Communication During Change

Change

The past eight weeks have included taking a course titled Change Leadership as part of my grad studies. During that time I have been able to read a book by John Kotter titled Leading Change. In the book Kotter lays out his eight-step process for leading change and dives into some other subjects around the future of organizations as well. It is a short and easy read but dense with information. I highly recommend it for any leader in any organization. It is well worth your time.

Communicating ChangeOne theme that ran through the text, or maybe it was through my head, was the importance of communication while leading the change process. This was not just a one-time thing, stuffed into a single chapter and then forgotten again, but a general theme woven throughout the book and an integral part of each and every chapter. Each step along the way involves communication in some way shape or form. It is the air that leaders breath during a change. It is the fuel for the fire of any change an organization undertakes. Kotter’s first step is Create Sense of Urgency. Take a look at that and think, what is the best way to do that than to communicate with anyone and everyone about what is going on and why it needs to change … now? How is anyone supposed to know both the what and why of a change than when they are told!? Even the last step, Institute Change, will require a concerted and focused effort to keep that change from fizzing out at the end. Communication, and its importance, is integral every step of the way!

So how does that communication happen? Well, the possibilities are endless! However, here is a helpful video which can give you some ideas to start with.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. For each and every organization, there is a unique blend of communication styles, mediums, and messages needed in order to make sure the change is getting through and that the communication being presented is having an impact. Talk with your people and figure out what will work best. Here is an excellent example of just talking to people and tailoring the change message to the audience. It is of Steve Jobs taking questions during the 1997 World Wide Developer Conference. Much of what he talks about here can be seen played out in Apple, through the changes he started, over the next 20 years.

One aspect of communication that I have really come around to over the past few years, and I think is vitally important for change in particular, is to be on the lookout for the dysfunctions of a team found in Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In his model, he presents the dysfunctions that he has seen railroad teams and organizations across decades consulting with businesses and non-profit organizations. You can find it reproduced here:

5 Dysfunctions of a Team

These same five dysfunctions can very easily sidetrack and sideline needed changes because some of those needed levels are not there. What is the first thing to go? Communication breaks down and becomes ineffective and when that happens, the downfall of the organization follows closely behind. Patrick is an entertaining speaker, so I will let him speak for himself.

Trust is the base, and it needs to be the base for change as well. When trust is there, it makes the work of the leadership that much easier and the way that trust is fed is through effective, true, useful communication. I cannot recommend Patrick Lencioni’s books enough as quick and easy reads with many useful tidbits about leading organizations. They are filled with humor and knowledge.

Here are some more resources to look at. Remember, communication is vital, but it is also a moving target and something that needs to be tailored to each and every organization and situation:

In closing, do not discount at all the importance of communication during change. When you think you have communicated enough, double the effort. When you think that everyone is onboard, triple the effort to pick up those people who are still on the fence and move those who are in opposition onto the fence so you can pull them over when you do it again! As Patrick Lencioni wrote in The Advantage:

… there is no such thing as too much communication.

Go forth and communicate … then communicate some more!

Old Things

MLC Old Main 2016

St. Paul's Church 2015I like to work as a part of old things. Old buildings. Old industries. Old organizations. The farm that my family owns is already on its third generation, the church that I volunteer at and am a member of just celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, and my place of employment is not far behind. Farming, education, and religion are all “old industries” as well (in a sense).

Christmas at St. Paul's ChurchThis is almost anathema today. So often we are pulled to look outside of where we are and to find discontent … with the promise that we will be able to find contentment in the new things that world is offering us today. Sad? Buy a new car! Not feeling content with your job? Then you need to change your job to one of those new and up-and-coming companies! Feeling like you are not fulfilled where you are? Then move away to one of those hip areas in the country! Looking for Christ? Look to that new mega church down the road! Toss all of your past behind and leave those backwards places to your old self and try on this new self today!

MLC WCC 2016The old, the traditional, the stable are things to be cherished and embraced. Our culture tells us to toss out those old things in our lives and bring on the new things without taking into consideration what is being lost in the process. All of the combined decisions and knowledge and meaning of the past is then left behind when we decide that what has come is not worth out time. History is our collective understanding of who we are and where we came from, and tossing all of that history aside because “I know better” or “I don’t need that anymore” is a high form of hubris. How are we to know we know better? Don’t sit there unthinking and without a look toward what can be done better, but don’t sit there and believe that you somehow are able to have a higher understanding.

Now, none of these things are old when considering the entire span of history, but it does a person good to consider the institutions they are a part of and why they are there. Embrace history, embrace the old, embrace the opportunity to work within these established, stable, traditional places and to be a part of something greater than just the here, the now, the transient.

Indecision to Carry

Each workday I go through the same routine:

  1. wake up to alarm
  2. get out of bed
  3. shower and change for work
  4. head downstairs and help with breakfast/lunch prep/etc.
  5. drink cup of coffee with wife
  6. brush teeth
  7. pray with family
  8. gather together my stuff for work into bag
  9. say goodbye and head off to Martin Luther College

There are sometimes a few small variations to that routine, but for the most part that is it. However, out of every small decision I make in the morning it is #8 on that list that gives me the most pause each and every morning:

  • gather together my stuff for work into bag

Looking at the picture I used at the top of this post, it is probably pretty easy to see why. While my iPhone is always in my pocket and I have various amounts of reading material in my bag, I am constantly shuffling what technology I should be carrying between home and work.

Here are the three devices I currently work through my mind each morning:

  • Apple 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina display
  • Apple iPad Air
  • Microsoft Surface 3

The iPad Air is the easiest to carry, fits nicely into my bag and fulfills probably 85% of my needs on any given day. The Surface 3 is a test device for the Windows 10 deployment we are looking at for work along with an interesting look at the differences between form factors (and fits nicely into my bag). It fulfills maybe 75% of my needs on a given day, but a slightly different portion than the iPad Air.

The 13″ MacBook Pro is, surprisingly, just a little too big to bring along every day. It just fits into my bag, means I can’t bring too much else along, but fulfills 95% of my needs on any given day. It is just less portable. It takes up more space and so it sits on my desk.

In my own mind it looks like an iPad Pro or MacBook would be great compromises, but they are coming from different ends of the spectrum. Do I want a laptop more like a tablet or a tablet more like a laptop?

The Surface 3 is interesting only because it tries to toe the line between laptop and tablet by having different modes. It sorta works, sometimes (not a rousing endorsement, I know). The other problem with going all-in on Microsoft’s platform is that the software is just not at the quality I’ve grown accustomed to over in Apple’s camp.

Sadly, my trusty Lenovo X220 with openSUSE Tumbleweed has been relegated to primarily system admin work as I fix things around campus requiring a serial interface and a CLI. I eagerly watch for what the response is going to be from the open source operating systems to where Microsoft has taken Windows 10, but maybe Windows 10 is not the proper course.

All of these words are here to whine about the fact that I often don’t know what to carry with me between home and work. We have a Surface Pro 4 coming in as a test machine for our next faculty deployment at Martin Luther College. Maybe the increased size and speed will force me to start moving to a more device-agnostic way of working.

There are four amazing platforms to work from right now: Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Linux/Open Source. They all have their strong points and their weak points, but the entire ecosystem has been polluted by the fact that each platform is ever so slightly different in major ways (yes, I did read that phrase three times … it is what I want to say). Where do you turn?

Maybe it just doesn’t matter.

I Like Email

It is pretty commonplace for someone to bemoan how terrible email is today.

I’m not one of those people. I happen to like email quite a bit. Actually, compared to above, I’d ask if maybe we shouldn’t be fired instead of email. Maybe we, as a hypothetical manager of email, should be fired for being a bad manager of said email.

Email can definitely be unwieldy, but I look at it a lot like notifications on smart phones or answering cell phones or watching television or … most things where we can get obsessed with.

Email is asynchronous, open, distributed, and reliable. It is cheaper and easier than a hand-written letter (so it can be used in many more instances) and you can control it by turning things off.

Today, however, you do need to manage email more than when it was not as ubiquitous. This might mean being more careful with where you hand out email out, using the SPAM reporting functionalities, and maybe filtering some of the emails.

I don’t, however, think that is too much to ask.

I like email and I am glad it is going to stick around.