Tag Archives: organizational change

The one with the influential session

So best laid plans of mice and men….and I only made it to one day of the CIPD conference in Manchester. I must confess spending most of the morning distracted by my Movember fundraising session (and a brief presentation on developing leaders) and then it was time for lunch. One of the sessions I made it to in the afternoon was about getting OD on the management team agenda and came in the form of a panel discussion between Mike Hawes, Director of Talent, B&Q; Catherine Devitt, Director of People and OD, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Mandy Bromley, Global OE Director, Unilever

The opening question from the chairman was about defining OD and I must confess at this point I got a little disheartened as what appeared were 3 subjective definitions of OD (and a challenge about OD needing to be OE) but actually these answers illustrated how OD is defined differently in different organisations, who have different challenges and need different solutions (so I became a bit more heartened)

Of the three participants two described a new CEO as key to them getting traction for their agenda and this reinforced to me the idea that actually enlightened leaders will get the value OD (and more broadly HR) can bring and it’s not for missionaries to convince the unenlightened.

Some nuggets emerged some of which I manage to capture:

  • OD isn’t about doing it’s about supporting (or facilitating) getting it done
  • It shouldn’t just be neat/cool interventions this has to actually achieve outcomes
  • Line management is as important as leadership in an effective organisation
  • A lot of OD is about common sense
  • Asking questions, re-framing situations and helping people think differently are key
  • OD practitioners needn’t be HR people: some of the best are from the business

Mike Hawes discussed an equation they’ve used at B&Q which he believed he read in a book somewhere and thanks to the wonder that is Google I have discovered he was referring to Gleicher’s Formula which looks like this:

D x V x F > R

D = Dissatisfaction

V = Vision

F = First steps towards change

R = Resistance to change

B&Q had applied this in understanding what they need to achieve and where they needed to focus to ensure it was effective. I do like a nice model/equation so this one seemed worthy of sharing (and will no doubt appear in a slide pack soon)

The final question that made it to my notes surrounding the qualities required of a person to be effective in OD and through the discussion four main themes emerged:

  • Change – require a divine discontent about the possibility things can always be better
  • System – needing to understand the impact of intervention on the broader system not just in isolation
  • Business – the need to make things real for the business not just a ‘pie in the sky’ solution
  • Resilience – that OD is lonely (sobs into keyboard), requires the individual to challenge a lot and the individual needs to be able to cope with that

From a session that started off with all the signs of just being full of ‘this is what we did at X company’ it ended up being very interesting and I left not wanting my money back (N.B. I hadn’t paid!)



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The one where it’s time to change

When the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 3….it’s 3 o’clock, right? Simple stuff and stuff we are taught when we are knee high to a grasshopper. Consider an alternative phrase ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ – who hasn’t said that? What they represent however are two different definitions of time – the first objective – time is a measured definite thing, where there are 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day (despite my consistent lobbying for 30 hour days at the weekend). The second (time flying) is subjective; where time is ‘defined in the mind of the actor’ – it’s not measured it’s defined by the individual who is experiencing it.

The first essay I was asked to write at uni was entitled “Discuss the meaning of time in organizational change” (the question was set, I certainly didn’t choose it!) and as ever with these things I started off thinking what a horrid title it was and ended up being fascinated with the idea of two different definitions of time….

So why write this now?

In the current climate (a phrase that is now highly valued in bullshit bingo) change is truly becoming a constant (you can see why I score so well in BB). A lot of conversation happens both on and offline about how to do it but consider this – if you are an enactor of change time is likely to be defined objectively to you. When enacting change there are structures, milestones and ‘things’ to deliver.

If, however, change is being enacted upon you time is not about compliance with employment legislation or delivery to budget, it is a very personal thing. How many people are having to leave teams or businesses, join new teams or businesses, change huge parts of their lives (where they live, childcare, how they travel etc)? At the moment, lots! Your neatly planned change is changing the reality of their day to day lives.

Personally, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was announce a restructure to a group of highly committed long serving employees. It was the first time I’d ever lead such a thing so was fairly anxious anyway. In the ensuing 1 to 1 meetings the reality of a subjective definition of time was brought home to me with a 54 year man (and he worked in a warehouse he was a blokey bloke) crying, asking the simple question “what am I going to tell my wife?”

There’s a line in the movie “Trains, Planes & Automobiles” where Steve Martin’s character rants to John Candy about his stories and ends along the lines of “they should have a point – it makes it far more interesting for the listener”. So what’s the point?

Next time you are planning a neatly executed change and whether you are using Lewin or Kotter or any other guru’s process just remember that to the person being changed, this is about their life, not about your Gantt chart. Their reality is not about a tick in the box, it’s however THEY define it…



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