Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lateral Thinking Puzzle


A man lives on the twelfth floor of an apartment building. Every morning he takes the elevator down to the lobby and leaves the building. In the evening, he gets into the elevator, and, if there is someone else in the elevator -- or if it was raining that day -- he goes back to his floor directly. Otherwise, he goes to the tenth floor and walks up two flights of stairs to his apartment.


In the middle of the ocean is a yacht. Several corpses are floating in the water nearby.


A man is lying dead in a room. There is a large pile of gold and jewels on the floor, a chandelier attached to the ceiling, and a large open window.


A man and his wife raced through the streets. They stopped, and the husband got out of the car. When he came back, his wife was dead, and there was a stranger in the car.


A body is discovered in a park in Chicago in the middle of summer. It has a fractured skull and many other broken bones, but the cause of death was hypothermia.


A woman has incontrovertible proof in court that her husband was murdered by her sister. The judge declares, "This is the strangest case I've ever seen. Though it's a cut-and-dried case, this woman cannot be punished."


A man walks into a bar and asks for a drink. The bartender pulls out a gun and points it at him. The man says, "Thank you," and walks out.


A hunter aimed his gun carefully and fired. Seconds later, he realized his mistake. Minutes later, he was dead.


A man is returning from Switzerland by train. If he had been in a non-smoking car he would have died.


A man goes into a restaurant, orders albatross, eats one bite, and kills himself.


A man is found hanging in an otherwise empty locked room with a puddle of water under his feet.


A man is dead in a puddle of blood and water on the floor of an otherwise empty locked room.


A man is lying dead, face down in the desert. He's wearing a backpack.


A man is lying dead, face down in the desert. There's a match near his outstretched hand.


A man is driving his car. He turns on the radio, listens for five minutes, turns around, goes home, and shoots his wife.


A man is driving his car. He turns on the radio, then pulls over to the side of the road and shoots himself.


The music stops, and a woman dies.


A man is dead in a room with a small pile of wood chips and sawdust in the corner.


There's a flash of light, and a man dies.


A rope breaks. A bell rings. A man dies.


A man is lying drowned in a dead forest.


A woman buys a new pair of shoes, goes to work, and dies.


A man meets a one armed man on a subway, who pulls a gun and shoots him.


A man is lying awake in bed. He makes a phone call, says nothing, and goes to sleep.


A man kills his wife, then goes inside his house and kills himself.


Two men enter a bar. They are served identical drinks. One lives; the other dies.


Joe, wearing a mask and carrying an empty sack, leaves his house. An hour later he returns with a full sack. He goes into a room and turns out the lights.


Hans and Fritz are German spies during World War II. They try to enter America, posing as returning tourists. Hans is immediately arrested.


Tim and Greg were talking. Tim said, "The terror of flight." Greg said, "The gloom of the grave." Greg was arrested.


A man dies of thirst in his own home.


A man gets onto an elevator. When the elevator stops, he knows his wife is dead.


A man is running along a corridor with a piece of paper in his hand. The lights flicker, and the man drops to his knees and cries out, "Oh no!"


A car without a driver moves; a man dies.


A woman throws something out a window and dies.


An avid birdwatcher sees an unexpected bird. Soon, they're both dead.


There are a carrot, a pile of pebbles, and a pipe lying together in the middle of a field.


An ordinary American citizen, with no passport, visits over thirty foreign countries in one day. He is welcomed in each country and leaves each one of his own accord.


A man is found dead in an alley lying in a red pool with a stick near his head.


A man lies dead next to a feather.


A man wakes up one night to get some water. He turns off the light and goes back to bed. The next morning he looks out the window, screams, and kills himself.


She grabbed his ring, pulled on it, and dropped it, thereby saving his life.


A man sitting on a park bench reads a newspaper article headlined "Death at Sea" and knows a murder has been committed.


A man drives down the highway at 55 miles per hour. He passes three cars going 60 miles per hour, then gets pulled over by a police officer and is given a ticket.


A man tries the new cologne his wife gave him for his birthday. He goes out to get some food and is killed.


A man is doing his job when his suit tears. Ten seconds later, he's dead.


A man is doing his job when his suit tears. Three minutes later, he's dead.


A married couple goes to a movie. During the movie the husband strangles the wife. He is able to get her body home without attracting attention.


Mr. Browning is glad the car ran out of gas.


A man is sitting suspended over two pressurized containers. Suddenly, he dies.


A man leaves a motel room, goes to his car, honks the horn, and returns.


Two dead people sit in their cars on a street.


A man ran into a fire and lived. A man stayed where there was no fire and died.


Three men die. On the pavement are pieces of ice and broken glass.


A man ate some food that was not poisoned, yet nevertheless caused him to die.


One of Johnny's dearest loved ones binds him to a chair, but Johnny doesn't mind.


Two people in a room alone. One looks around and realizes he's going to die.


A woman tells her children to do something, but just one boy obeys. The woman says something to him, and he stomps away, sits down, and sulks.


A woman tries to drop a man into the ocean -- by his own request -- but when she tries, he blows back in.

Solution for #1

The man is a dwarf. He can't reach the upper elevator buttons, but he can ask people to push them for him. He can also push them with his umbrella.

Solution for #2

Alternate Solution #1

A group of people were on an ocean voyage in a yacht. One day, they decided to go swimming -- they put on their swimsuits and dove off the side. They discovered belatedly that they have forgotten to put a ladder down the side of the yacht and were unable to climb back in, so they drowned.

Alternate Solution #2

The same situation, but they set out a ladder that was just barely long enough. When they dove into the water, the boat, without their weight, rose slightly in the water, putting the ladder just out of reach.

Solution for #3

The room is the ballroom of an ocean liner which sank some time ago. The man ran out of air while diving in the wreck.

Solution for #4

The wife was about to have a baby. They drove to the hospital. The husband left to get a wheelchair, but the baby was born in the meantime, and the wife didn't survive the birth.

Solution for #5

A poor peasant from somewhere in Europe desperately wants to come to the United States. Lacking money for airfare, he stows away in the landing gear compartment of a jet. He dies of hypothermia in mid-flight and falls out when the compartment opens as the plane makes its final approach.

Solution for #6

The sisters are Siamese twins.

Solution for #7

The man has hiccups; the bartender scares them away by pulling a gun.

Solution for #8

Alternate Solution #1

It was winter. He fired the gun near a snowy cliff, which started an avalanche.

Alternate Solution #2

He shot an elephant with a low caliber rifle. Not powerful enough to kill it, the elephant became enraged and trampled him.

Solution for #9

The man used to be blind -- he's returning from an eye operation which restored his sight. He spent all his money on the operation, so when the train (which had no internal lighting) goes through a tunnel, he thinks he's gone blind again and decides to kill himself. But before he could do it, he saw the light of the cigarettes people were smoking and realized he could still see.

Solution for #10

The man, his wife, and a second man were in a ship that was wrecked on a desert island. The man's wife died in the wreck. When there was no food left, the second man brought what he said was an albatross but was really part of the dead wife. Later they were rescued, and at some point, the first man decides to order albatross at a restaurant. It tastes nothing like what he was told was albatross on the island, which makes him realize he really ate his wife. Unable to cope with the realization, he kills himself.

Solution for #11

He stood on a block of ice to hang himself.

Solution for #12

He stabbed himself with an icicle.

Solution for #13

He jumped out of an airplane, but his parachute failed to open.

Solution for #14

He was with several others in a hot air balloon, crossing the desert. The balloon was punctured, and they began to lose altitude. They tossed all their non-essentials overboard and then their clothing and food, but they were still sinking too fast. They drew matches to see who would jump over the side and save the others. This man lost.

Solution for #15

The radio program is one of those shows where they call up someone at random and ask them a question. The announcer states the name and town of the man's wife as the person he would call next. He does so, and a male voice answers. From this, he gathered his wife was having an affair.

Solution for #16

He's a DJ at a radio station and decides he wants to kill his wife. To establish his alibi, he puts a prerecorded record on the air, quickly drives home, and kills her. On the way back, he turns on his show and discovers the record is skipping.

Solution for #17

The woman is a tightrope walker in a circus. Her act consists of walking the rope blindfolded, accompanied by music, without a net. The conductor is supposed to stop the music when she reaches the end of the rope, signaling that it's safe to step off onto the platform. That day, the usual conductor was ill. The substitute stopped the music early.

Solution for #18

The man is a blind dwarf, the shortest one in the circus. Another dwarf, jealous because he's not as short, has been sawing small pieces off the other's cane every night. When he uses his cane each morning, it appears to him that he's grown taller. Since his only income is from being a circus midget, he decides to kill himself when he gets too tall.

Solution for #19

Alternate Solution #1

The man is struck by lightning.

Alternate Solution #2

The man is a lion-tamer, posing for a photo with his lions. The lions react badly to the flash of the camera, and the man is momentarily blinded by it, so he gets mauled.

Solution for #20

Alternate Solution #1

A blind man enjoys walking near a cliff and uses the sound of a buoy to gauge his distance from the edge. One day the buoy's anchor rope breaks, allowing the buoy to drift away from the shore. When it rings, the man thinks he's further away from the edge than he is, walks over it, and falls to his death.

Alternate Solution #2

The man is a bell ringer. One day the rope breaks, and he falls down the shaft and dies.

Solution for #21

He was scuba diving when a firefighting plane landed nearby and filled its tanks with water, sucking him in. He ran out of air while the plane was in flight; then the water, with him in it, was dumped onto a burning forest.

Solution for #22

The woman is the assistant to a circus knife-thrower, who stands in front of a target as knives are thrown around her. The new shoes have higher heels than she normally wears, causing the thrower to misjudge his aim.

Solution for #23

These two men, along with several others, were shipwrecked on a desert island and had run out of food. The men agreed that they needed to eat their arms to survive, but that it if one person had to lose his arm to save them, they should all lose their arms. The men were rescued before the last man's arm was eaten; this man ran away before he could be caught and forced to give up his arm. However, he bumped into one of the other survivors in the subway one day, who killed him for not living up to his end of the bargain.

Solution for #24

He is in a hotel and is unable to sleep because the man in the adjacent room is snoring. He calls the snorer up (at this hotel, like many others, the phone numbers are based on the room number). The snorer wakes up and answers. The first man hangs up without saying anything and goes to sleep before the snorer starts snoring again.

Solution for #25

It's the man's fiftieth birthday, and in celebration of this he plans to kill his wife and move to a new life in another state. His wife takes him out to dinner; afterward, on their front step, he kills her. He opens the door, dragging her body in with him, and suddenly all the lights turn on and a group of his friends shout, "Surprise!" Caught red-handed, the man kills himself.

Solution for #26

The drinks contain poisoned ice cubes; one man drinks slowly, giving them time to melt, while the other drinks quickly and thus doesn't get much of the poison.

Solution for #27

Joe is a kid who goes trick-or-treating for Halloween, returns, and goes to sleep.

Solution for #28

Crossing the border, Hans and Fritz were required to fill out a personal information form, which asked, among other things, their birthdays. The German date ordering is day/month/year, rather than the American way, month/day/year. Fritz was born on, say, July 7th, so he wrote down 7/7/15 -- no problem. Hans was born on, say, July 20th, so he wrote down 20/7/15 instead of the American way, 7/20/15. Since Hans had claimed to be a returning American, he was found out by the border police.

Solution for #29

Greg is a German spy during World War II. Tim, an American, is suspicious of him, so he plays a word-association game with him. When Tim says, "The land of the free," Greg says, "The home of the brave." When Tim says, "The terror of flight," Greg says, "The gloom of the grave." Any U.S. citizen would know the first verse of the national anthem, but only a spy would have memorized the third.

Solution for #30

His home is a houseboat, and he has run out of water while on an extended cruise.

Solution for #31

He's leaving a hospital after visiting his wife, who's on a life support system. The power goes out, stopping the elevator and, he guesses, the life support system, too. (He assumes if the emergency backup generator were working, the elevator wouldn't lose power either.)

Solution for #32

The man is delivering a pardon, and the flicker of the lights indicates that the person to be pardoned has just been electrocuted.

Solution for #33

The murderer sets the car on a slope above the hot dog stand where the victim works. He wedges an ice block in the car to keep the brake pedal down, puts the car in neutral, and flies to another city to avoid suspicion. It's a warm day; when the ice melts, the car rolls down the hill and kills the hot dog man.

Solution for #34

The object she throws is a boomerang. It flies out, loops around, comes back, and hits her in the head.

Solution for #35

He is a passenger in an airplane and sees the bird get sucked into an engine at 20,000 feet. The engine stalls, and the plane crashes.

Solution for #36

They're the remains of a melted snowman.

Solution for #37

He is a mail courier who delivers packages to the different foreign embassies in the United States. The land of an embassy belongs to the country of the embassy, not to the United States.

Solution for #38

The man died from eating a poisoned popsicle.

Solution for #39

The man was a sword swallower in a carnival side show. While he was practicing, someone tickled his throat with the feather, causing him to gag.

Solution for #40

The man is a lighthouse keeper. He wasn't quite awake when he got up in the night -- unwittingly, he had shut off the light in the lighthouse. During the night, a ship crashes on the rocks. When the man realized what he had done, he killed himself.

Solution for #41

They were skydiving. He broke his arm as he jumped from the plane by hitting it on the plane door, and he couldn't reach his ripcord with his other arm. She pulled the ripcord for him.

Solution for #42

The man is a travel agent. He had sold someone two tickets for an ocean voyage, one round-trip and one one-way. The last name of the man who bought the tickets is the same as the last name of the woman who "fell" overboard and drowned on the voyage, which is the subject of the article he's reading.

Solution for #43

The man was driving the wrong way on a one way street.

Solution for #44

The man is a beekeeper, and the bees attack en masse because they don't recognize his fragrance.

Solution for #45

The man works at a factory. His clothing got caught on a piece of machinery, dragged him in, and killed him.

Solution for #46

The man is an astronaut out on a space walk.

Solution for #47

The movie is at a drive-in theater.

Solution for #48

Mr. and Mrs. Browning had just gotten married. Mrs. Browing was subject to fits of depression. They had their first fight soon after they were married; Mr. Browning stormed out of the house, and Mrs. Browning went into the garage and started up the car, intending to kill herself by filling the garage with car exhaust. But the car ran out of gas quickly, and Mr. Browning, returning home to apologize, found Mrs. Browning in time to summon help and restore her to health.

Solution for #49

He's riding a bicycle or motorcycle, and he crashes and dies.

Solution for #50

It's the middle of the night. The man goes outside to get something from his car, but forgets which room he was in. His wife is deaf, so he honks the car horn loudly, waking up everyone else in the motel. The other residents all get up and turn on their lights, and the man returns to the one room that remains dark.

Solution for #51

Because there was a heavy fog, two people driving in opposite directions on the same road both stuck their heads out of their windows to see the center line better. Their heads hit each other at high speed, killing them both.

Solution for #52

The two men were working in a small room protected by a carbon dioxide gas fire extinguisher system, when a fire broke out in an adjoining room. One of the men ran through the fire and escaped with only minor burns. The other one stayed in the room until the fire extinguishers kicked in and died of oxygen starvation.

Solution for #53

A large man takes the elevator from the ground floor to the third floor penthouse apartment he shares with his wife. After greeting her, he sees a man's watch on the table and assumes she's been having an affair. Thinking her boyfriend has escaped down the stairs, he rushes to the French windows and sees a good-looking man just leaving the main entrance of the building. Furious, the husband pushes the refrigerator through the window onto the young man below. The young man is killed by the refrigerator. The husband is killed from a heart attack caused by overexertion. The wife's boyfriend, who was hiding inside the refrigerator, is killed from the fall.

Solution for #54

Alternate Solution #1

A man choked to death on a fried chicken leg.

Alternate Solution #2

The man was Adam, and eating the forbidden fruit was punished by God making him that he'd ultimately die.

Solution for #55

Johnny is a kid. The chair is a seat in a car. One of Johnny's parents put his seatbelt on for him.

Solution for #56

The two people are Siamese twins. One wakes up, notices that the other one is dead, and realizes he will die soon, too.

Solution for #57

The woman is playing a game of "Simon Says" with her children.

Solution for #58

The man has been cremated. The woman is his wife. Before his death, he requested that his ashes be scattered on the ocean. But it's a windy day, and his ashes blow back on the boat.

Managing change

The briefings in this section of the toolkit explain how to implement plans - translating strategic direction and high level plans into services and assets that meet business need and achieve value for money. It outlines the key considerations for managing successful business change and describes the processes of implementing plans:

· development of a business case (Business case)

· programme management (Programme management)

· project management (Project management)

· acquisition of services (Procurement)

· requirements definition (Requirements definition).

Why does change need to be managed?

You must address the whole business change, not just the individual components. Business change is complex because of the interdependencies between the business environment, the organisation, its people and supporting technologies; any change in one aspect will affect one or more of the others. Cultural change is the most important consideration. For example, about 80% of the effort and resources required for successful IT-related change are - or should be - deployed on the 'soft' aspects of business change, such as changing behaviours and providing training at the right time; only 20% is required for the IT. Similarly, the cost of a new building is only a small part of the total cost of change required for new ways of working.

Factors for success

Recent experience has shown that these factors are essential for successful change:

· focus on the whole business change, not just individual components such as the IT aspects or HR

· good leadership and clear responsibility for business change

· adequate resourcing for the 'soft' aspects of change

· excellence in programme and project management skills

· robust risk management, taking a business-wide view rather than the immediate view of the project

· effective measurement and management of benefits

· effective communication and interaction with providers, including a good understanding of the implications of provider plans for implementation

· learning from experience and sharing the lessons learned.

The key steps in managing change are:

1. understanding: gaining a thorough understanding of the business environment, the organisation and its culture - knowing the organisation's capability to respond is a critical factor in deciding whether the changes can be coped with and how they might be handled

2. planning: setting the strategic direction; communicating at all levels - both the organisation and its people need to have a clear idea of where it is going and why

3. implementing: establishing a Change Programme, led by a manager empowered as change champion to make things happen. Support the people through training and development

4. controlling the change process: expecting the unexpected; keeping track of progress; continuing to improve and learn from experience.

You should manage change through a formal process of Programme Management.

Different degrees of change

Figure 2 shows different degrees of transformation and the range of potential benefits in relation to IT-enabled change; Table 1 provides an expanded summary of the levels of business transformation, with notes on strengths, potential weaknesses and the management actions required for transformation. Although the example illustrated is for IT-enabled change, the same principles apply for any change programme to achieve new ways of working. Other examples might include a new hospital or school, a call centre or a radical change following the merger of two or more organisations. You should consider the level of transformation required for your programme or project. For example, you may have an e-presence project to provide information for the citizen. You should think about the following:

§ the level of change: how much do you need to redesign business processes, processes of partners or redefine corporate scope?

§ strategic fit and integration: there may be a number of discrete change programmes underway in your organisation; should they be integrated? Is your project localised or part of a wider programme of change? How does it fit with the overall strategy?

§ readiness for change: taking a realistic view of the organisation's ability to cope with change, can this degree of change be achieved? Radical change need not be carried out as a 'big bang'; it can be implemented in incremental steps or broken up into modules. You should identify the approach that best matches your organisation's capability and priorities.

Figure 2: Levels of transformation (source: MIT in the 90s Sloan School of Management)

Level of transformation



Potential weaknesses

Management transformation

Localised exploitation (automation)

Use existing IT functionality

to reengineer individual, high-value areas of business operation.

Easy to identify potential capability, minimum resistance to change, addresses localised weaknesses in capability.

Duplication of effort: nothing new is learned; attractive relative to past practices, but fail 'best of breed' comparisons.

Identify high value areas. Bench-mark results against best practice. Redesign performance assessment criteria to reflect exploitation.

Internal integration

Use the capabilities inherent in IT to integrate business operations: reflects a seamless process

Addresses weaknesses in capability throughout the business: supports TQM: improves customer services.

Competitors may have moved on from this traditional concept to more radical concepts of reorganisation.

Focus on business inter-dependence and technical interconnectivity. Ensure that performance criteria are reassessed. Benchmark new capabilities.

Business process reengineering

Redesign key processes to provide business capabilities for the future: use IT as an enabler.

Move from outdated practices: opportunities to lead the market.

Benefits will be limited if too narrow a view is adopted (addressing current weaknesses, or historical issues): redesign of obsolescent processes.

Communicate the vision (are you eradicating weaknesses or designing for the future? Are you responding to competitors or leading the way?) Recognise that organisational issues are more important than selecting technology architectures to support the redesign.

Business network redesign

Strategic logic used to provide products and services from partners: exploitation of IT for learning.

Elimination of activities outside competence: streamlining business scope for responsiveness and flexibility: exploitation of competence of partners.

Lack of co-ordination may not identify required levels of differentiation: lack of streamlined internal IT infrastructure will hinder ability to learn.

Selected partners rather than extended array. Elevation of importance of partnerships in strategy. Radically new performance criteria. Definition of efficiency gains.

Business scope redefinition

Selected partners rather than extended array. Redefinition of corporate scope: what you do, what partners do, and what is enabled by IT.

Opportunity to use business processes to create a more flexible business: substitution of inter-company business relationships as an effective alternative to vertical integration.

Failure to develop a consistent area of competence for the future: enterprise may create gaps Articulation of business vision through internal activities, external relations and business arrangements. Shift from assessing success on return on assets (internal) to measures such as return on value added or return per employee.


What is business transformation in practice?
Business transformation is the process of translating a high level vision for the business into new services. It involves developing a 'blueprint', translating it into programmes of business change and implementation of new services.

The blueprint sets out:

· new ways of working

· how components fit together to deliver strategic objectives

· how customer needs will be met

· how IS and IT will be used to support the business.

It documents what needs to change: structure; processes; people/skills and the supporting technology.

Key aspects of business transformation are:

· identifying the organisation's core products and services (seeking the scope for innovation)

· designing new processes to deliver new services and/or do things better

· managing new relationships with customers and providers, and probably with partners in the public sector

· managing the policy interface with your parent department, where applicable

· directing the ongoing strategy of your organisation.

Process design is about coming up with a new, streamlined, possibly radical way of doing things. The really difficult task is converting design into reality: transforming innovative ideas into the new operational environment. You prepare for the future with a model of what the business does - and could do - together with a specification of how the business could work. A Business Activity Model explicitly models what goes on in the business independently of how it will be supported by an information system. Its main purpose is to enable you to identify and document requirements directly from the needs of business activities. This helps to ensure that:

· the degree of subjectivity is reduced such that new services will meet the objectives of the business and not simply replace current services or be constrained by specific perspectives of certain users

· the design of the service will be user-centred. A Business Activity Model describes the activities which are essential for the business to be able to meet a particular objective, or set of objectives. These activities are independent of the organisational structure and the allocation of tasks to individuals.

The design is captured as a blueprint, developed incrementally, and not too detailed. You are capturing requirements about people and attitudes as well as systems and technology and searching for the optimum:

· the mechanisms (people, organisation and manual capabilities) responsible for each process step

· how the various mechanisms work together.

The objective is to move from a high level vision to:

· performance measures

· a high level description of new business architecture

· a detailed specification of new processes

· plans for change: people; IT; new/updated workspace; processes and procedures

· rollout of new products and services

· dismantling of the old ways of doing things

· ongoing feedback on performance and opportunities for further improvement.

The Programme Management Workbook contains a relevant step by step through change management issues.

Further Information

See the checklist for managaing change.

OGC supports, co-ordinates and monitors the public sector in delivering the Government's target of achieving £21.5 billion efficiency gains a year by 2007/08, see the main  OGC website for further details.


Leadership.... boy does that word annoy me more now then ever before. Why? Because 9 times out of 10 those that spout off they have the new fangled leadership "know how" all they really have is a new fad of touchy feely.

Want my definition? (Of course you do, you're here aren't ya?)

Leadership = Wisdom There, that's it.

So how does one (me/dictionary) define wisdom?
1 - The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight
2 - The sum of learning through the ages

I consider Solomon the 'wisest of writers' I have ever come across. His thoughts:
1 - A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels
2 - A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keeps it in till afterwards.
3 - He that has wisdom loves his own soul;...
4 - For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.

Sum Up:
A leader will:
1 - A leader will be able to discern and judge what is true
2 - A leader will continue to increase his/her learning
3 - A leader will listen first then make a decision
4 - A leader will value him/herself
5 - A leader will spend time in the council of the wise
6 - A leader will know there is nothing of monetary value that carries more worth then wisdom.

The man (woman) who wanders out of the way of understanding (wisdom) shall remain in the congregation of the dead.


Effective Change Management Requires Planning

Change management can prevent disasters and help a company clean up its act organisationally, but it's important to have a clear idea of what you're doing and why

The first challenge of change management is that there’s no real agreement on what it means, so before you can embark on a change management project you must first decide what you mean by change. The second challenge of change management is that you must know what you intend to change and how you intend to change it. In other words, you have to know what you want the answer to be before you know what question to ask.

Clear, isn’t it?

But what’s certain is that poor change management can lead to serious consequences for your company. Some of those consequences can be challenging, some potentially disastrous and some could put you out of business.

“There’s a definitional swamp around change, release and configuration management,” observed Gartner Research analyst Jim Duggan. In regard to change management, a lot revolves around the sort of change you have in mind: It could be organisational change, it could be a change in IT products or services, and it could be a product change or a software update. Each type of change requires some means of tracking it and evaluating the impact on the product, organisation or customer and overall operations in an organisation.

For many companies, change management involves IT systems and product deliveries. In other words, if you asked your IT department to move toward adopting Windows 7 on all company desktop computers, then you’d need some sort of change management process to track which computers could be changed, which could be changed only after something else (replacing a video card for example) was done, and which could not be changed. And then you’d need to track the progress on all of them as the change went through.

Fortunately, software products designed to handle change management exist. For some companies undergoing complex changes, the right software is a necessity. For some, it’s optional because they could use a manual system. And of course there are small companies or changes that don’t require much beyond a notepad. For now we’ll talk about software.

Getting Started

Every company will have a different road to change management, if only because no two companies are alike in their processes and practices. In addition, a great deal depends on how large the company is, how much change it needs to manage and what its IT department can handle. And, of course, the biggest single factor is knowing how change works in your organisation and deciding how that should translate into a formal change management process.

For Chris Moore, vice president of IT at [1] Uponor North America, the process started with an Internet search for software. Moore had already come to the realisation that he needed to get a handle on managing change in the IT department, so he decided to start there and expand. He said lack of change management had led to some problems, or “catastrophes.” When changes were made, there were frequently unintended consequences.

“There was some business pressure to do this because they [his managers] didn’t understand why these catastrophes kept happening,” Moore said.On the other hand, he had a limited budget and couldn’t afford to pick the wrong package. Moore also decided to move deliberately so the process would disrupt his day-to-day operations as little as possible. As a result of his Internet searches, Moore eventually picked ChangeGear from [2] SunView Software. The process, according to Moore, took a while. He talked to SunView Software for several weeks, and spent a couple of months planning and more weeks loading the IT assets into the software before it was ready for full-scale use.

Paul Smith, senior network engineer at [3] Metafore Technologies, a division of Montreal-based IT solutions provider [4] Hartco, approached it from a different direction. He needed to get a handle on changes to his operating environment, specifically Active Directory, so that he could allow changes to take place in an orderly fashion without unintended consequences – but also without giving assistant administrators too much access. In short, he wanted to automate the change process, remove manual steps and in the process eliminate most errors.

Smith said his company chose [5] Ensim Unify to automate the change process. “It’s removed a lot of administrative overhead for my department,” Smith said, “and it’s saved a lot of time. We used to have a lot of manual steps for user management. We don’t have those steps anymore. From my own experience it has lowered [the number] of errors.”

As was the case with Moore, Smith did his research on the Internet and performed his own implementation. Because his goals were specific and limited, he was able to choose a package that solved his exact problem and implement it himself. “Implementation took not even an hour,” Smith said. “It was done with guided installation help [from] one of the system engineers from Ensim. An hour later we were up and running. No changes were needed.”

Organisational issues

Ultimately, change management is an organisational issue. While change management software can be a real help, if a company’s change process is broken or if the people handling change management don’t have the authority to enforce it, then change management software will only automate the chaos. On the bright side, users often report that adopting change management software led to organisational improvements.

“Do process first,” said Glenn O’Donnell, a Forrester Research analyst. “If you automate anything, it’ll just do it faster. If you automate a bad process, it’ll do bad things faster.” O’Donnell suggested that the fundamental action must be to get your head around the process and what the process ought to be.Once you have the process figured out, you need to have a commitment from all of the stakeholders in the process to make the changes you need to make with the change management system. Otherwise you can’t implement those changes, O’Donnell said. He also suggests that the easiest way to get buy-in is to go after the low-hanging fruit first; but which part of your operation meets that description depends on your company.

In many businesses, the process of adopting change management software is the event that moves organisational efficiency forward. “It can really clean up your act as a company,” Duggan says. “Companies that are notorious for bad IT systems are companies that have poor change systems or practices.”

Making change management work

In some companies change management needs a cultural shift to work. Such companies often reward “IT heroes” who make their reputations by fighting fires and overcoming disaster rather than those who avert disaster by planning ahead and managing the process. Change management systems can’t help these companies unless they commit to changing that part of their culture.

Sometimes the cultural shift happens after a realisation that the company has been rescued a few too many times to continue on in the same way. Or the shift takes place because the board or the CEO decides that change management is necessary and issues a directive. But in whatever case, everyone in charge of the process must agree.

Once the stakeholders agree to the necessity of change, then they have to agree on the process. The process does not have to be a companywide solution. In fact, it should be a limited solution that can be clearly identified, the process of change needs to be well understood and the results should be immediately measurable. Once the first step is taken and is successful then the next steps can be taken, and more of the organisation can benefit from change management.

In the case of Uponor, for example, change management came first to the IT department where the person in charge had a limited goal and a clear path and directive, and where improvements were easy to measure. Then other departments joined in, and eventually the company expanded change management to its manufacturing division and its European head office.

The existence of an international standard for change management has helped make it easier to spread the adoption of change management. The [6] ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) includes a set of best practices for change management. Notably, this is not a software standard, but rather a set of procedures, practices and concepts. Change management software can use those practices to define how it handles change within an organisation.

But the critical thing to realise is that change management software is only a tool that helps organisations manage change. Without a commitment to change and a process that works, the tool is useless.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What change management topics would be of interest to C-level managers?

This blog is based on discussions on the topic posted by Dot Olonovich on “I'm doing some research. Many CEOs believe that change management takes place at the project level. What change management topics would be of interest to C-level managers?” in Linkedin Change Management Network community.

At senior levels, change topics could include:
Developing a new direction - e.g. a new strategy/values/culture.

Planning to implement a strategy.

Developing an infrastructure to deal with future changes - quickly and efficiently, whilst changing a culture and developing leaders. e.g. a change agent network

Senior leaders must focus on the people and cultural aspects of change. The third area I want to highlight is oversight. Senior leaders are responsible for governance: having the appropriate individuals, structures, and decision-making processes in place to make sound decisions

We have identified fifteen major risks to the successful execution of strategic change. To successfully execute strategic change, senior leaders must be attentive to all of these risks. With your passion for organizational change, I recommend the change thinking blog:

Do you keep falling asleep in staff meetings? – Play Bullshit Bingo

What about those long and boring conference calls?
Here's a way to change all of that:

1. Before (or during) your next meeting, seminar, or conference call, prepare your "Bullshit Bingo" card by drawing a square -- I find that 5" x 5" is a good size -- and dividing it into columns --five across and five down. That will give you 25 1-inch blocks.

2. Write one of the following words/phrases in each block:

  • Synergy
  • Strategic fit
  • Core competencies
  • Out of the box
  • Bottom line
  • Revisit
  • Take that off-line
  • 24/7
  • Out of the loop
  • Benchmark
  • Value-added
  • Proactive
  • Win-win
  • Think outside the box
  • Fast track
  • Result-driven
  • Empower (or empowerment)
  • Knowledge base
  • At the end of the day
  • Touch base
  • Mindset
  • Client focus(ed)
  • Ballpark
  • Game plan
  • Leverage
  • Cascade
  • Sequential or sequentially

3. Check off the appropriate block when you hear one of those words/phrases.

4. When you get five blocks horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout "BULLSHIT!"


Testimonials from satisfied "Bullshit Bingo" players:

"I had been in the meeting for only five minutes when I won."
- Jack W., Boston

"My attention span at meetings has improved dramatically."
- David D., Florida

"What a gas! Meetings will never be the same for me after my first win."
- Bill R., New York City

“The atmosphere was tense in the last process meeting as 14 of us waited for the fifth box."
- Ben G., Denver

"The speaker was stunned as eight of us screamed "BULLSHIT!" for the third time in two hours."
- Harry A, Chantilly

"Thanks Bingo creator for thinking outside the box and proactively creating this value-added knowledgebase that is a strategic fit with my core competencies and current client focused mindset. I can leverage our existing process and exploit the inherent synergies to expand the knowledgebase to cater to our result driven folks who will work 24/7 to put it on a fast-track. This cascading game-plan is what I call a truly win-win situation."
- Swami S, Sunnyvale, CA

What is Company Culture?

A company's culture is its personality. It tells people how to do their work. It takes its signals from leaders. It underlies motivation, morale, creativity, and marketplace success. How do you manage it?

Company culture is the distinctive personality of the organization. It determines how members act, how energetically they contribute to teamwork, problem solving, innovation, customer service, productivity, and quality. It is a company's culture that makes it safe (or not safe) for a person, division or the whole company to raise issues and solve problems, to act on new opportunities, or to move in new, creative directions. A company's culture is often at the root of difficult people-related problems such as motivation, morale, absenteeism, communications, teamwork, retention, injuries, and insurance claims.

A company with a well-developed culture..... easily outperforms competitors.Because a company's culture affects everything in it—including profits—culture is the real bottom line. A company with a well-developed culture, open to all that its members want to bring, easily outperforms competitors.

Culture and personality are similar. When people describe a national, regional, or organizational culture they use words that can apply to a person. For example we might say that a culture is “friendly” or “tough”. It might be “driven and aggressive”. It might be “active”, “analytic”, or “open”.

Culture Is Not Separate from the Company

We talk is if a person has a personality, or a company has a culture. But people and companies don't really have a separate thing called a personality or a culture. A person comes as whole cloth. A person is a person. Similarly a company does not have part of itself called its’ culture. A company is a culture. Also, just as a person is not a problem—though sometimes what a person does may be a problem to others—so a culture is not a problem. A culture is what it is.

A company culture contains everything that makes up the organization and how it all the parts work together. It contains equipment and hardware, processes and software, the authority, reporting and control structures, communications and relationships, and the nature and quality of member’s experiences. See The Five Levels of Culture.

Cultures Tell Us How to Behave

As we matured from infancy to adulthood, it was our culture, in and outside of the home, that told us how to act. As human beings we are highly skilled at learning from social settings, recognizing almost immediately how we should behave. We know how to fit in, how to do what is needed.

if you want to understand a company's culture, look at what people doCompany cultures, like any other culture, tell members how to behave—what to do and what not to do. The work culture is the stage or context for what people do, for all that happens. If you want to understand why people do what they do, look to the culture. Or said another way; if you want to understand a company's culture, look at what people do.

If people are open, forthright and engaged, you know that is the nature of the company's culture. In contrast if people are defensive, irresponsible, and passive, you also understand the company's culture.

Newcomers Know the Company's Culture Immediately

Members of an organization know the company culture by being part of it. They experience trust and relationships directly. They know how open, involved and motivated they feel.

In fact before we have even formally joined a company we know from our experiences (during the interview process and in other ways) the kind of organization we are joining. Once we have joined it doesn't take more than a few days—a few weeks at most—for us to know just what to do and what not to do, what to say and what not to say. As members of the most socialized of all the species on earth, we are masters at fitting in—maestros of social adaptation.

Most Company Cultures are Poorly Developed

Gallup provided a glimpse of the national picture of company cultures in their poll of U.S. companies reported in USA Today, 5/20/2001:

  • 26 percent of employees are actively engaged in their jobs.
  • 55 percent of employees have no enthusiasm for their work.
  • 19 percent are so uninterested or negative about their work that they poison the workplace to the point that companies might be better off if they called in sick.

Apparently 74 (55 + 19) percent of employees work in poorly developed company cultures.

The Culture Reflects the Leadership Style

People look to their leaders for signals on how to behave. For example, although most people want to be open and engaged, they will only be this way if they think their leaders, and the culture, want it. In any organization 80 percent of the members are very flexible. If the culture asks for it, these employees will be engaged, responsible, pleasant, and highly productive. Conversely, if they don't think the culture wants them to be engaged, these same people can be closed, unengaged, irresponsible, unpleasant, and unproductive. The signals, on which way to behave, come largely from the company’s culture, which is established by the leadership.

Leaders Get the Cultures They Ask for

It is simple to build an engaging culture. If leaders want people to be engaged, engage them. If leaders want people to be involved, involve them. If managers want good communications and relationships, they communicate and establish good relationships. If leaders want people to be efficient and productive, they help employees understand their financial and production environment, i.e. give employees access to the numbers in a form that relates to the employee’s immediate tasks.

Unfortunately many leaders are reacting to today’s tough economic environment with more directives and tighter controls. This behavior from the top creates a culture that pulls, not for engagement, but for passive, even hostile behavior. It's ironic that leadership’s response to a tough marketplace would produce the opposite to what they want, which is that everyone is engaged, creative, and committed.

As you create a workplace where members can better meet their desires around their tasks, high-performance will follow.

A Well-developed Culture Is Highly Profitable

Leaders can directly change their workplace culture by changing how they do what they do. Everybody will see the change, like it, and respond. As you create a workplace where members can better meet their desires around their tasks, high-performance will follow. That is why we say Culture is the Real Bottom Line.

Benefits of a Good Company Culture

Because the company culture influences everything and everyone in it, a well-developed company culture creates positive changes across the board. Managers who have developed their company culture report improvements in many areas, including:


A well developed culture gives dramatic, sustained increases in productivity and performance. A 10% increase is minimal. I had one client where productivity doubled in 18 months. While you can expect productivity to rise to somewhere between these two points, continuous improvement is the norm. Theoretically there is no limit—if you keep working on the culture.


High morale is a key to success. It is closley connected to trust, purpose, team loyalty, pride, and faith in the leadership—all qualities that improve as the culture develops. See Morale


Employees know cost control is important. As the culture builds, people take responsibility for costs. With widespread focus, administrative and operating costs drop well below industry norms.


Often the underlying reason for improving the company culture is profits. Because the developing culture creates across-the-board improvements, increased profits are inevitable.

Supply Chain

Supply chain efficiencies depend very much on cooperation between multiple functions and levels. As the culture develops, relationships, cooperation and communications improve. The supply chain becomes more efficient and streamlined.

Injuries and Claims

This is a complex area, closely related to attitudes and relationships. As people see each other in new ways, lost-time injuries and worker’s compensation claims drop. Sometimes this is quite sudden and dramatic. See the million hours without a lost time injury described in Example—A Plant Turnaround.

Insurance Rates

Along with a safer workplace, with fewer injuries and claims, come lower insurance rates.

Customer Service

As the culture builds, managers learn to better manage the quality of everyone's experience, inside the company, and with outsiders such as customers, clients, suppliers, and other corporate entities. Customers who like you, return more often, buy more, and recommend you to others.


When you have a great place to work—where people can satisfy their needs—they just don't want to leave. See Turnover


It is common sense that there will be less absenteeism when people like their jobs. They also develop a new attitude towards their fellow workers and to the problems that their absenteeism creates for them.


A well-developed company culture, clearly stated in promotional materials, is a powerful recruiting point. Companies with an open, participative workplace, where people enjoy working, and have broad opportunities for growth and creativity, attract top candidates.

Employee Morale

At the root of morale are trust, a clear purpose, team loyalty and support, and faith in leadership and the success of the organization. These increase as the culture develops. See Morale.

Employee Motivation

When people can fulfill their desires around work they are highly motivated.

Union-Management Relations

You will see a move away from adversarial relationships and towards cooperation. You will have few grievances and low workers compensation costs. I have clients where grievances dropped to zero.

Openness to Change

A striking increased openness to change and the desire to make things work. As trust and responsibility increases, employees initiate significant improvements in operations.


When the leaders show that they want everyone involved, people step forward in creative and productive ways.


Developing the culture trains managers in people leadership skills and gives them a clearer sense of their role. Many managers say that the culture development process was the most important experience in their career.


With improved openness and trust, people participate more in meetings so they become more energetic, focused, and creative.


Smoother mergers and acquisitions, with higher success rates. People get involved and make them work. See Mergers.


By definition, a developed culture increases cooperation, collaboration, and motivation.


Expect improved teamwork and communication between people, divisions, and levels.


The culture change process improves relationships between people, levels, and departments.


Problems are solved where they happen, or by those affected. They are not passed up to management.

Satisfaction, Happiness, Joy and Pleasure

Last but perhaps most important, there are few things more satisfying than being part of a well-developed company culture. It is a real pleasure working in an organization where people enjoy each other. Satisfaction and happiness go hand-in-hand with improved performance.

Example—Capturing the Spirit of Independence

The workplace is filled with opportunities to tap into the spirit of Independence that runs deep in every individual and throughout our nation. Engaging this spirit is highly motivating, as this story shows.

Igrew up in Australia, not knowing the meaning of the Fourth of July. In 1965 I arrived in the US, and in 1988 moved to the small town of Larkspur just north of San Francisco. Since then I have regularly enjoyed our hometown Independence Day parade—a delightful expression of grass-roots America.

I recently read David McCullough’s absorbing biography on John Adams and was reminded of a fact—John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died just hours apart on July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration, a major life achievement for Adams and Jefferson, capped the long effort of the colony to break free from the oppressive, often authoritarian control of England.

History is filled with stories of oppressed people reaching for their independence. Modern corporations can tap into that same spirit we each share—to be independent adults, free-thinking, responsible, feeling and creative.

An Opportunity for Employee Independence

In a Southern California facility of a national firm, Meridian Group worked with the managers to establish employee problem-solving teams. One particular issue—Forced Work at Weekends—was contentious and divisive. Some employees liked the overtime pay. Many hated the disruptions to their family life. Management invited volunteers to form an employee group to study the issue and develop alternatives.

Twenty-four people volunteered. Management decided to select twelve people as a workable group. I suggested they facilitate a problem-solving meeting with the volunteers with the subject, "Reduce the 24 volunteers to a working group of 12 people."

The management team was skeptical that the first-line employees could successfully reduce their group's size. However they had already accepted the logic of the Golden Rule: "If people are affected by a decision, they should be involved in it." Because it was my suggestion, and because the meeting was potentially difficult, they asked me to facilitate the discussion.

Creating an Effective, Self-Determined Work Group, or “Look, We Shrank Ourselves!”

All 24 volunteers came and I outlined a process they could use to cut their numbers."First, you decide on your selection criteria. Then you vote and rank order everyone against the criteria. You take the top 12 and see if they are OK. The results are in your hands."

Everyone agreed and I could tell they were very excited by the sense of control they would have over this decision. The criteria they listed were fairly straightforward. The final group should represent:

  • Each department.
  • Different age groups.
  • People who want to work weekends and people who don't.
  • People who are angry and outspoken and people who will speak up for others.

I passed out copies of a sheet of paper with everyone's name on it and asked them to keep their selection criteria in mind while privately ranking their top 12 candidates. This took 10 minutes or so. I tallied the results and made a copy for each person. I asked them to look at their selection of top 12 vote getters and compare them against their selection criteria, "If we go with those top 12, do they represent the areas you said should be represented?" The response was a resounding “Absolutely!”

Everyone left the meeting surprised, impressed, proud, and pleased with what they had accomplished. Those who did not make the cut may have been disappointed, but because they were part of the decision, they were satisfied with the result.

Management was more than pleased

The management team's response to the 12 names was, "That is an exceptionally good group. We couldn't have done better ourselves. If we had done done the selection, there would have been a lot of opposition to our decision, particularly from those not chosen. I think we’ll use this process again.”

People — Why We Do What We Do

People's imaginations inspire their actions. They act positively when they see themselves positively—when leaders set a positive stage.

Aperson's behavior follows their imagination and their desires. We may not often notice that imagination precedes our actions, because so much of what we do is routine and familiar—the imagination step is unconscious. For example when we casually pick up our cup of coffee, we forget that as a tiny infant we first had to consciously imagine closing our hand around the mug handle, before attempting the difficult lift.

Imagination and the Power of Choice

In our imagination we choose what we will do. Then we do it.

We normally practice in our mind a difficult or unfamiliar task before attempting the real thing. Recall how you prepared for your first annual performance evaluation, or gave your first progress report to the company's executive committee.

Sports coaches know it is imagination that leads to action. They ask players to practice the game in their mind. "Imagine the follow through on your (golf) swing.”

In our imagination we choose what we will do. Then we do it.

We Choose Our Attitude

Every moment, everyday a person chooses their attitude, whether to be productive or not, to be creative or not, to be cooperative or not, to be timely or tardy, to stay or to leave. In a well-developed company culture, a person imagines bringing more of himself to the task. Then they do.

In an underdeveloped company culture, a person imagines being less engaged. Then they are.

Most people want to contribute creatively to the organization's success. They want to have a good day, feel productive, be recognized for their achievements, and go home looking forward to returning to work the next day. Leaders can create a culture where people imagine themselves open and deeply engaged, bringing their full energy to the task.

If People Can't Satisfy Their Desires at Work, They May Disengage, or Even Worse!

Almost everybody wants to be creative, productive, and involved. If the work culture does not ask for this most people readily accommodate. However, when a person conforms to a culture that asks him to do something other than what he wants, he will feel the dissonance. This may lead to frustration. He may then look for another job. If he stays, he may behave unproductively.

The usual way people respond to a poorly developed company culture is by withdrawing their energy, creativity, and responsibility. Some people become actively resentful, or passive-aggressive, withholding information essential to the organization's success. In a hostile work environment, a person may even retaliate by sabotaging operations, or, in extreme cases becoming homicidal.

Disengagement Is Very Expensive

You can measure the cost of low employee morale and motivation when you see the increased productivity when a company actively develops its culture. Productivity increases anywhere between 10 and 100 percent.My experience over 26 years is that productivity increases anywhere between 10 and 100 percent. This number is also the lost productivity in those companies with an underdeveloped culture. Nationally this is a large number, certainly in the hundreds of billions of dollars, probably in the trillions annually.

Developing a company culture where people imagine themselves an excited, caring, engaged and valued team player, is an easy, low-cost way for leaders to make major jumps in company performance, stepping well ahead of the competition.

To Understand Behavior, Look At The Situation—The Culture.

When something goes wrong don't focus on the person as if they are the problem. Look at the situation that led to the problem.

"There is no event in a vacuum." Most problems come from the system. Most system problems come from poor decisions, communications and relationships. These are cultural issues, which is why the culture is always part of any problem, often the root.

Culture Is the Context for Human Actions

What people do comes from who they are and the situation they are in—from a person in a culture. People behave similarly in a situation because they have a shared sense of what is appropriate. At work, our national culture combined with the local company culture, tells us what is appropriate. Anthropologists have long known that culture is the context for all human action.

Personality plays a role in what happens, but as a manager you cannot change someone's personality—and you probably should not try. The company's culture is the most important part to look at for two reasons:

  • The culture is the part leaders can manage.
  • Managing the culture has great leverage. Developing the culture lifts the whole ship, not one part—it is a very efficient allocation of management time.

The Cost of Culture Development

The costs of building a more productive culture are quite small, mostly time. Here are the elements of culture change, their costs, and a quiz on your existing culture related expenses.

Monthly Meetings

There will be one additional monthly management meeting, first at the top-level and then at other levels. There managers discuss people and cultural issues. These discussions soon solve long-standing inter-departmental, relationship, and communication issues.

Involving Employees

The Golden Rule of culture is, "If People are Affected by a Decision, Involve Them". This takes time. Few managers complain because they enjoy it, and the benefits are immediate and obvious.

Building Relationships

Strong relationships are the foundation for improved communications, better decisions, and improved overall performance. I recommend that managers take one hour a week to sit quietly one-on-one with another person in the organization and get to know them better. We call this process The Cultural Interview. It takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes per week and is the most powerful action a leader can take to develop the culture.The ROI on culture development is high because the people area is largely untapped territory, with large potential.

Executive Coaching

If you bring on board an outside culture expert you can expect their fees to be from around $125 to $300 per hour, plus travel expenses. In a company with 200 to 800 people, there might be a two-person consulting team on-site for two or three days a month. This is about $30 per employee per month, a minimal cost relative to the gains.

Nationally, the Cost of Underdeveloped Cultures Is Enormous

Nationwide the greatest loss to American business is the withheld energy and creativity of employees at all levels. If you assume even a minimal lost productivity of 5%, the annual cost is many billions, probably in the trillions of dollars. Developing a powerful workplace culture—where people bring more of themselves to work—saves you your share of this national waste.

In many companies, reallocating a small part of the money now spend on absenteeism, worker's compensation, high turnover, low productivity, and time consuming disciplinary procedures, would more than cover the costs of getting their people involved in a positive way.

Estimate Your Current Culture Related Expenses

Approximately what do spend on?

Excessive worker's compensation ......

Recruitment, retention, training.......

Low productivity ...............................

Time consuming discipline ..................

Problems from miscommunications ....

Absenteeism........................... ....

Other _______________________


Example—Culture Change in Three Days

A highly motivated midwest management team began their culture change overnight.

This was a 300-person supply division of a regional retailer. During our first phone conversation the division vice president told me that the workforce was overworked and demoralized—turnover exceeded 80%. The management team wanted to improve employee morale and motivation, and help new hires quickly become more productive.

We Meet the Management Team

Wednesday morning at 8:00 a.m., my partner and I met on-site with the division vice president. We discussed the morale problem in detail and what we would do during our three days. At 9:00 a.m., we attended the daily Operations Meeting, met the unit's managers and supervisors, and discussed why we were there.

We spent the rest of the day in one-on-one interviews with the managers, establishing relationships and learning about the culture. That evening, my partner and I reviewed our interview notes, making our first preliminary description of the culture to share next day with the managers.

Thursday at 9:00 a.m. we joined the weekly Senior Staff Meeting. Just as we had done at the Wednesday Operations Meeting, we discussed company culture—what it is and how to change it. Now with information from the interviews, we discussed their own culture and outlined the basics of culture change:

Culture Change Basics

"Think of culture as a circle. The bottom is the operations half, WHAT we do, the hardware, systems, controls, production, and profits. On the top is the human half—HOW we do operations. This includes communication, trust, relationships, involvement, motivation, morale, and the meanings people give to management's actions. Most companies have a well-developed operations half, but their human half is underdeveloped.

What people do at work is largely outside of their direct control, driven by customers, markets, financial constraints, laws, and technology. But what we do is only half the picture. How we do it is the other half and establishes the culture. Fortunately we have almost total control over how we work and the message this gives others."

Managers Decide On Their Direction

We asked each manager to, "Think of a situation where you felt involved and motivated. What was special about that workplace?" They replied, “It's a situation where:

  • I am recognized.
  • There is camaraderie.
  • I get honest feedback.
  • I get support from management.
  • I am trusted—give and take on ideas.
  • There is respect from the top down—not fear.
  • Expectations are in line. We know the goal and what to do.
  • People help each other—teamwork.
  • I feel I am a part of something bigger.
  • I receive mentoring and training.
  • There is pride in accomplishments.
  • Leaders take care of my needs.”

We titled that list "Qualities We Want More of."

Managers Decide What to Do

We then asked, "What do you do here that you could use to reinforce the qualities you just listed?" They said:

  • How we do everything everyday.
  • How we manage staffing, retention and training.
  • How we talk with associates—be more balanced, more personal.
  • How we talk one-on-one with new hires.
  • Recognize when people do things right.
  • By introducing new people at the start of the shift.
  • By finding out something personal about a low performer and encouraging them.
  • By using rotations positively as cross training.
  • Encouraging more discussion by meeting with smaller, nine-person teams, not just the full 30-person shift.
  • Follow through on issues employees raise—involve them in the solution.
  • Involve people in designing and implementing the new production process.

We titled that list "Opportunities".

Almost everyone said that they would do something from that list that same day, and agreed to discuss what they did at the next morning's Operations Meeting.

Managers Discuss What They Did

It was now Friday, our third day at the facility. We were again at the daily 9:00am. Operations Meeting. Five people were there who had been at the previous day's Senior Staff Meeting. They had each done something:

  • One had conversations with several people he didn't normally talk with.
  • Two had brought their teams together to get their ideas on new proposed procedures.
  • Two decided to meet each day with a different team member one-on-one. They had had their first meetings. As they said, "Quality Time."

I was impressed—so was the Operations Manager. He asked the group if these discussions—on how things are done, the people side—should be a permanent part of their daily operations meeting. They enthusiastically agreed.

I knew from experience that if they continued like this, the division's problems with employee morale and motivation would soon be history.

Some Company Culture Maxims

  • There is no event in a vacuum. To understand an event, look at its context.
  • The event is not the problem. The person is not the problem. The system is the problem.
  • What people do reflects the culture. Culture is established by its leaders. What people do is information about the leaders.
  • The purpose of human systems is to serve people. If people are the subject, not the object—if people are put first—productivity will flow.
  • Don’t involve people just to solve problems. Use problem solving to involve people.
  • You can’t have a safe workplace if you don’t have safe meetings.

Evolution of a Work Culture

Company cultures do not develop with the familiar analyze-plan-direct process used for operational issues. They develop with an evolutionary process. An evolved work culture is good for people and excellent for business. Here are the principles of evolution.

What Is Evolution?

In its broadest sense evolution is change over time. In its more technical“ Darwinian" usage, biological evolution occurs when a genetic change spreads to large populations of a species, because it helps the species survive. In everyday usage we say “evolution” occurs in organisms, galaxies, languages, and politics.

Evolution Requires Adapting to the Environment

Billions of years ago when Earth's temperature dropped and the right chemicals were present, life emerged. Life was a response to a changed environment. Organisms became complex, in response to complex environments, eventually occupying every conceivable ecological niche.

Organisms survive when they are well adapted. If the environment changes and the organism does not change, it will die. Dinosaurs expired when a large meteor hit the Earth, dramatically changing the climate. You don't want this to happen to your company. As the Boy Scouts say, "Be Prepared."

Human Evolution

"Human evolution" has three common meanings.

  • Biological evolution that took us from early primates to modern man. Notable additions were the large brain, the upright gait, and the opposable thumb.
  • Personal development of the individual from childhood to adulthood, from relative simplicity to psychological complexity.
  • Social evolution with our highly developed communication and social skills. Outstanding among these are language and culture.
Company Evolution

A company culture evolves if it develops in a direction that is good for people, and good for business. The process mirrors biological evolution, where genetic changes survive because they are advantageous to the species. Similarly, desirable corporate changes are those that ensure the long-term survival of the company.

When people bring more of themselves to the task, the company will be more productive, profitable, and competitive. In evolutionary terms, this means the company will be stronger, more vital, more robust. When changes occur in the marketplace, the more evolved company will be more responsive and adaptable. It will thrive, while less developed companies falter.

A Well Developed Company Culture

Culture and personality are very similar. A well-developed company culture would be similar to a mature adult. It might be:

Open, secure, confident, responsible, empathetic, tolerant, self-aware, caring, engaged and engaging, trusting and trustable, productive, complex, self-directed, with actions based on a good and clear set of values.

A poorly developed company culture would be similar to a poorly developed person. For example it might be described as:

Impulsive, exploitive, aggressive, manipulative, blaming, fearful, controlling, dependent, retaliatory and having conceptual simplicity (e.g. sees things in black and white terms instead of shades of gray, or, blames a person instead of looking at the situation).

Evolution Is Not a Motivational Session

While seminars and motivational events may be part of a company's culture, such events will not change a work culture. There is no quick fix. Evolution is a long-term process of change, where desired characteristics are retained, and new ones encouraged.

Ironically, attempts to change the culture by directives or motivational events may actually move the culture backwards. Top-down actions reinforce the strong authoritarian qualities typical of most underdeveloped work cultures.

Evolution Is Unpredictable

At the start of the universe, who could have imagined life, people, or cultures? Evolution is certainly unpredictable, a real surprise. There are infinite ways:

  • the world could have evolved.
  • the day might turn out.
  • to be a mature person.
  • to become a well-developed company culture.

To illustrate unpredictability, let's say managers decide to open decisions to the participation of people affected. What happens is usually a surprise, e.g.

A group of engineers at a chemical plant made a presentation to a work crew about a new system they were planning to install in the crew’s area. Then they opened the meeting to questions. One of the long-term employees casually mentioned that a similar system was currently accessible if they modified the existing equipment’s supply pipes. Surprised at the new information, the engineers cancelled their proposed project, saving $85,000.

You might induce a work culture to evolve, but you cannot force a work culture to evolve.

Evolution Works With Opportunity, With Readiness, Never Against Resistance

Because evolution always occurs in response to the environment, it never works against resistance, only with opportunity. You might induce a work culture to evolve, but you cannot force a work culture to evolve. Leaders can induce a work culture to evolve by changing the cultural “force-field”. They can do this easily and simply, by changing how they lead. When leaders, show openness, trust, and participation in their actions, they change the work environment, and the culture evolves to better suit it.

Cultures Evolve Because People Want Them to Evolve

People want to be more productive, more involved, communicate better, and have stronger working relationships. There is a natural pressure for the company to move in that direction. When leaders show that they want the culture to evolve, people quickly join them. You might say that leadership's challenge is to get out of the way and let it happen.

The Five Levels of Company Culture

Company cultures have five distinct parts or levels. A well developed work culture manages each level. Here they are.

1. Equipment and Other Physical Objects

This is the first level of any culture. It includes tools and objects people use to build and make, the clothes they wear, the structures they live and work in, the products they trade or sell, and the art they create and cherish. This is the level of physics and chemistry, equipment, hardware, engineering, and technology.

In some organizations this level is significant—such as in a chemical plant. In other organizations this may be quite insignificant. This is a level where the clearest analysis occurs, where you find the facts of science, and where conversation is the safest—"Guys talking cars."

Equipment is not usually a dominant issue. Because it is comfortable and safe to talk about, it may be a frequent topic for discussions.

Academically this includes physics, chemistry, and engineering.

2. The Systems That Coordinate Equipment

In organizations, this level includes operating stems, processes, procedures, and methods. It is where you find the software to control hardware, and where most training dollars are spent. The prototype system is a living organism, with complex feedback mechanisms, and that unique quality of living systems, homeostasis—the ability to maintain a stable internal state. This level holds the key to efficiency.

In most companies there is plenty of room for process and systems improvements. Because the details of systems are well known to those closest to them to, this level is a golden opportunity for involvement. When you're beginning the company culture development process, this is a good place to start—by involving employees in improving their work systems.

Academically this includes the life sciences, process engineering, and software development.

3. The Authority Structure That Connect Systems With People

In organizations, this level includes authority, competition, organizational structures, markets, information,productivity, and profits. Humans have refined some aspects of this level into economics, politics, laws, democracy, and ethics. Included here are competitive forms of decision-making such as win-lose, or combat. The key aspect of this level is power and control. In its crudest form it involves dominance and submission.

Issues around control, power, and competition usually dominate work cultures. They are also some of the most emotionally difficult to discuss. It is easier to work indirectly on power and control issues by engaging people in improving operational systems at levels 1 and 2. These discussions always bring in power and authority. As you work on system issues, you'll find that the problems around power and control will gradually diminish.

Academically, this includes economics, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and much of business.

These first three levels contain everything that is not distinctively human. For example, everything contains matter—physics and chemistry. All living systems, and many non-living systems, have processes. Power and control, the dominant features of most human cultures, are also present in most animal species.

4. Communication That Connects People

This level is the first that is distinctively human. Only people have complex language and writing. Communication includes listening, understanding, dialogue, relationships, and teamwork. It also includes empathetic forms of decision-making, such as consensus and win-win.

This is the level where managers have the most potential leverage. improving communications and relationships has a powerful effect on the culture. But you can't do this in abstract. You have to communicate about something, usually from levels 1, 2 or perhaps 3. Building relationships and communications is the key to employee morale and motivation, to an engaged and productive workplace.

Academically, this includes the fields of psychology and psychiatry.

5. Experience—Creating Motivation and Trust

At the highest level is the quality of human experience. This includes what we cherish in life, and feelings such as trust, caring, safety, satisfaction, pride, and engagement. It also includes our spiritual or sacred side.

Managers cannot directly affect another’s experience, but they can affect it profoundly by actions at the other four levels— especially how they communicate, Level 4.

Academically there is no traditional field for experience. This is partly because academic fields are analytic and experience is synthetic. Perhaps literature and the fine arts peek into this area.