Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Waste time on “Lessons Learned?”

When I worked as a MBB charged with an organizational process improvement deployment, my perspective on a Belt’s activity was more global than that of the individual project perspective.  

From that strategic perspective, an unspoken goal of every process improvement project is for the belt to model great leadership behavior, that will be imitated by the organization.  In a very subtle way, the organization is taught new behaviors through the “Belts’ behavior and subsequent success.”  One of the messages that should be communicated to the organization through “Lessons Learned” is that “GREAT leaders always look back!”

If you treat a project as an independent event, you are absolutely correct in your observation that there is little or no value-added added to a project by looking backward…”your work is done…let’s get on to the next challenge!”   

I cringe when I hear that sentence!   

Projects are more than that, from my perspective.   

The “Lessons Learned” activity has many valuable contributions to provide, to a project and an organization, some evident and others, obscure.   

It is apparent that from a knowledge management perspective, Lessons Learned:
  • ·        Identifies other opportunities within the scope of the project.
  •       Keeps other project leaders from making the same mistakes in similar projects.
  •       Provides future project leaders short-cuts and paths to more efficient and effective projects.

From the more obscure, leadership training perspective “Lessons Learned” models an often overlooked leadership trait.  

Great leaders look back and fix what was negatively affected by an effort, before “declaring victory.”  

They work to make the present better for all that have been involved or impacted by their actions and set the stage for future being better.  

Many projects are criticized for their “paths of destruction” effects.   I have heard the comment, “You may have fixed this, but look what you did along the way!”  I have also heard during the project close-out meetings, “X” was affected by our work, because the nature of their job changed too!  We need to “Y” before we call this project finished.

“Lessons Learned” are opportunities to simultaneously; put the finishing touches on a project, teach an organization subtle lessons in process improvement and leadership and set the stage for future improvements and success.  

“Lessons Learned” have significant value to add to a project when conducted appropriately and are an excellent opportunity to teach leaders that their role is more than a linear set of focused events, but global…continuously working the past, present and future.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When is an Organization Ready for Change?

In the late 20th century, (although not a formal program, but none the least, widespread), organizations lauded what I call “Nay-Sayers.”

These were people who could kill creative plans and initiatives by identifying a single weakness, pointing it out and offering no alternative.

Many change practitioners responded to that threat on organizational advancement with “killer phrase” lists and “progressive thinking” sessions.

Some of these countering efforts had success and others were not so successful. Despite these efforts, “the proverbial “Nay-Sayers” still reside and flourish in many organizations.

I have read many interesting papers on a relationship between change readiness and organizational “emotional maturity” or tier position of its leadership, on Maslow’s hierarchy.

I am going to take my experience and research and suggest the controversial position, with somewhat a flippant phrase…it doesn’t matter what the emotional maturity level is of its management or what tier one is at on Maslow's hierarchy…if a person or organization is ready for change…they are ready!  In fact...all organizations are ready for change...

Whether or not an organization embraces the need for directly related to the change agents' ability to make a compelling case for the required change...failure to embrace that change is also the change agents' failure...

As self evident as that phrase may sound, the need for change is based on the recognition, by an individual or organization, that its current state is unsatisfactory and that there is value is doing something about it.

Simply stated, if there is a value in changing...they will change!

If this was not the case, all but a very few individuals or organizations would advance, those few being the ones with the highest levels of emotional maturity or at the self-actualization tier of the hierarchy.  We all know how many of those there actually are!

A change agent’s job is not to wait for the emotional maturity of a leader or the tier level of an organization to rise to a specific level, before taking action. Do not use and organization’s or a leader’s level of development as an excuse for the lack of change readiness.

The agent’s responsibility is to make a compelling case for change, in terms, that the can understand, agree with, embrace and support.

A leader or an organization can be “change ready” whatever the maturity or tier level. Success calls for an astute assessment of the Stakeholder’s needs and meeting them on their ground with a compelling case for their language...

To put the answer into one sentence, you will know that your organization is ready for change, when you have made the case, and they can clearly recite the case for change

Then you will receive all of the support for the effort through their actions….it does not matter where they are…change depends on you going to them on their terms!

The question that you need to ask yourself, "Are you ready to make that change in the way you work?"