Tag Archives: organisational change

The one without the battenberg tattoo

When you read about change it mostly seems to be at either the organisational level (steering the tanker etc) or a group level (we need to get “them” to change) but let’s face it change fails because of people and people are individuals. All of them…even when there’s lots of them. There’s a great quote from ‘The West Wing’ which goes something like “a person is smart, people are stupid” and maybe when it comes to change we need to start thinking about a person and stop thinking about people.

Which brings me on to the Battenberg tattoo…last weekend I watched stand up delivered by the ever compelling (and mostly angry) Rhod Gilbert. The show is entitled “The Man with the Battenberg Tattoo” and tells the story of the end of a relationship, his experiences with anger management and the title relates to his constant pettiness and a tattoo that would demonstrate how pointless tattoos are.

In the course of telling a 2 hour story he, with some passion, rails against a gift he was given by his then girlfriend – an electric toothbrush. Like Mr Gilbert I have never really seen the point of an electric toothbrush – like cars, I am happy with manual. These days with the marketeers let loose on features and (supposed) benefits it’s getting out of control. I’ll let him explain…

My sad confession is that I as sat there laughing away at the comedy the dark side of my brain was thinking about how what seems the obvious and amazing to one person can seem completely pointless and a waste of time to others. So whilst a person may believe that a toothbrush with a timer or a detector that beeps if you are brushing too hard may appear worth an investment to others they may think this is innovation for innovation sake. Am I stretching the analogy too far? Probably.

That said sometimes giving people what they don’t know they yet need (think Henry Ford quote about faster horses) is worth the time, effort, disruption, risk  and leadership required to steer the tanker and maybe just maybe the resistance is nothing to do with the expected outcome and more about the fear of change that a person inevitably feels.

Does your organisation need an electric toothbrush? Thankfully for all of us – that’s your call!

I am speaking at the CIPD conference later today and fortunately for those attending I am only the warm up for our CEO who is there to talk about leading an organisation through change. Relax – there is no talk of Battenberg or tattoos but an interesting perspective from someone with the significant change to manage but I will leave you with one image which also doesn’t appear in the slide deck but one I think embodies the risk of allowing people to talk you out of change – it may not be broken but surely this isn’t fit for purpose?

Horse in Car
Photo credit: Nigel Clarke @learnedlion who actually took the picture in Hungary last year.

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The one with the riots

For those of you who read this blog regularly you may be surprised that I am writing this as I don’t tend to blog about what is broadly topical and although the context of this blog is the events unfolding at the moment it is the reaction on the news and in social media, that has given me cause to reflect…

The ugly face of civil unrest has shown itself in the UK this week and personally, I am shocked and appalled at what I have seen on television this evening. The idea that the people who are looting and destroying property this evening are doing so in support of a cause seems unrealistic and it appears they are taking advantage of the situation for their own ends.

What happens in the coming days will no doubt captivate the media and the commentators and in the final reckoning it will be not the people who have been victims of these events that will get the attention but the institutions involved. What will be overlooked is the broader ramifications for our country and the focus will be who was to blame. I may be wrong but I would put money on it and I’m not a betting man.

My attitude towards the police is probably similar to a lot of you. I am respectful of them on an individual basis, my interactions with them have been confined to a few incidents involving radar guns and like any significant institution it would be easy to label them as a group when in fact they are a massive organisation but still made up of individuals.

In the coming blame game, it is the senior people who will be held accountable for their perceived failure tonight and that will certainly involve the Home Office and the current government. I read a statistic (don’t ask me where) that over 70% of organisational change initiatives fail and in whilst the current government will be held accountable for their failure to reform or realign the police, in their 15 months in government would it actually be realistic? I am not seeking to excuse the current government or the previous administration. The point I am trying to make is from an organisational perspective trying to change something as large as the police force is a herculean endeavour and while the police remain a political football, kicked from side to side of the House, is it realistic that lasting change will ever be made?

During a private conversation on Twitter this evening, someone remarked that the police should have gone in earlier and also called the army into play. With hindsight they may be correct, but hindsight is 20/20 and no one sees that clearly when something is emerging. Someone, somewhere tonight is accountable. Ultimately it’s David Cameron, but on an operational perspective, someone in a police uniform was captain of the ship tonight. Imagine being that person…talk about a catch 22.

If you make the call too early and go in heavy, you risk escalating an already volatile situation and also put the lives of your people at risk. If you make the call too late and the situation gets out of hand then civilians and property are put at risk. Either way you lose and the fourth estate will hand you a noose, without too much hesitation. Talk about an exercise in decision making…

No doubt that person has faced difficult decisions before, I would hope that to reach a Leadership role they would be well versed. But step back for a moment and ask yourself as an individual, what decision would you have made? It’s easy to be arm chair commentators, but think about the last time you had to make a difficult decision at work…how much did you fret, get angst-ridden and deliberate before you made it? Now imagine doing it with human life and property at risk and the press laying in wait.

The final thing that has been bouncing around my head is what the situation emerging today says about our values as a nation. You can’t move 3 lines in HR press without some mention of company missions and values. We all espouse them with ease and ask the people we work with to live up to them. Often, we include them in performance review and judge people against them. So what are the UK’s values? And how are we doing in our performance review tonight?

I’m now going to bed with the prospect of waking up to the FTSE yet again taking a hammering and hopefully some calm having prevailed in the parts of this country that have seen unrest today.

I don’t really know why I’ve written this. For one reason without writing it I wouldn’t have got to sleep for some time and it’s a definite way to ease the frustration I will undoubtedly feel as the blame game unfolds but mostly I wrote it in the hope that someone somewhere actually thinks about what all this MEANS and from that comes real change…but that may just be me dreaming!


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