Tag Archives: communication

On the Importance of Articulating Change

I think I might be going slightly addled in my old age.

There’s a large, multinational I’m intimately familiar with that is currently amidst disrupting its market as it cannibalizes itself and breaks new ground.  Like most well run organizations full of intelligent people, they’ve realized that significant change will be required across the board – from R&D to Sales & Support.  Excellent story right? Right.

Except it seems like no one bothered to clearly enunciate what is driving the change (revenue recognition, etc) and what the overarching change plan is. In fact, in so far as I’m aware, there is no 3 year change plan. Or even a five year change plan. There’s likely a twelve month plan but it’s been torn up and redone so many times it’s a poor joke to call it a living document. Living dead maybe.

Look, there’s probably something along those lines. There’s a LOT of brilliant, capable people up and down the chain – this isn’t a company of slackers. But the communication is clearly lacking. Even if it’s because we have to remain nimble, we have to react to the marketplace or the changes, ok, fine, communicate it. There can be few things more exhausting to a results oriented workforce – that pushes each other more than they get pushed – than to be chasing the change ghost.

Just because Dr Christensen mentioned that 4 out of 5 companies that attempt this change fail at it the first time, doesn’t mean you set out to prove him right! Try to be the outlier, not the recidivist.

B52 Stratofortress

B52 Stratofortress

Change is hard. Personal, professional much less organizational across multiple geographies. You’re changing from a B52 to a B2 in mid-air, during a vital bombing mission, as you’re dropping bombs with flak and SAM all around you and radar locks out the ying-yang.  Ok, maybe it’s harder than that. And if the aircrew has no idea what the plan is because the airbase has forgotten there’s a radio they can use … well, you get the picture. I hope, as I’ve run out of appropriate metaphors.

The point is that even if there’s organizational recognition and acceptance that change is necessary and everyone’s on

B2 Spirit

B2 Spirit

board, consistently clear communications have to be key to success. Start with the goal. That’s where you want to go right? Perfect. We ran into a hill, we have to push harder. Perfect. We’ve hit a ravine, we’re going to have to backtrack and try a river crossing. Gotcha. Let’s go. Crap, the river is flooded. Hey, let’s build a bridge, we got any carpenters and masons? Half a caravan full, keep them wagon’s rolling. Don’t leave the rest of us wondering. Or wandering.

Oh, wait, there’s a dragon too, did I mention?

Dragon vs Bomber

Dragon vs Bomber

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On the Importance of Relative Perception

Something struck me as quite odd today as I watched the sun set tonight. My thoughts were reflected in the conversations within earshot.

“What an amazing sun set!”
“Look at the sun set!”

Copernicus must be gnashing his teeth in hell – at least if Pope Paul III had his way.

Astronomer Copernicus (Matejko)

Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God, by Matejko. In background: Frombork Cathedral.

Presuming for a moment that most people do realize that the Earth revolves around the Sun and we haven’t all snapped back to a medieval mindset, there is a lesson in communications to be learned here. There is reality. And there is how reality is perceived and communicated about – internally, externally, between two people or even within a group.

Facts don’t matter. Neither does reality. What matters is what is perceived. I may intellectually know that the sun isn’t setting. That it is the earth’s rotation that makes it appear that the sun in setting in a blaze of glory. But that doesn’t preventing me from enjoying the sun set, or even writing a stanza or four about it if I’m so inspired.

The same rings true when I tackle big strategic problems.  All too often I’m able to see the entirety of a problem space and a handful of potential viable solutions early on. It’s inexplicable – and can be a little terrifying if I pay it too much mind. Suddenly, I’m 30,000 feet above the fruited plain and I can see with a birds eye the lay of the land. But I fail at bringing the rest of the crowd along. How do you explain a leap of logic – enough so it can be at least litmus tested by a peer group; a little humility goes a long way. Many peers and managers have said the same thing to me over my career: “There’s a good thing and a bad thing and they’re the same with you Sam – you’re always right.”

While I’m not sure of the answer to that yet – I at least have more insight today than I did yesterday.  What I know is reality and what others perceive it as are two different things. I need to slip in to their perception and explain it in a framework that makes sense.


A Simple Sunset

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a sunset to enjoy.

Sorry Copernicus.

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