King NOPA versus VUCAzilla

Kong-versus-Godzilla

You may have heard of the VUCA phenomenon, shaking the foundation of the established industries around the globe. However, you may wonder, what could help against it?
In addition to the Magnificent Seven that might be useful, I have just come across another simple concept called NOPA that I would like to introduce you to in this article.

N as in Networking stands for individuals and groups interacting not only within a certain community but also across hierarchical levels. The more often individuals and groups are networking the more probable that crucial information for an organization is passed around effectively.

Please ask yourself:

  • How often do people from different apartments come together within your organization?
    Is this taking place rather informally or rather within a formal frame?
  • What could you do to let members of your organization interact with each other more often?

O as in Openness stands for an attitude of staying rather open-minded to feedback even if it is against one’s natural point of view. In times of rapid changing business models in the market it is of vital importance to stay broad-minded in order to stay “ahead of the wave” by having several options available.

Please ask yourself:

  • If a seemingly unusal idea is coming up in a business meeting you have attended, how is this treated by the meeting members?
  • What could you do to more often protect the “wild ducks” (= employees with unorthodox points of view) within your organization and give them a platform?

 P as in Participation stands for the intentional act of taking responsibility within a change by taking accountability for certain activities and thereby driving an initiative to keep a transformation on track.

Please ask yourself:

  • How often do you see others in your community taking responsibility for an action that is linked to a change of “the way we used to work”?
  • What could you specifically do to take more initiative to drive changes within your organization?

A as in Agility stands for the capability to act to changes in a highly flexible manner and to adapt rather quickly and effectively.

Please ask yourself:

  • On a scale from 1 (not at all) to 10 (very much): How would you rate the average capability of all your organization’s members in regards to agility?
  • What could you personally do to shift this average rating (question above) one step further towards a ten?

Each of the NOPA elements is an excellent asset to better cope with the negative impacts of the VUCA phenomenon. I invite you to reflect on specific steps to implement more NOPA within your organization.

Appetite in transformations

Hunger

In any given transformation process, individually or within an organization, it is essential for you to focus on the crucial topics to be successful. Metaphorically speaking, there are many impacted people that have a lot of “hunger” that needs to be satisfied.
I hereby invite you to read more about the categories that I have found useful (working as a change facilitator) and to use this input to reflect on your own current challenges.

Needs
Nowadays, many change professionals start analyzing a transformation asking for the specific needs of participating and impacted individuals or groups. Ask yourself: What impacted group has which specific needs? Be as detailed as possible with upcoming answers. Get input from others for helpful answers (you may want to use a sounding board).

Between forces
In the last century, Kurt Lewin has created the concept of force fields that drag an impacted individual to either of two opposite directions. The one force field drags the individual to the present and stresses the good aspects of the present (“What was good in the past will be good in the future”). The other force field drags the individual to the future and stresses the good aspects of a potential future state (“What was good in the past will not be good enough in the future”).
Force-fields

To analyse these forces ask:

  • What arguments are in favour of keeping the present (and resist to any changes)?
  • What arguments are in favour of the change and the future solution/state?

Fears
Great change facilitators succeed in considering taboos and fears that impacted members may have or suffer from during a transformation. Do not hesitate to analyse potential fears of groups.
Fear
Ask yourself: What could it be that they fear the most during the change? What is it that they want to avoid at great costs? Use the upcoming answers for follow-up communication. Be transparent and pro-actively show that you are willing to address “the elephant in the room” and may have ideas for solutions that the majority of impacted people can benefit from.

Desire
At the other end of the emotional spectrum you focus – instead of fear – on the desires of your impacted individuals and groups: What they hope for and positively expect. Reflect on the “big emotional topics” that they long for and they may gain from the transformation.
Desire
Ask yourself: What big desire maybe (better) fulfilled once the change is achieved? As with arguments that you have collected during thinking about fears of your target group use output of this exercise for follow-up communication. You may want to create a vision design to give direction and emotional attraction.

Lost & Found
Beam yourself into a typical metro central station. They usually have a lost & found office. This is a suitable background for questions that you could use to reflect on further requirements of your target groups and individuals during the change.
Lost-and-Found
Ask yourself:

  • What could they in particular lose during the change or once it is completed?
  • What could they gain (find) as a consequence of the change?

Once you have found answers on these lost/found questions you, of course, need to develop ideas on what to do with these findings. What needs to be done to communicate and compensate the losses? And what needs to be done to promote and benefit from the findings/gainings?

In any given change always start asking the “big questions” first.
Feel inspired by the above listed five categories to derive your own reliable set of HUNGER questions.

The Magnificent Seven versus VUCA

Magnificent-Seven

VUCA is a phenomenon that describes the global situation since the cold world war is over. In this term each letter stands for a specific aspect:

  • V = Volatility.
    The nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.
  • U = Uncertainty.
    The lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events.
  • C = Complexity.
    The multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues, no cause-and-effect chain and confusion that surround an organization.
  • A = Ambiguity.
    The haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.

What can you do – in your workplace, in your organization, with your colleagues, with clients – to ease the pain and negative consequences that are implied by VUCA?
I invite you to read on and get to know a few useful counter measures. I call them in reminiscence of the once bold and courageous seven cowboys, the “Magnificent Seven”.

Rituals
Offer, install and keep on using rituals to enable others to “take a deep breath” from time to time so that they are able to digest new changes and past developments in their very own requested time period. Furthermore, well-installed rituals can support a group or team to improve their spirit and bond strongly.

Stable zones
Identify together with impacted colleagues/clients, what are his/her specific stable zones (behavior that was helpful in the past and will probably be useful in the future as well) and what are his/her instable zones: behavior that is either to be abolished (not desirable anymore) or that is new and needs to be learned/practiced.

Time as a gift and appreciation
In times of stress, excessive media supply and a continuous search for meaning, it makes a difference if you make a conscious effort to reach out to somebody to either lend him an ear or spend some quality time with him/her. Time is a rare and precious good. Used in a clever way, it can serve as an excellent invest for you together with the people who benefit from your gift.

Recurring availability
People like customers show a pattern of behavior that is not always easy to decipher. To make it easy for them to get to you, it might be helpful for them if you guarantee a certain availability (doesn’t need to be 24×7) that they can deal with successfully and make use of.

Foster relationships
Human beings are dependent on keeping relationships with others. By opening up and keeping relations with many individuals around you, you contribute a great deal to the “Great Network” that is called humanity. And this again makes sure that interaction becomes possible, interaction that always includes a chance of improvement and enjoying life together.

Clarity in communication
Think and rehearse before you communicate. In particular before presentations or crucial interactions it is important for you to consider carefully what kind of messages you want to bring across. A “message” can usually be expressed in a short main sentence including an emotional aspect, e.g. “It is important for us to follow this new process so that we can be successful.”

Follow your heart
This advice may look a little awkward, yet I can prove that – once you have chosen a path to your “heart” of things – you will thereby guarantee stability, predictability and a sense of reliability, both for yourself and all others around you. Reflect in detail on what it is you really want to do and achieve in life, then go for it. Your surroundings will soon realize the passion and power you develop in your actions. People are in general attracted by others who show passion and aspiration. So, if you have found your path and clearly show these characteristics, others will be attracted by you. This will lead to more connectivity and diminished VUCA effects.

Magnificent-Seven_versus_VUCA

Changing the DNA in organizations

dna2

Culture in organizations is something that is usually difficult to grasp, however, has a great impact on everyday lives of each member of a company.

What is culture?
According to Andrew D. Brown, author of “Organizational culture”, Organization culture is the pattern of beliefs, values and learned ways of coping with experience that have developed during the course of an organization’s history. This means that for culture:

  • It is a set of accepted values, assumptions and shared common experiences.
  • It is something we learn and unconsciously acquire. It is not inherited.
  • It dictates behavior, etiquette, manners and protocol.

Getting more specific, we can say about culture:

  • It influences how we act and respond.
  • It is “how we do/say things around here.”
  • It is communication: how people create, send, process and interpret information.

Culture manifests itself in aspects of an organization like:

  • Values (qualities considered worthwhile like “solidarity”)
  • Beliefs (assumptions what is good for the business and how to act in the best manner)
  • Climate (feeling or atmosphere, noticeable in the physical layout of work spaces and how employees act with each other)
  • Norms (standards and rules)
  • Symbols (icons, stories, rituals and traditions that embody strong messages about what is important)
  • Philosophy (Stated policies and ideologies that guide actions in relation to shareholders, employees and customers).

How could culture be analyzed?
You could conduct interviews or survey-based interrogations considering the above mentioned manifestations of a culture within an organizations. Alternatively, you could make use of a quick culture analysis that was created by Ed Schein, a former MIT professor in the fields of career development and organization culture. Schein stated that there are three crucial aspects when it comes to understand more of a culture an organization currently has. You have to look out for three specific elements:

  • Membership: What is to be done, how to think, act and behave to be a part of this organization?
  • Taboos: What is a “no go” in this culture, what should one not say or do, what leads to sanctions or even to exclusion?
  • Success and promotion: What needs to be done to stick out and to obtain
    a good reputation in this organization, to make a career and to probably become an internal “hero”?

culture-quick-analysis_ed-schein

Ask these questions to a number of different employees within the organization and across different hierarchy levels. Start by inviting people to a few individual interviews, consolidate some of the insights you have gathered and then conduct a few workshops with small groups of employees to deepen your understanding of the organization’s culture.

How could culture be changed?
Well, anyone who has tried doing this, may have found out that quick fixes are generally not working in this area of change management.
It might be helpful to focus more on the aspects of what you can see and feel in regards to culture interventions: influencing people’s behaviour. Leandro Herrero, author of “Viral change” gives us a number of tips on what to do in order to change an organization’s culture via the behaviour of employees:

  • Think of „culture“ as a point of destination (once we have these behaviours established, we will have that culture).
  • Think of culture as a point of departure, when you are visualizing a future: imagine that we have a culture of X where people behave like A, B, C.
  • Think short-term: which behavioural changes can be made now to start triggering „the infection“?
  • When you describe your culture (to your peers, staff, external world) use any labels you feel appropriate, but make sure to attach the behaviours behind those labels.
  • Put behaviours before processes. To achieve change, focus your energy on behavioural change, not process change. Let behaviours, not processes, drive the „new culture“.
  • Spot any „new routines“, desirable or undesirable, created via tipping points and try to understand the viral network behind them.

And now it’s your turn:
Please let me and others know: What cultural challenges are you currently facing? And what do you plan or already do to bring culture change about?
I look forward to your feedback!