Permanent Change is The Only Constant in Complex Environments

Le Matin : Isn’t permanent change the only constant of organizational environments?
Farid Yandouz : Indeed! Companies are often faced with very high levels of complexity and its resulting impact on uncertainty of clients’ projects scope and the competencies required to implement such projects. This complexity is made even more difficult by a technological environment obeying one rule: permanent change. As a result, several managerial practices are becoming essential and central to strengthening organizational performance.

What actions do you recommend then?
Several tactics and strategies can be deployed in response to the ever-increasing complexity of changes. It all depends on the room for manoeuvre each manager has, the extent of the sponsoring enjoyed, and the intensity of the inertia tied to a need to maintain the status quo. According to operational priorities, the following key areas can be identified.

  1. Assessing individual’s, department’s and organisation’s ability to change.
  2. Strengthening adherence to core values reflecting the organization’s desired (or projected) identity.
  3. Reducing structural, political, behavioural and functional inertia.
  4. Developing quality of working life in a changing environment.
  5. Deploying and promoting individual postures and aptitudes capable of co-constructing the strategies required by permanent change.
  6. Aligning competencies with organizational development needs.

Regarding this last point on action required to develop the competencies you mentioned, what approach would you recommend in complex environments?
It is important to bear in mind that managing these competencies requires first-line managers as well as middle-managers. Indeed, especially in complex environments, the way competencies will evolve, or are prompted to evolve, is very much unpredictable and heavily influenced by changes in technology or customer needs. Here, for example, the implementation of learning networks with a focus on evolving competencies is strongly recommended. This will allow the progressive emergence of new trends, as well as regular feedback on required competences, to manage both sourcing needs and resources career development.
This said, though, we must acknowledge that conventional Strategic Workforce Planning does provide quite a comprehensive picture. Nonetheless, SWP is unfortunately ill-suited to complex environments. Competence development itinerary models and associated workforce can not be used in a practical manner. The alternate exercise must provide employees with more visibility as well as more regular polls to ensure their feedback is taken into consideration. Such an approach will be built upon:

  • The Implementation of a self-assessed mapping of the areas of expertise required by the department, prioritising the construction of skills clusters.
  • Ensure skills clusters are build on a ‘division projects’ orientation and not a ‘posts / jobs’ orientation.
  • This approach can be fuelled by focus groups and moderated by stakeholders neutral to political and personal considerations.
  • Mapping is then prioritized in dedicated workshops with top management.
  • Q&A with Farid Yandouz published in LE MATIN newspaper

Drive change for successful project management !

Drive change for successful project management

Successful transformation and change efforts require more than resources qualified to execute and deliver projects on time, on cost and on target. It is well known that the success of projects intimately depends on the ability to integrate deliverables into the organizational environment, not just boasting about of the perfection of your project preparedness, planning, execution, control and closure capabilities. Many projects unfortunately can not think beyond deliverables, instead of pursuing how the product could properly be exploited or how to beat resistance, inertia and opposition. The consequence of this short-sightedness is the very high rate of failure and underperformance of projects, standing close to 85% according to the famous Standish Group’ Chaos Report.

Awareness of what we have just discussed must be the beginning of a deep reflection among project governance bodies to think and act beyond normative project management schemes to integrate more global considerations, geared towards instantaneous and agile value creation when it comes to expectations and desires of both customers and stakeholders.This is the ability to understand what customers expect from our products, what their customers expect as well, and most importantly, what might prevent them from using these products properly in their operating environment. The products might be procedures, systems, or even labour organizations, exploited by stakeholders who will need to be influenced before, during and after the process of conducting change.

Project management has many components that are very useful to the conduct of change, which need to be addressed in a configuration integrating both disciplines.From team motivation to communication techniques to stakeholder expectations and risk management, all these areas are often addressed in both disciplines, but in a different way.The major difference is that project management directs these disciplines towards the realization of each project phase, whereas conduct of change focuses on the twin levers of adhesion reinforcement (aka buy-in) and resistance management.

As we have just seen, and thereby adding to project management, the conduct of change provides added value by enhancing the chances of success of transformation projects.Assessing return on investment in change management is a very important step to take at the beginning of each transformation project. This approach allows us to understand the benefits of these efforts, if only in terms of other benefits at risk if these efforts are not undertaken. In this sense, one of the most credible assessment methods at the international level is the ESSEC Chair of Change shows that 5% investment in change management can prevent up to 20% of delays in project delivery. This means that your investment in change management provides you with up to 15% return on total investment. These figures allow you explain budgets allocated to change management and to be able to size and deploy project diagnostics, engage tactical and strategic levers, as well as monitor transformations.

Why is it essential to know how to protect ourselves from allies?

Why is it essential to know how to protect ourselves from allies?

We know intuitively to protectourselves from stakeholders opposed to our transformation projects. Counter intuitively, we must also consider protecting ourselves from our allies as well. In fact, the most spectacular defeats of history were provoked not by enemies but allies. As Voltaire said, ’God preserve me from my friends, I’ll handle my enemies’. There are two reasons behind this reticence. The first reason is that we often feel comfortable with our allies and may reveal weaknesses which could be used against us. The second reason is that our offensive and defensive capabilities are so focused on resistant stakeholders that we do not invest enough energy and effort in our areas of vulnerability which our allies are supposed to protect. This does not mean we need to be obsessive about it, only to keep it in mind.

We spontaneously tend to surround ourselves with allies, for comfort, protection, or conquest. To be well surrounded is to recognize that we can not go far without federating the strength and will of others, especially those who are not under our direct authority. These are the stakeholders who influence our projects but who may have other interests and interests which do not concern us. The urge to reach out to these stakeholders is so intuitive that it is hard to overcome. This risks rushing into alliances not out of necessity but out of a desire to satisfy our ego. Let us not forget we are better off alone than badly surrounded. A great deal of responsibility concerning the failure of our allies is unfortunately due to our early haste in their selection. Alliances often start to great fanfare but few become solid, sustainable and reliable. This observation is similar to that of the win-win agreements I mentioned in my article long-term win-win relationships. Taking the time to choose these allies thoroughly if much better than the headlines effect. Furthermore, inflated objectives create very high expectations in relation stakeholder contributions which can only be disappointed at a later date.

Choice of allies must not be made by affinity or through docility. Allies depend on the strategy of influence you adopt and the principles you advocate as part of the transformation you are conducting. You must have no ally independently of any situation you manage. Choice of allies is contextual and reflects the positioning of your strategy of attack or initiation of change whether negotiated, permanent, imposed, or clean-break. Your allies are not supposed to be your clones intellectually speaking, but must have the ability to reflect your strategy on the ground. This said, they have concerns thatdo not normally require your attention. As soon as these concerns overspill into your field of action and your interests, your allies become your future competitors or even join other resistant stakeholders. It must be understood that as soon as you begin to succeed, stakeholders agendas can change alonside their perception of their commitment to you and how they identify with your success. In the words of Francois de La Rochefoucauld : “To make enemies, surpass your friends; to make allies, let your friends surpass you “. In this case, your ability to protect yourself from your allies is subtly dependent on your ability to ask yourself the right questions at the right time!

The Freedom of Being

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When we discuss freedom, we often think of debates that address the limits that individuals should not exceed before infringing on the freedoms of others. Viewed in this way, freedom would be an energetic, continuous and eternal subject of debate: Start with possible antagonism between individual freedom and collective interest, through to the freedom to refuse to do what is harmful within an otherwise reasonable task, to how freedom should be more than the thirst to fulfil one’s desires. Freedom can not be taken for granted and never will be as its outlines are so vague and complex. We are not surprised by this observation, which merely reflects the continuous and interdependent evolution of social contexts, individual needs and interpersonal influences.

Reflection on freedom should be conducted on a personal basis before becoming a social debate. This is not to say that social debate is not important, but it is important to recognize that we often miss out on the basics by focusing our attention only on social debates, which are fine themselves, but distract us from the fact that our circle of influence begins first and foremost with ourselves. Freedom can not be only about universal declarations, fundamental values ​​and global principles reflecting statutory freedoms. Each of us has his or her own definition of their freedom. Reflecting on our perception of our own freedom implies a better understanding of one’s self and is a measure of how important we consider it to be.

At stake is not only appreciating the impact of our freedom on our surroundings, our friends, colleagues, or family, but also to consider if freedom is your priority and whether you consider it to be a philosophy or way-of-life which guides your actions, gestures and thoughts. The answer is lies intimately seeking deep inside you and not in focusing on how others see you. Your answer will tell you what you are able to do on a personal and interpersonal level to realize your dream of ‘freedom’. It is not an easy exercise as we often know what we risk losing if we do not remain subject to systems and relationships that condition our existence but neither do we know the full extent of the gains made by freeing ourselves of these.

It is also important to recognize that freedom is a dream and not an easily accessible reality. We are often mistaken in believing that freedom is naturally acquired. It is far from being so. We are born naturally dependent on our surroundings. Dreaming of freedom is above all liberating what you are instead of remaining dependent. It is the freedom to be an agent of change, not a victim. If you dream of being free, start by challenging your own status-quo, intellectually speaking. Everything around you has been done by people who have similar abilities to you. Undergo a perpetual fight against inertia by undoing your beliefs and build your values ​​from experience. You will flourish by rebuilding your world and making your energy gravitate around it. More than a plan of personal development or an ephemeral attitude, you will mostly have to undertake a personal revolution and a mission of a lifetime worshipping life. To be free is, above all, to live what you are and not what others make you to be.

Sensibility is a source of Strength, not Weakness

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Sensibility is often associated with weakness … This weakness that would supposedly plunge us into the embarrassment of showing that we are moved, that we behave in compassion towards a situation or a person … This weakness which would mean a ‘supposed’ fragility, that would weaken rational thought in favour of emphatic feelings! … Rest assured: Sensibility as a source of weakness is only dogmatic!

We may be tempted to think that as long as we are perceived as ‘tough’, others admire us or fear us. In either case, this would be more comfortable or, at least, more reassuring than showing sensibility. As no one is perfectly ‘tough’, this is pure aberration! We do not live in a jungle where the ‘toughest’ prevail. We live in a world governed by emotions. The latter control our actions and feelings much more than we imagine. Any attempt to censor sensibility will be in vain! “Men who think they are tough are much more sensibile than those praised for their expansive sensibility. They are tough because their sensibility is true and makes them suffer”, says Benjamin Constant. Sensibility includes not only the feelings we experience but also how we view our human nature and how this vision conditions our perception of the existence of beings and objects arround us.

Sensibility is a quality. The quality of being humanly yourself. It certainly reflect your ability to understand your emotions and activate them properly and spontaneously. It is also the consideration with which you treat and interact with others. Although the risk of deception and manipulation is associated with sensibility, it should not be confused with an excess of confidence and attachment. You can not be forced to trust, but you have the choice of being sensible and to know how to stop trusting when your emotions dictate it. Above all, you should recognize that sensibility is a finite resource and that you must use it intelligently. Indeed, “Those who waste their sensibility on everything do not have it anymore when it is necessary” (according to Milan Kundera).

Sensibility is a sign of undeniable personal and interpersonal leadership. Indeed, leadership does not stop at the qualities associated with clarity of vision, inspiration, motivation and leading from the front. It is also based on your sensibility as evidenced by your ability to understand the behavioural and emotional signs of your interlocutors and to ensure that your own actions are in accordance with your feelings towards those you manage and stakeholders. From then on, your sensibility will perfectly complement your ability to believe in your distinctive uniqueness * and your ability to be authentic in complete harmony!