happens? When you do that, happens? The box reveals itself through your poking, and as you get better at it, you not only get smarter but also gain ownership. Ownership doesn’t have to be equity or even control. Ownership comes from understanding and from having the power to make things happen…

It has been observed how willing we are to surrender control to the objects and organizations in our life….

As soon as we willingly ad blindly accept what’s given, we lose all power. Only by poking, testing, modifying and understanding can we truly own anything, truly exert our influence.

No one has influence, control, or confidence in his work until he understands how to initiate change and predict how the box will respond.”

Like you have experimented with your businesses to get where you have got to today, I encourage you to think about how you will be able to experiment with some of the key insights from today, in order to be more effective in attracting and retaining talented individuals to work with your business.

The search for help today

Who here would like to tell me a story about their struggle to find help today? What are your struggles? Finding good people? Keeping good people or both? What age group are you targeting? Where do they leave to go to?

Who struggles with just the thought of finding someone new? Not just finding someone, but finding someone that fits into your business well. Connects with the people they need to work with, including ourselves and our customers?

In many ways, we subconsciously look for reflections of ourselves. Someone with similar values and similar work ethic. If we are know our personal flaws well, sometimes we will also look for people that have strengths to cover our weaknesses.

Knowing who you are, your own strengths and weaknesses and what sort of attributes you need of a person, in order to achieve what you want to achieve with your business is a great starting point for attracting the right sort of people to your business. It is fundamental stuff, but important never the less.

Good people are great for business.

You have probably heard about the ‘war on terror’, but have you ever heard about the “War for Talent”?

Back in 1997 McKinsey & Co, a top tier consulting firm did a study that determined how hard it was to attract and retain talented people in organizations. In 2001 they updated the study and found some interesting facts about the difference between high performers, than average performers.

This data tells us that high performers can achieve significantly better results than average performers. For sales roles this was 67%. The potential for small business to get the equivalent of up to an extra 67% of productivity from one person is immense.

Good People are Great for Business

Now this report was developed for corporate America, but if you think about the implications, for small business they are quite interesting. In the report it states:

“Demographic and social changes have played a growing role in this trend. In the United States and most other developed nations, the supply of 35-to 44-year-olds is shrinking. And many of the best-trained people entering the workforce are not bound for large traditional companies: last year, a full 30 percent of MBAs in the United States preferred to work for a start-up or a small business.” (The War for Talent – Part 2, McKinsey 2001)

These statistics are also a telling trend about where our talented people are going. Whilst you may be losing your people to large organisations, large organizations are losing their people to go and start small businesses. Sort of ironic I think. Don’t you?

But not surprising really. Think about it. In the last 10 years, companies have been born, offering new products that previously didn’t exist. People are ‘poking the box’. Starting something new. Some good examples are obviously in the technology sector, like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. You may not have heard about a site called started out as an online shoe retailer in the US and now sells a bunch of different shoe and clothing related items. is unique for its’ offering to consumers, but because of what they offer their employee’s.

How much is a good employee worth?

Call centre’s are notoriously tough places to try and attract and retain good people to. Quite often there is a survival of the fittest type of approach going on in a call centre, resulting in turnover rates that I have seen, anywhere from 25-48%! With around 35% being the average. The figures I quote you here are Australian companies, not call centre’s based overseas.

In the US, they also have a high turnover rate for call centre’s., decided to do something about the turnover in the company. Zappos core values is a key part of how they differentiate themselves and try to compete with attracting people to their organization. Their values are:

“1. Deliver Wow Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More with Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble”

Daniel Pink, in his 2010 best seller, Drive, tells the story of Zappos and what they did to concentrate on getting the right sort of people.

“Tony Hsieh, founder of (which is now part of, thought there was a better way to recruit., prepare and challenge such employees. So new hires at Zappos, go through a week of training. Then, at the end of those seven days, Hsieh makes them an offer. If they feel Zappos isn’t for them and want to leave, he’ll pay them $2000 – no hard feelings. He’s using an “if-then” reward not to motivate people to perform better, but to weed out those who aren’t fit for the sort of workplace he is creating.”

Think about it…

Would you pay for someone to leave your business if you thought they were not giving your customers the sort of experience that fit your dream you outlined in the first activity we did today? Is your dream that important to you?

Zappo’s embraces their purpose and what they are about to really connect to the sort of people that are going to make their business successful. On their website, they even target the sort of people you may be losing to big business today. They say:

“I’m free from boring work environments, go-nowhere jobs, and typical corporate America!

Why join men? A fun, collaborative environment that’s all about innovation. An extensive benefits package including free lunch, 40% employee discount and no dress code!

A work-hard play-hard start-up with solid management and resources; what more could I ask for?…”

The key take away for me from this case study is that if you are really deliberate about the sort of culture and company you want to build, you will be rewarded in return by very loyal, hard working, bright and dedicated employee’s. knows what it takes to be a valued member of their team and would prefer to pay you to leave rather than have you as a destabilizing force in their business.

So why is your small business dream important?

I mentioned Daniel Pink’s book Drive before and I am going to use the framework within his book, to think about some of the fundamental things we need to consider in order to better hire and retain the sort of people that are going to not only work for us, but lift the bar and challenge us to take our businesses to the next level.

Pink explores a new concept for how we motivate people. Pink contends, through a number of proven scientific experiments, that the current way we operate our businesses today, relying on external carrot and stick motivators, doesn’t actually work for most people and is likely to do more harm than good. Pink outlines a new way to think about motivation, which he refers to as Motivation 3.0. (In case you’re wondering, Motivation 1.0 refers to cave man times when we were driven by our physical needs, thirst, hunger, temperature etc, Motivation 2.0 is about rewarding or punishing people for what they do and don’t do, which has been a function of how we have tried to motivate people since the the industrial era.)

Pink’s view on how we motivate people has three essential elements:

  • “Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
  • Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives
  • Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters”

I will now go through each of these in a more detail and ask you to relate these concepts back to your own situation to start thinking about what your unique value proposition is to attracting and retaining your employee’s.


Pink defines purpose as the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Chances are your small business dream had a goal that was greater than just making a living. It doesn’t have to be saving the planet or making world peace. It might be as simple as putting a smile on all of my customers face because I serve them coffee and show them I care, but ensuring they get to enjoy something they really look forward to having every day.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

At Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, we “aim to be Australia’s leading customer connected bank.” Part of the origins of the Bendigo and Adelaide bank, included the establishment of the Community Banking model.

A Community Bank® branch is a locally owned and operated company, which functions as a franchise of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank provides the coverage of its banking licence, a full range of banking products, training of staff and ongoing support.

Depositors are protected by Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s track record when it comes to the security of depositors’ funds. We are one of Australia’s oldest financial institutions, we have operated since 1858 and have declared a profit in every year and we have without fail honoured our depositors. Deposits are also currently protected by the government guarantee.

The Community Bank® model is based on the sharing of effort, risk and reward. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and the community company share the revenue on core banking products 50/50. The local company is responsible for paying branch running costs such as staff wages, property rental and equipment leasing. Bendigo is responsible for the supply of all banking products and services, all computer systems and provides guidance and advice on matters of compliance and legislation.

When the local company begins to make a regular operating surplus, after the payment of branch running costs, the remaining funds are available to be reinvested back into the community through dividends to shareholders and grants to community groups and projects. To date, in excess of $50 million in Community Bank® branch profits has been returned to community projects and more than $15 million has been paid in dividends to more than 63,000 local shareholders.

The Community Bank model was originally developed to return banking services to communities who had lost them and has now spread to more than 270 communities across rural, regional and suburban Australia.. The model is unique in Australia (and internationally). Community banking is about building a win / win relationship with your customers. Investing in what is important to them, in return for their business with their community bank.

Why is purpose important?

Community banking, not only provides a unique sales proposition for our customers, it also provides a unique opportunity for attracting our staff. To be a part of an organisation that is working at the grass roots level with other community focussed organisations, which gives back something to our communities in a very connected way, is an attractive proposition to potential staff. It is one of the reasons I was excited about joining the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

If your business doesn’t have a purpose you strongly believe in:

  • What are you selling your customers that makes you any different from your competitors?
  • How are you planning to attract people that are going to work with you to add value to your business, because they believe in your purpose?

Purpose is about know what you want and then understanding what others want. Then looking for people who also believe in your purpose and at the same time helping them to achieve what they want to achieve.

Activity – confirm your puropse

Take 30 seconds now and write 5 things down that are either were key drivers to choose why you did what you did in business, or things that you now think differentiate you from other businesses. These things will be likely be a part of your unique purpose.


Autonomy is about the desire to direct our own lives. There are many upsides to offering your employee’s autonomy, in that they are making decisions every day that affect the way your business is perceived by your customers. You can’t direct their every interaction, so they need to feel empowered enough to be able to take their own actions in a way that will provide a positive outcome for your business.

Are you currently offering people in your business the opportunity to work autonomously? Or is your business is it about taking orders?

Think about why you started a small business. Chances are you didn’t want to be taking orders from others. So how can we still employee people and not be seen to be telling them what to do?

Autonomy – it even happens in the military.

In 1997 I consulted to the US Air Force to help them implement a new aircraft maintenance system for their equipment. A few things struck me about working for their Air Force. They had their purpose really clear and people knew it. ‘To Fly, Fight and Win”. If you weren’t helping them somehow get their aircraft in the air and being successful in battle, you had no purpose and hence no job in the Air Force. The US Airforce really gets purpose.

But how about autonomy? Isn’t the military all about command and control? Isn’t the military the reason we have hierarchy in organizations today?
Well it is, but I think there are always exceptions.

Orders in the military and people following those orders can save lives in a number of ways. For example, aircraft maintenance is a pretty finicky business. There are lots of parts on a plane that have a used by date, which means they have to be serviced or replaced at certain intervals. The only way to keep a track of this with any degree of precision, is to ensure every part and every change on a plane is entered into a computer system. There is a policy or ‘order’ that this data is to be entered and for a good reason.

Jet planes work are basically controlled around a series of controlled explosions. Whilst I was consulting to the Air Force, there was an incident where an F-15 like the one in this picture caught fire on the runway. The pilot escaped unharmed, but there was some sort of mechanical fault or human error that caused this issue. Knowing what parts were on the plane and in what working order they were before this happened is pretty important, as if you don’t know, you may end up with lots of aircraft falling out of the sky and not knowing the cause.

But even the military, bastions of the command and control mentality, can see why autonomy rocks. A good recent example was the mission to capture or kill Bin Laden. One of the helicopters used on the mission went down with a mechanical fault, yet again proving the importance of the people following the orders around maintaining the aircraft. Although, noted in this case the helicopter was most likely from the US Marines and not the airforce.

But how about the Seal team that went in? They had orders and a plan, but that plan just went into a tailspin when that aircraft went down. Navy seals include decisiveness as one of their top five characteristics. They ‘must have the ability to take quick decisions’. Through the Navy Seals own autonomy, they made a number of key decisions on the spot, including as to whether to abort the mission or find a new entry point into the compound, as the planned full roof based entry had just been ruled out. They were well trained and well drilled, they knew the layout with their eyes closed, but they had to make a decision then and there as to how to finish that mission.

So even if the organizations that are built around the concept of command and control can learn the value and power of autonomy, I think everyone can.

Why is autonomy important?

Spend a minute trying the following exercise. Write on a piece of paper the following table. Now do a quick comparison. Think of all the pros and cons for each sort of leadership style and make notes. Or simply put a tick or a cross for the winner or loser of each of the considerations.

Don’t be afraid to change or add your own criteria.

This exercise is about you and your leadership style. Seeing the benefits of different approaches to leadership in your own business, will help you to think about how your style is going to ultimately enhance or potentially detract, from your overall employee value proposition.


“Mastery is the urge to get better and better at something that matters.”

In ‘Drive’ Pink talks about Mastery as one of the key factors for internal motivation. He talks in depth about the concept of ‘flow’, which we sometimes call ‘being in the zone’. Being a Geelong supporter in the AFL, over the last few years, I’ve seen the team have periods of flow in a game where things just link together and the team seems to perfor

m at the most unbelievable level. But working at that level is not easily repeatable and requires many hours of hard work, dedication and practice in order to be anywhere near that level.

If you think of flow as being the state when you are achieving your best, then how can we help our people to reach that flow state, when they may be completing the most routine tasks, that have to be done on a regular basis? One way is by turning work into play.

Pink gives a good example in drive, where two business school professors studying the phenomenon of turning work into play among hospital cleaners, nurses and hairdressers.

“They found, for instance, that some members of the cleaning staff at hospitals, instead of doing the minimum the job required, took on new tasks – from chatting with patients to helping make nurses’ jobs go more smoothly. Adding these more absorbing challenges increased these cleaners’ satisfaction and boosted their own views of their skills. By reframing aspects of their duties, they helped make work more playful and more fully their own. Even in low-autonomy jobs… employees can create new domains for mastery.”

Another way to help contribute to employee’s mastery is to employee some Kaizen principles. Kaizen, very briefly, is the Japanese word that describes the methodology behind continuous improvement, made famous by Toyota. One Kaizen concept that is popular in large organizations, is the idea of thoughts into actions. Thoughts into action, empowers the workers with some tools and templates for employee’s to think about how they do their work and provide suggestions on way’s to improve it. Then the leaders work with the employee’s to make those changes a reality. Having the employee’s fully engaged in the continuous improvement process, not only helps build their own mastery, it helps build your business and encourages incremental innovation that may help even further differentiate your business from your competition.

So why is mastery important in context of a small business, attracting and retaining the right people? Mastery is important for a number of key reasons I think. For one, it is a key part of intrinsic motivation and will be crucial for retaining your best and brightest employee’s. If people don’t have the ability to continue to learn and innovate, they will become stale and less engaged. Mastery is also important for keeping your business innovative. As a small business, you know you only have limited resources, so getting the most out of your resources, including the people you employee is essential.

Ensuring you provide an ongoing challenge will be beneficial to both your business and your people.

Your Employee Value Proposition

Hopefully today has given you some things to think about in relation to your business.

I want to leave you with the following exercise to think about, and complete after this session today. Write up the following matrix and think about the different questions I have posed to you today and the information. Determine some key actions you can take to improve how you help demonstrate to your people or potential people your purpose, autonomy and mastery. Also document what you think the benefit is for your employee’s or any potential employee’s. Turn these points into a short story about your business and a greeting pitch you can use to sell the benefit of working with you to any potential employee prospect you meet in the future. Or make your 140 character greeting pitch a job add to attract the people you want to make your business successful.

Remember, it is your dream you are asking people to work on with you. You need to help them understand what that dream is and also understand what their ambitions are and help them to reach their goals as well.

For more information and a full transcript of my session today, go to my blog, I will also have the books I mentioned listed today on the site and you will be able to print out the templates and slides.

I would be really interested in your feedback, so please write your comments about the session on my blog today.

Thanks again for your time today. I hope you have got something out of it and can work on attracting and retaining the best possible people for your business.










Who are your A team?

If you are looking for inspiration in life or something to motivate you even more so than you already are, then look no further than Seth Godwin’s ‘Poke the Box‘. The main contention of Seth’s book is that the world has plenty of capacity to make stuff or do stuff, what it needs is people to initiate stuff. Seth makes a strong point that the most valuable people are those that try something new. They often fail, yet continue to keep on trying through learning and revising what they do.

The “box” is a metaphor for the system which is the world we live in. By poking it, you deliberately disturb the status quo. You challenge boundaries. Ask ‘what if?’. By doing so you become a ‘poker’, a high value add initiator creating something we do not have today.

The book is structured as if you were reading Seth’s blog posts in an RSS reader, which although can seem a little disconnected, are actually interrelated around the key theme if initiating and poking the box.

Seth’s book got me thinking about the types of people in an organisation, and the respective value add they can bring to a company. I will start with Seth’s ‘poker’ and add a few I think are common place.

Your A side

Clearly top of the list is your ‘Poker’. The ‘Poker’ someone who initiates change in an organisation. Ideas and staring stuff tops the list, but you definitely need a resource person. Lets call them the ‘Stoker’. They are stoking your initiator’s fires, through their own hard labor or funding the initiator.

Your B side

Keeping the wheels turning are your ‘Brokers’. They are brokering your Pokers solutions and their own ability. These players are chasing the action, turning some cogs, but generally just doing what they are told to do occasionally reinventing themselves to do some new things. With the right encouragement they can come off the ‘bench’ and play a role in your A side.

Your C side

Unfortunately there are always some passengers in the work place, one of which I call the ‘Stroker’. The Stroker likes to stroke ideas, projects or initiatives that are going somewhere or on the way up. They then take credit for some or all of the work and bask in the glory. Great at self promotion, but low value add on most other levels, strokers can be hard to detect, especially if they have made a career out of it.

So why do these people fall into the B and C team you ask? I think Seth sums it up best in his story ‘The Fear of Wrong’.

“It’s not surprising that we hesitate. Starting maximizes the chances of ending up wrong.

Here’s the nightmare, and it’s a vivid one: The boss finds someone who did something wrong and she hassles / disciplines / humiliates / fires her.

If you’re not wrong, that’s not going to happen.

On the other hand, there’s the other scenario: The boss finds someone who didn’t start, who never starts, who always stuies or criticizes or plays devil’s advocate, and she hassles /disciplines / humiliates / fires her.

Oh, forgive me for teasing you; that never happens.

The typical factory-centric organization places a premium on not-wrong, and spends no time at all weeding out those who don’t start. In the networked economy , the innovation-focused organization has no choice but to obsess about those who don’t start.

Today, not starting is far, far worse than being wrong. If you start, you’ve got a shot at evolving and adjusting to turn your wrong into a right. But if you don’t start, you never get a chance.”

Go ahead, start something today!


Note:  It is good to be back blogging! After a hiatus with a new job that has been keeping me more than a little occupied.

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3 things I have learnt about change

A great question was posed on the internal Yammer social network not that long ago was; ‘what (are) the most useful things that you have learned working at NAB?’. As I come to the end of my time in nab I have thought about this question for some time. My response here is in the context of lessons I’ve learnt about implementing change in large organizations, particularly since my time at nab.

Lesson 1: Relationships are crucial.

I first joined nab I joined as an internal consultant within the central learning department (almost six years ago) as a part of that leadership group. Being a new team forming, I recall one of the first meetings we had and we went around the table answering a question on what our leadership perspective was. One of the team members in the team led with, “Relationship, relationship, relationship… it is what is most important to me…”

At the time I half laughed to myself, wondering what this guy was on about and how he could come up with something so simplistic. Not long after this meeting, the team member racked up over 20 years in the nab. On reflection, I realise I’m a slow learner, as I think it took me a few years to really understand how valuable his insight really was. In an organisation where peoples perceptions are the dominant currency and trust is a precious commodity, building long lasting and deep relationships is vital to being successful in implementing change in a large organisation.

Lesson 2: Implementing change requires a system wide perspective and bold moves.

Last year at nab, I learnt about systems thinking and applied it to an issue which has been one of my key focuses at nab – how to improve the capability of our people. It has been the contuniation of a journey to better understand the complexities we face in large organisations.

Being a part of the system has the added effect of making it more difficult to change it. Remember, those most successful in the current system rely on the constants of the current system. Resisting change when embedded in the system, becomes instinctual and an uncouncious competence, rather than a planned response.

In the management speak that sometimes permeates in organisations, it is common to hear strategies in relation to change, that describe ”pulling this lever’ or ‘industrialzing processes’. These references are deeply rooted in our industrialized past. Notions created to improve the speed of a manufacturing line that is producing Model T Fords. Yet the complexity of our work has evolved. Our understanding of human nature has improved, but we still cling to notions of ‘command and control’ and ‘carrots and sticks’ as the way of implementing change.

If we are to become more effective at implementing change in our organizations, we need to examine the system and understand what it is telling us. Our moves to change the system must be bold! They must be grounded in new ways of thinking about how we effect change and be effective in breaking down old hard wired routines. The routines that reinforce the very behaviours which hold us back and ultimately prevent us from achieving the sort of change we are trying to instill.

Lesson 3: The strength of our networks will determine our success.

I have lost count of the number of restructures I have witnessed or been personally impacted by at nab. It has taught me that there must be a better way than our current hierarchies to organise how we work. Change will be a constant, but re-organising for change by continually re-configuring hierarchies saps energy and diverts effort. As Steve Denning explains: (based on his book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century):

“Hierarchy is good for making decisions but it is inflexible and unresponsive. And in today’s rapidly changing marketplace, agility is critical. Secondly, in knowledge work, a hierarchical mode of making decisions leads to decisions made by people who often don’t understand the implications of what they are deciding, and is inherently demotivating. And in knowledge work, motivation is the key to productivity. Thirdly, hierarchies are not good at innovating because there is a preoccupation with preserving the hierarchy ahead of all else. Finally, hierarchy isn’t good at innovating in a world in which innovation is critical.”

To effect change in large organizations we need a better system of orgnization connection. One that will,

  • countinue to improve our relationships,
  • allow us to build and operate in a more efficient system and
  • improve our interconnectedness throughout our organizations.

These lesson have driven me explore some new ways, companies such as Google and Zappos are using, to change the way we work in organizations. Organizational systems such as “dynamic linking” or “wirearchy” – which is defined as:

“”Wirearchy is a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on, knowledge, trust, credibility, and a focus on results – enabled by interconnected people and technology.” (Jon Husband, 1999)

I look forward to exploring these concepts more fully in future via this blog and also look forward to any comments, reflections or lessons you have learnt about implementing change in large organizations by posting a comment below.

(NB: Insights for lesson three, inspired by ‘Leadership for networks‘, via Harold Jarche.)

Photo Credits:


What Homer Simpson taught me about implementing Kaizen

Brainstorming and creative thinking is always aided when you add a new perspective, or ‘lense’, to the problem at hand. A common tool is Debono’s Six Thinking Hats that encourages lateral thinking, requiring people to put on a different ‘hat’ or take a different perspective on a given topic. Today I attended a workshop, focussed on how we can implement a common set of Kaizen tools across the organisation, utilising some creative thinking perspectives. The three perspectives on offer for this exercise were; Apple, Generation Y and Homer Simpson. Apple and Gen Y, may seem pretty straight forward, but how could you get anything serious out of a Homer Simpson perspective? Well here is the list we come up with and I will let you be the judge:

“Borrow” tools from Flanders

Why would Homer bother to make or buy his own tools, when he could ‘borrow’ someone elses, like Ned Flanders?

In organisations we often look to make, hone and refine our own toolkits – be that any sort of tools, including change management, project management, or Kaizen tools as in this case – yet in large organisations there is bound to be someone, somewhere with a tool kit that has proven to do the job just fine. So why not use theirs? Are your people that different? Really?

Support the path of least resistance

Homer has never been one for going out of his way to do anything, so why not just integrate the tools we want him to use into what ever he does?

If using the toolkit becomes so easy to adopt and part of the natural way of doing things, then you can not help but use it. Why would you resist using something that is just part of the natural flow and the way things get done?

Remove competing interests

Homer isn’t subtle and isn’t afraid to break things that frustrate him, if he is confused or annoyed by it, well chances are, it could get broken!

Why in organisations do we constantly confuse our people, by having multiple and competing tool sets for similar challenges? Focussing our people on the most practical and appropriate methodology (or toolset) to achieve what we want to in a consistent way, just seems like good old ‘Homer’ sense really.

Get others involved in doing the work

Homer is pretty lazy, why would he do something if he could get someone (Bart collecting grease) or something else (the drinking bird pressing the ‘Y’ key on the computer) to help him do the work?

Kaizen, like most things involving organisational change, really only works when people are empowered to make the changes themselves. Enlisting the people closest to the change to help make the change just seems logical really.

Leverage people with passion

Be assured if there is a cause in Springfield, Homer Simpson will be leading the charge, with blind passion and enthusiasm. Especially if there is beer involved (aka Homer the Beer Barron)!

Finding the people who have the passion for what we are trying to achieve in organisations is a great way to provide the energy required to implement change. Tools such as social network analysis, can help us to find people whom are the natural connectors, that have the skills and the enthusiasm required to generate peer acceptance of a change.

Failure is OK

“Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is….” I’m going to take some license here and cut off Homers tag line (never try) and offer the alternate view that ‘if we fail and learn, that is OK’.

When utilising Kaizen, or trying to implement any sort of good sustainable change, failure and refinement are two important ways to improve. It is amazing how much can be learnt from a good failure. Nobody sets out to fail, but the reality is not everything we do works. We just need to learn from it. Creating an organisation culture that embraces failures and learns from them, is key to creating more innovative and adaptive organisations.

We all knew Homer was a man of many talents, who knew he could offer such insight on organisational change?

Please feel free to comment below with some of your organisational change lessons from Homer Simpson.

*With thanks also to my table buddies, Micheal Fromberg and Peter Willoughby.

NB: The tools in the workshop were from a toolkit called: ‘What would X do?’ from Inventium.

Image: Via Leo! – Flickr