Are you really innovating or simply managing change?

change

“Our organization is innovating like crazy lately,” Joe recently remarked to me.

“Oh,” I responded, my curiosity piqued. “What sorts of innovations are happening?”

“We’re converting our software development to Agile,” he shared, citing a now decades old methodology.

Joe, like many others, was confusing change and managing change with innovation.

Innovation is, by definition, a revolutionary new idea. When Agile was first developed, it certainly was an innovation. Implementing it now is change.

Change is, by definition, to become different by doing one thing instead of another.  For example, converting from waterfall (or whatever other software development methodology they may have been using), is a change.

Both are important.

And, it is critically important to understand the distinction.

It makes a difference in the methodologies you use, the approach you take to your work and how you design the work environment.

Is your team or organization truly innovating? Or are you managing change?

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    information-hoarding

    information-hoardingJeannie worked at ACME Corp in a field with government regulation, and although the regulations were slow to change, she and her department were expected to keep on top of them.

    Jeannie was pleasant and fun to work for. She always had a kind word and a question or three about the family and other topics of importance to her colleagues and direct reports.

    After several decades with little change, a variety of factors both political and economic, prompted rapid and swift change in her industry.  Regulations changed. ACME Corp needed to change too.

    A team of six people reported to Jeannie during this somewhat turbulent time of changing regulations. Over the years, Jeannie had divided up tasks and responsibilities among her team members in such a way that none of them could clearly understand the “big picture.”

    Her employees were keeping abreast of the changes in the industry and regulations and that, in turn, prompted questions from them. They needed to see, more and more, how their work was interrelated and how the changing regulations impacted the processes they followed.

    “No problem, don’t worry yourself about it,” was always Jeannie’s reply when her team members asked even routine and basic questions about the bigger picture. “It’s my job to worry about those things.”

    But it became more and more clear that if Jeannie was worrying about those things, she wasn’t letting on.

    She held the purse-strings on organizational knowledge tight and her emotions even tighter.

    The more the industry and the organization changed, the more tightly wound Jeannie became.

    Senior leaders at ACME became aware of the situation. It was the perfect storm that they hadn’t seen coming: Jeannie was heavily invested in the organization (her professional identity hinged entirely on her current role and ACME) and she was faced with significant changes in her field and she hadn’t kept up.  Her tenure with the organization and her information hoarding yielded power disproportionate to her position.

    Senior management feared firing her because of all the organizational knowledge she held.  They feared the status quo even more: a breach in compliance could cost them their license to be in business.

    So they coached and prodded and pried. But they could not crack Jeannie. She was a tough nut.

    And she was a liability. So they “re-organized” her right out of the organization.

    Withholding information, the tactic Jeannie clung to in hopes of job security, was eventually what “done her in.”

    Where do you see information hoarding? How is it compromising your team or organization’s success?

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    no_ninjas_rockstars1

    no_ninjas_rockstars1

    Last week I attended a TechCities Women in Technology panel discussion titled “Finding the Talent to Win” at the Carlson School of Management. Women from some of Minnesota’s fastest growing tech companies shared their perspectives on recruiting, hiring and retaining women in the high tech market in the Minneapolis St. Paul region.

    The conversation was stimulating and fast paced and, as any good panel discussion does, included many questions and contributions from audience members (including men).

    Here are my top three take-aways from the discussion:

    1. Learn the language of the space.

    Caroline Karanja, Senior Manager at LeadPages, emphasized that organizations have their own language and that’s it’s strategic to learn the language. Speaking to others in their native language is how you get things done.

    Caroline shared the example of how she’s transitioned from the turn of phrase “I have have a gut feeling” when working with male co-workers to “I have a hypothesis.” Why the shift?  Intuitive hunches are ideas likely to be dismissed by analytical colleagues (male or female) but hypothesis are ideas to be tested, ideas that data-driven decisions can be made around. The idea has not changed. What has changed is the way she frames the idea.
    Frame the idea in the language of the space.

    2. Don’t advertise for ninjas.

    Vocabulary draws people in or turns them away. Emily McAuliffe, VP Strategy & Account Director at Clockwork Active Media, skillfully moderated the discussion. As she transitioned the discussion to attracting more female employees, McAuliffe aptly noted, “Companies are advertising for PHP ninjas. No one but my ten year old wants to be a ninja.”

    How the role is positioned says a lot about the culture of the organization. When organizations actively seek out MySQL “warriors” or PHP “ninjas,” those for whom the ancient art of Japanese warfare don’t resonate are not likely to apply. The functions of the ancient ninja included espionage and assassination. Not typically the things that women, who lean more toward collaboration than annihilation, are looking for in their next career move.

    Word to the wise: If you want to attract women, write job descriptions that resonate with women.

    3. Speak up.

    Angie Franks, Chief Marketing Officer at Sport Ngin, stressed that women in technology often don’t use their voice. “I can’t tell you how many times a woman has come up to me with a great idea – after the meeting,” she remarked. “Use your voice,” she implored the women in the audience.

    Speak up, even if you aren’t sure if you’re right. Taking a stand for something will help to develop the confidence to speak up again the next time. Contribute to the discussion, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

     

    All of these top lessons come down to one theme: effective communication.

    >> Culture is expressed through communication (and everyone insisted the right cultural fit between employee and employer is critical).

    >> Effective communication is paramount in attracting the right employees.

    >> Confident communication is imperative in ensuring that all the best ideas are put on the table – during the meeting.

     

    Question: What are some of the worst examples you’ve experienced – where the words/language/culture did not resonate with you?

    Share your answers on Facebook.

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