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Summary: This article explains the importance of finding the right type of leader for the right kind of team or problem. In doing so it makes an analogical link between athlete suitability for certain sports, and leader suitability for certain teams and situations.

When I was younger, I used to be heavily involved in a number of sports, one of which was Karate. During this time, I found myself in the Australian team for Shotokan Karate and would later represent my country in the World Championships. Years would pass and I would find myself in the Australian Army serving in the Infantry (foot soldiers). This too would prove to be a very physically challenging profession. After having a discussion with my father, the topic of what it meant to be ‘fit’ was raised. My father, who has always been involved in competitive sport and leadership, very aptly pointed out that the term ‘fit’ was a relative term and is entirely specific on the task to be completed. This contradicted my limited definition of the term ‘fit’ which I held at the time.

It took me many years to fully conceptualise the full utility of what my father had taught me. Furthermore, the concept of being ‘fit for purpose’ has now extended its efficacy into many other areas in my life including:

  • Leadership
  • Understanding of Intelligence
  • Management
  • Processes
  • People
  • Strategy
  • Projects

What Does It Mean To Be Fit?

If I were to ask someone what it means to be ‘fit’ they will immediately conjure up an image of what it means to them. The only assurance we have is that the more people you ask, the more definitions of what fitness means will be provided. For example:

What does it mean to be 'fit for leadership'?

Some people might interpret fitness as being lean, thin and muscular. But what if I challenged that paradigm with an example of a Sumo wrestler, who aims to be as heavy as humanly possible in order to resist their opponent forcing them from the ring? Please note, in Japan Sumo wrestlers are idolised as sporting gods.

Flexibility vs. Muscle Mass

Some people might consider flexibility a key facet of being fit and will go on to envisage pilates & yoga instructors, and gymnasts. But what if we challenged this by using the example of body builders who aim to grow as much lean muscle and mass as possible at the expense of much of their flexibility. Are they not fit for their purpose?

Endurance vs. Sprinting

Some people might consider endurance to be a key characteristic of fitness, but then we could go on to use examples of powerlifters or 100m sprinters in order to challenge that theory.

The term fitness is only relative to the task and scenario at hand and is completely different in each circumstance. The same can be said for other topics like leadership and intelligence.

The term ‘fit’ or ‘fitness’ in this context translates to suitability, utility and functionality.

Being Fit For Purpose – Leadership & Intelligence

My team at The Eighth Mile Consulting often work with organisations in developing their leadership and project capabilities. In doing so, one thing has become reinforced time again. Different tasks, environments and strategies require different styles of leadership. Now some of you are probably reading this and thinking ‘no duh’ but I would challenge you to think back through your professional career and remember how many times you have seen it go wrong. It might have manifested with:

  • The wrong type of personality being forcibly placed within a team resulting in poor morale, miscommunication and high staff turnover.
  • The decision to have a generalist leader in a role that would have been better supported by a specialist of some type. Or vice versa.
  • A risk averse or ‘move away’ styled leader being placed in a position requiring large-scale change management and strategy realignment.
  • The list goes on…

Suitability is a crucial point that is often overlooked. Too often we are building teams and focusing almost exclusively on people’s past experience or their tertiary qualifications, when history has proven that some of the most influential leaders of our time would never have received a look in had they been forced to go through the same process. Furthermore, many organisations are hiring leaders without having a good understanding of what it is they want them to achieve. This is often because time has not yet been invested into developing a longer-term strategy that will assist in the delivery of subordinating projects or expectations. Even the best leaders will struggle to get wins without a unified strategy or overarching direction. It is a battle that is arguably lost before it has even started.

It is quite often that we hear someone has been placed in a position because they are ‘really smart’ or ‘intelligent’. This topic opens up an equally complicated can of worms in so far that there are many different types of intelligence (IQ, EQ, Social intelligence, etc), further exacerbated by the next questions, ‘what do you need achieved by the position’, and ‘how do you measure it?’ Most people would agree that people who are intelligent in one area are often lacking in other areas. Many studies have been conducted in order to determine the exact correlation between IQ and EQ with varying conclusions. What we can say confidently in the interim is that most people’s strengths often lie towards a bias of one over another.

What particular skill are you great at?

The point is that people are often very effective when placed in the right type of role, and terribly ineffective if placed in the wrong one. The effects when we get it wrong are teams that are disjointed, confused, unfocused, and ultimately ineffective.

The implications are disastrous when we have:

  • A poor understanding of the organisational problem we are aiming to fix
  • No communicated expectations for an incoming leader or important position
  • No overarching strategy or direction for them to align to
  • A willingness to hire a like-for-like replacement of the previous leader, without considering if it is an opportunity to test a new leadership style or approach

Unfortunately, this investment in determining what we want them to do, and how we want them to do it, is often an afterthought. It is like trying to cram a square peg into a round hole. One could reasonably argue that the time and resources could be better invested by finding multiple round pegs (candidates) and comparing which one is best for our round hole (our problem/need). But it all rests on an assumption that we have invested the time to determine it is a round hole in the first place.

I would argue that it is morally difficult to get angry at a leader who has been placed in a position, but then be hamstrung by a lack of direction, expectations, and resources. This is not fair or reasonable on the leader, or their teams.

The Way Forward

Understand the problem and the need

  • What is it you are trying to solve? Why?
  • Is this a people, processes, product or profile problem? Or a mixture of all of these issues?
  • What are the expectations of the leader in terms of the organisation’s time, cost and quality outputs?

Understand the leadership effect you are after

What type of leader are you after? And, why?

  • Someone who jumps in the trenches and can get stuck in the detail?
  • Someone who can re-link back with strategy?
  • Someone who has a high level of technical, governance and risk experience?
  • Someone who will gel with other members of the team and focus on raising morale?
  • What is the priority personality trait we are seeking?
  • Do we want someone who is not afraid to challenge the way we have always done things? Or maybe not…

Professionally develop your staff

No one is perfect. Even the best leaders have gaps in their knowledge or approaches. It is the responsibility of an organisation to work with their leaders in order to professionally develop and mitigate against known and agreed upon deficiencies. This can look like:

  • Additional education
  • Time designated for professional development or informal education
  • Allocation of a mentor or coach
  • A budget allocation designated for education gaps.

Note, that professional development should not always be geared towards what an individual wants to do, but towards what the team needs. I remember having completed many courses and qualifications that I would rather have not done because the team needed me to do so in order to cover an organisational capability gap.

Be careful to not recreate the same conditions and expect a different result

Albert Einstein - "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

If the reason you are hiring a leader is because the last one was unsuccessful in achieving the desired results, be careful before:

  • Hiring someone with the same characteristics, traits or style.
  • Hiring someone because they remind you of yourself.
  • Hiring someone and then providing them with the same limited resources and investment you provided the last leader.
  • Hiring someone because they are less likely to push back against the hierarchy. Sometimes you might need this in order to fix the root cause of the original issue, which might in fact be the senior leadership of the organisation.

Do not confuse technical problems with people problems

Many organisations make the mistake of confusing system or technical problems with people problems. What looks like a technological issue may in fact be a communication issue between sub-organisations or individuals. This in turn, has implications on the way we hire in response to the business need, resulting in the wrong type of leader being inducted into the wrong team and situation. Companies can spend millions of dollars trying to implement software solutions whilst avoiding the actual people-based problem.

If you are interested in this topic, I would encourage you to read an article I wrote previously titled ‘It’s All About The Humans: Effecting Change Management’.

Conclusion

In closing I would like to reference a term we regularly used in the military which I believe rings true to this topic, ‘time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted’. Meaning the time spent understanding what the problem is and what/who we need to address the issue is time well invested. Do not underestimate the significance of conducting timely and accurate analysis, and then translating it into a viable and deliverable plan for execution.

If you enjoyed this article, I would encourage you to see some of our other professional development articles on The Eighth Mile Consulting blog.

The Eighth Mile Consulting officially launched in January this year (2019) and our team has been on an exciting roller coaster ever since. Modeled on a belief of ‘Good People, Helping Good People’, we have stepped out into the world seeking to find positive people and support community serving projects.

The purpose of this report is to provide a mechanism to communicate all of the lessons we learnt along the journey so far. In doing so, we hope that it serves other teams and removes the need to learn the same mistakes the hard way. We also hope that it helps them to capitalise on opportunities which we have identified.

This follows a six-month report which we published in August this year, called “Our no BS review of The Eighth Mile Consulting – 6 Months in”. It also includes many lessons that might be of merit to others.

Snapshot

  • Our team has grown from 2 to 11 people.   
  • We have achieved our first-year brand recognition targets. 
  • We achieved our financial targets. 
  • We exceeded our organisational growth targets by 30%. 
  • We have set all the conditions for our next phase in 2020.

Now that we have that out of the way these are the lessons we learnt or have had reinforced throughout our short journey…

Lesson 1: Only supporting positive projects is financially viable

We have conclusively proven that supporting positive projects is a viable business methodology, but it requires consideration of a number of factors to remain sustainable.

Project funding models need to be discussed early in scoping stages and need to be leveraged off of a Return on Investment (ROI) for the customer. The customer needs to feel that they are supporting something which will provide a positive legacy for them, the community and their brand. But, it needs to be clear that the project is ‘for profit’ as we have staff to pay and administration costs to attend to.

Many positive industries are still in the early stages of development. This means that they have not yet fully embraced the idea of consulting being used in support of their existing organisational structures. This can make conversations difficult when trying to find middle ground that will ensure value for both organisations, whilst also delivering positive projects.

The best approach is to be clear, transparent and upfront about everyone’s expectations.

Lesson 2: Plan to scale and grow quickly

All the strategies in the world will not determine how it plays out on the ground. Always have a reserve or something in the back pocket in order to deal with unforeseen contingencies.

We spent significant time preparing a methodology for scaling our services, based on a number of growth assumptions. As it turns out, what we thought were ambitious growth targets were only half of what was required in reality (a good problem to have). A rapid increase in demand required that our strategy be accelerated in areas in order to accommodate the number of projects which were required in a short time.

We are now in a great place with good projects and initiatives in the pipeline, supported by a proportionately growing staff pool. For the meantime we have found the right balance, but admittedly there were some late nights trying to figure out how we can ensure services were provided to the standard we hold ourselves to.

Lesson 3: Leave your ego & pride at the door. Don’t go down with a sinking ship.

It is not always clear what initiatives will land and which ones will not. Linking back to our military careers there was a popular saying among leaders, “time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted”. The same rings true in business.

The time spent conceptualising new ideas, creating a plan for market, and then probing out to determine its value is essential in ensuring your relevance with other client organisations.

This being said, do not put all your eggs in one basket, and do not keep whipping a dead horse. Probing, by its very nature, is used to confirm, validate or deny facts and assumptions. If the data comes back that it isn’t worth the continued effort in a certain area. Stop, learn/adapt, reorientate, and then move again.

Lesson 4: The Sunshine Coast is very difficult to establish in.

One of our aims has been to base The Eighth Mile Consulting out of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia. The reasons for this were based around a growing economy, an acceptance of small businesses, lifestyle, community, technology advancements and great infrastructure.

As it turns out the vast majority of our clients are based in Brisbane. It has been very difficult to break into the cliques associated with the Sunshine Coast despite many efforts to find relevance in the community. In many ways we have found it easier to provide services to other countries such as the USA.

Our company is very keen to support The Sunshine Coast in a more formal capacity but something is going to have to give. It might be a matter of time and pressure making diamonds, but it also might be a venture which is not viable long term. Time will tell.

Not known for stalling, we have a number of initiatives we will test. Depending on the viability of the outcomes we will make decisions whether to officially base our efforts out of Brisbane or Sunshine Coast.

Lesson 5: Build a high performing team, and clients will magnetise towards it.

We are fortunate in that we have access to a unique pool of extremely high performing leaders in which to create our staff base. We have made a deliberate choice to grow the team, prior to knowing all the problems. In doing so, we have actively sourced people which we trust, and we know can deliver incredible services to organisations that need it the most.

The beauty of having access to such people is that they are able to remain flexible and adapt their style, approach and methodology to suit the client and the target audience. The second advantage is that the more high performers we draw into the pool, the more appetising it is for other candidates who may have been fence sitting prior. In essence, it generates its own momentum and energy.

Lesson 6: We remain methodology agnostic

From our inception we have been, and remain, project methodology agnostic.

Due to our tertiary qualifications and history of project management we have developed a strong understanding of different project methodologies. We can use them if requested/required, but you will not see us heavily pushing a specific approach.

Instead, we are strong advocates on developing customised solutions for clients after listening intensively to their stories and determining their needs. We do not subscribe to a one solution fits all approach and we will continue to work under this design. It works for our clients, and it works for us.

Lesson 7: Keep having fun

Throughout this journey we have grown our team, fought through the challenges and have done so with a big smile on our faces. We revel in the complexity and the uncertainty and it has only served to cement many of our friendships in even stronger foundations.

We enjoy going to work and being around our team. We learn and professionally develop from each other and we are good at what we do. I can’t wait to bring in some more equally positive people to the company.

Lesson 8: Continue removing single points of failure

Until now there has been a misconception that The Eighth Mile Consulting team is the ‘Dave and Jono’ experience. This is a perception we need to rectify, as we feel it directly undermines the amazing work being provided by our ever-growing team.

Significant effort will be placed in the next cycle to demonstrate the amazing and unique skillsets which our team provide on a daily basis.

The plan moving forward

Keep trying to find good people by teaming up and partnering with more like-minded and motivated individuals, teams and organisations. 

Continue to scale our services into new industries (watch this space). 

Continue to find our relevance in the Sunshine Coast until it becomes overtly obvious that it is no longer viable. 

Continue supporting veterans, emergency services and first responders as part of an enduring effort across multiple projects. 

Continue to organically grow our follower base on Linkedin without the use of sending requests from the Company page. We believe in creating a community of people who want to be involved, not those who felt pressured to join us. 

Continue growing our team at a rate commensurate with our service demand. 

Continue providing value for free online platforms like LinkedIn, websites and Business magazines in order to help other people, whilst concurrently demonstrating our team’s knowledge base. 

Leadership 101

Leadership is NOT about you. Leadership is about trying to write yourself out of a job by EMPOWERING others to take over and head towards success.

Leadership is:

  • Helping the team understand the strategy
  • Enabling them to operate in your absence
  • Empowering them to make decisions and take risks, protected by your influence

Leadership is not:

  • Witholding information or techniques
  • Isolating individuals
  • Building a team around you for the sake of ego

Leadership 101 Infographic

Leadership Infographic by The Eighth Mile Consulting

We have decided to honestly document some of our lessons collected over the first six months of operation. We hope it helps people.  

We have tried to gear our efforts towards expectation managing others who may be considering the challenge. In doing so, we will be brutally honest with ourselves and you. It’s the ‘Eighth Mile’ way. 

The Background 

The Eighth Mile Consulting officially launched on 01 January this year (2019). At its launch, the team consisted of just the two of us. We had known each other for 14 years in the Australian Army as Infantry Officers and we were confident that whatever happened, we could trust each other. We knew that we had very different ways of thinking. We knew our strengths and weaknesses very well. 

This was a good foundation bedrock from which to launch a business. People who knows us well, know that we are also brutally honest, and we wear our reputation on our sleeve. Above all else, we also like helping good people. So here goes… 

What Did We ‘Know?’ 

  1. Right platform. We needed a platform that allowed us to explore all of our crazy ideas that we had been suggesting over the years.  
  2.  Only work with good people. We would only support good people, projects and initiatives. We would outright refuse to support anything that doesn’t align with ‘Good People, Helping Good People’.  
  3.  Aim to Grow. We wanted to grow our influence in order to help more people. Secondly, we are good at making friends and we are good at what we do. We made an educated guess that there were many others that would fit into this ridiculously simple criterion, and therefore we could grow our team. We also knew that we needed people who were not like us in order to cover our gaps. 
  4.  Abort Criteria. If it jeopardised our reputations, our values or our friendship, we would turn it off.  
  5.  Strength in numbers. Consulting was a highly competitive industry, and we would grow our influence by doing what we do best; forming teams of like-minded people that support positive causes. We would leverage off their well earned reputations and networks, and they would leverage off of ours. 
  6.  Protect the brand. We would protect the reputation of the brand at all costs, even if it cost us our growth. We are fiercely protective of our brand. 
  7.  No investor funding. We would back ourselves and launch without investor funding. The risk of this was somewhat mitigated by relatively low overheads when compared to other business types. But it also meant we would have to work fast and be very targeted in our approach in order to source revenue for the company.  
  8.  Bite the bullet and operate by the book. Jonathan and I have skills and qualifications developed over many years, but we were reasonably weak at financial processing and legal administration. We knew outright that we would need to seek external help on an ongoing basis to make sure we got everything right and by the book.  

What We Didn’t Know At The Time Of Launch (Top three) 

  1. How many good people there are out there, and how many needed our help. It is difficult to measure, so we went with a gut feeling. We were right, there are heaps of them out there and we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.  
  2. How we would be received by the market and by others. Would we be just another one of those small ‘wannabe’ firms that gets lost in the white noise. This is too early to tell. But we hope that even if this did occur, we would have left the market with a positive impact by having supported some incredibly positive initiatives. 
  3. How powerful our existing network was. Our background was largely Defence, with a comparatively smaller commercial & corporate network from our time in the corporate environment. Turns out we had an incredibly influential and impacting community network that sometimes lay dormant until prompted.  

We are eternally thankful to everyone who has helped our team. We could not have launched this without your unwavering support and loyalty.  

What We Still Don’t Know 

  1. The scope and scale of emerging industries and opportunities. We have our eye on a number of emerging industries, which I believe will have a profoundly positive impact on the world.  
  2. How we are perceived from the outside. We imagine that there are still a number of fence sitters watching us from afar wondering if we will fall off the perch or not. Sorry to say team, we are embedded like an Alabama tick now. More LinkedIn posts coming your way about positive projects. No apologies.  

Top Lessons Learnt 

  1. Ask for help and be humble. We gained momentum by biting our pride early and seeking help from others including friends, family, and all available networks. In doing so we rekindled relationships with lost friends, and I am so grateful I did. The Eighth Mile has been one of the most positive decisions we have made as a result. 
  2. There are bad people. Some people lose their way in life and turn to the dark side. In the short time we have been operating, we have already encountered: 
  • Some people steal your ideas and don’t acknowledge your input.  
  • Some people don’t take you seriously because you are a small firm, and therefore make assumptions about your competence. 
  • Not all the people you expect to support you, will. However, people you didn’t consider, will come out of the woodwork to help. 
  • You learn quickly who your friends are…and were. 
  • Understanding the context behind an interaction could mean the difference between an enduring relationship or a burnt bridge. 
  • Not everyone is operating by the same positive values as you. 

Sometimes these events hurt at a personal level, particularly after having been so careful to screen prospects through the ‘good people’ filters.  

  1. It can be difficult to monetise only supporting good projects. We knew early that this would be difficult, but people are now approaching us about having our positive brand associated with their projects. The difficulty lies with those organisations that are on the fence. They might have good people, but they are doing a questionable project, or vice versa. In those instances, we as a team make a judgement call and see whether we can help them in the areas they need improvement. By in large, most people and organisations are trying to do the right thing. 
  2. You must explain when you are offering advice or it’s a paid service. In doing so, know your value.  
  3. Find a gap. You need to become relevant… quickly. Our backgrounds have taught us to support whatever team you’re in. At times this requires learning new skills, lifting heavy things, and doing things you don’t want to do.  
  4. Small business can be fragile. Cash flow and time are the lifeblood of small business. Making simple mistakes can be very costly. In our case, we invested too much time into the wrong people, which unfortunately drew our attention away from those who were doing good things for others.  

Summary – Moving Forward 

Positives. We have grown from two to six staff (in varying capacities) in the six months. We have good people approaching us for projects and for jobs. We are finding gaps in new industries that no one else has yet seen. Our brand appears to be well received and is now being associated with positive initiatives.  

Focus Areas over the next 6 months. 

  1. Changing people’s perception of The Eighth Mile from being just ‘Dave & Jono’ to a growing business that currently includes six amazingly capable individuals we are very proud of. 
  2.  Cementing our presence in a number of new industries. If you think we can contribute to a positive industry, we might not have considered yet. Please contact us for a chat! 
  3.  Cement our physical presence within the Sunshine Coast area in Queensland, Australia. 
  4.  Communicating our capabilities more effectively. 
  5.  Continue supporting our current clients in making a positive legacy. 
  6.  Continue supporting veterans, emergency services and first responders as part of an enduring effort 
  7.  Grow our staff pool and influence 
  8.  Build our support to the local community  Jon
Jono and Dave at the Better Business Breakfast in the Sunshine Coast

Every six months from now, we will release an article which captures our lessons learnt in an effort to help more people considering the challenge. 

If you would like to see some of our other articles they can be accessed via our website:  The Eighth Mile Consulting

Cheers  

Dave and Jono

There is some genuine concern and trepidation about taking the first step. My question is, is it actually the first step that you are stalled on? Surely we are continuing something that has already begun. The action is the next step after the idea. The ‘how’ is the next step after the ‘why.’ In that case, the first step has been taken and now we have momentum.

In any project or change there is a slight pause at the beginning, followed by, “how does this thing start?” The thought alone strikes fear into a project or change manager. Especially, if there are tight dead lines. (Aren’t there always?) With your permission, let me share some simple tips and tricks for getting passed the first (next) hurdle.

1. Think of everything as a next step, not your first. The first step is always the hardest right? So… take the next step. It implies momentum and movement. Try re-framing your thoughts from “how do I start this thing,” to “what’s next?”

 2. Focus on the ‘Why.’ If you don’t know the reason for doing something, try and find it. Whenever there is an absence of what to do and how to do it, refer back to the reason why. This will guide your decision making and give your team a context for their own. For example, if I am analysing a next step, I filter it with ‘Good people, helping good people.’ That is my ‘why,’ what is yours?

 3. Establish a timeline with key timings and dead-lines. Building in boundaries and times for delivery, keeps us accountable to something. We know that something must be delivered at a certain time. This focuses our energy and allows us to prioritise what is important at a point in time. This way, we are less likely to get lost in things that don’t matter.

 4. Keep a project/ change notebook (log) – when in doubt refer to it and regain momentum. Ever lost track of what you were saying and couldn’t remember the point you were about to make? Keep a log/ diary of actions and information (mostly to reaffirm the ‘why’) and when in doubt, refer to it. This will allow a systematic and logic method of back tracking to then regain your momentum.

 5. Have a sounding board or mentor that is outside the project – they will provide logical and object perspective. A fresh set of eyes on a problem set is worth its wait in gold. Have you ever heard the saying:

Can’t see the forest for the trees

It means, that we are so buried in the details that we cannot see the whole situation. Take some time to detach from the details and re-orientate on the holistic picture. A new perspective will reveal information that can be extremely useful. Also, refer to point 2.

 6. You aren’t alone, invest in the team. How often have we heard of the best ideas coming from left field, somewhere we had not considered. This starts with the team. Teams that solve problems together are inherently stronger. Invest in that and the team will not only help with the solution but own the outcome.

6. Solve a problem, Then another and one more. Once we have solved enough problems, we are back on track. The biggest threat to delivery is no action at all. We will talk about wasting time and ‘what is the wrong action,’ in a later article.

There it is, some thoughts that might help you through a sticking point and allow you to gain some momentum. I would really enjoy your ideas and comments. 

What gets you through a ‘freeze’ moment? Let us know in the comments below.

A formidable line-up! The Eighth Mile Consulting teamed with Change Agency supporting Red Eye Apps in enhancing Sales Strategy, and delivering advanced Sales Training.

We publicly thank the amazing Red Eye Apps team! Amazing people, amazing venue, Incredible Solutions! Red Eye Apps is continuing to achieve amazing results for their clients. There is no doubt it is Red Eye Apps up and up from here! Buckled in to take the SaaS industry by storm.

Red Eye Apps – Linkedin Page

The Eighth Mile Consulting – Linkedin Page

For the last year Jonathan Clark and myself have been intimately involved with the implementation of a large scale Information Technology (IT) project which influenced almost all aspects of the broader organisation’s finance, sub-projects, customer data, product information, operations, manufacturing capabilities, retail centres etc. Prior to this project we were involved in numerous technology based projects within the Military, as both a deliverer of projects, and as key users. Our experiences have surfaced a number of significant recurring themes and lessons which we wanted to take the opportunity to share with those who had the time to listen.

Systems And Technology Alone Will Not Save You

We have observed an over reliance on technology, and a misconception that new digital systems will fix poor processes. They won’t! They never have, and they never will! Technology is not a silver bullet.

There is no doubt that technology can enhance an organisation’s productivity, capabilities and efficiencies; no one would argue otherwise as history has continuously proven this point. But technology without the right people to control it, guide it, quality check it, align it to strategic direction will almost always inevitably fail. By in large, people operate machines and computers, or at least as a minimum set them in the right direction. If people do not understand the strategic direction, the machines and technology will only seek to provide additional friction. Furthermore, changing a system for the sake of it costs money, time and resources. Too often organisations want to appear to be making changes in order to be seen moving, often very little time is spent on determining the actual reason for the change and the return on investment.

Change Management Is Not An Afterthought

Change Management is not a joke. It requires significant investment and analysis at all levels of an organisation. It is not the responsibility of a single agency or individual to promote change within an organisation. For large-scale change to be successful it requires leadership, champions, preparation and context. Too often, an organisation decides it wants a change but is not willing to give anything up to achieve it. Worse yet, no one is aware as to why the change is necessary or how it will occur. Change within organisations too often starts with the word ‘just’, and doesn’t fully comprehend the gravity of a problem, e.g. ‘justreplacing capability A with B’, ‘just absorb/move another organisation’, ‘just re-train group A into role D, etc.

Money, time and resources will be wasted if this is not taken seriously. The worst case scenario sees an organisation having to undo or regress its efforts. This can be so significant that it can destroy an organisation.

Leadership Is Not A Scary Word

You can change software interfaces and technologies, but unless you have user buy-in and ownership, the user will fight it to the bitter end. Furthermore, if there is no leadership to explain the context, facilitate the time for acceptance, provide a buffer for mistakes, then users will never see the need to make it work.

Jonathan and myself have been blessed with the privilege of having worked for, and alongside some truly amazing leaders in a plethora of different organisations (Military, government, commercial and non for profit). Very often we hear blasé comments about the differences between Leadership and Management, but often when people are asked if they consider themselves to be a leader they balk at the last minute and describe themselves as a good manager. Do not do that. Aspire to be a leader (if that is what you want), do not shy from the responsibilities associated with it and enjoy the privilege of providing meaningfulness to others, and effecting good changes.

Change Is Inevitable, Make Sure It’s The Right Change

“Change is inevitable; Progress is a choice”

Dean Lindsay 

Organisations will experience change, either voluntarily or due to the environments they operate in. Simply put, a business that doesn’t change or evolve with its industry will eventually be left behind. As a result of this many businesses appear to make reactive and impulsive changes instead of forecasted or deliberate changes that will posture them for future eventualities. This often leads to overcompensation and therefore an increase in costs and resources. Secondly, they are often very hesitant to align with realistic and achievable timelines and instead attempt to rush the change and hope for the best. Our experiences have reinforced the following rules regarding change:

  • Determine the direction of the organisation (what does good look like?) – Do not just start making changes!
  • Determine multiple ways to achieve the outcome – Take the time to analyse the problem.
  • Analyse what is not required to change – This is very rarely done correctly.
  • Communicate early and accurately with staff once a decision is made
  • Champion the decision – Enforce leadership at all levels.
  • Plan and sequence the change
  • Enact the change
  • Provide ongoing support to ensure success

There is significant benefit to be realised by enacting appropriate change management. Conversely the risk of getting it wrong can be monumental. Large scale changes (particularly technology based) will not work without alignment from all levels within an organisation. Do not assume the problem will go away with wishful thinking, and do not think you, or your organisation will not fall victim if you choose to ignore it.

It’s not about the technology, it’s about the people.

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As leaders and managers, it is our responsibility to find credible information which assists practical and informed decision-making. Unfortunately, decisions often have to be made without all the necessary information available. A decision maker in these circumstances will often leverage from their previous experience, the business risks associated with the decision, and levels of authority bestowed upon them, to name a few.

From my own experiences I have often seen many people very uncomfortable making decisions without ‘all’ the information. This often takes the form of indecision, where business or situational opportunities are missed – often being capitalised on by a competitor or more flexible/adaptable team.

In the military the term ’fog of war’, originally coined by Carl von Clausewitz (military strategist) is often utilised to explain uncertainty during war, and addresses the complexities with gathering accurate and timely information. The metaphor is often used to explain to commanders the importance of making decisions with what little information one has; a very important feature of war, particularly in the pursuit of maintaining momentum towards a goal or end-state.

So why are some people so uncomfortable with making decisions in the absence of ‘all’ the information? The answer it seems is simple; people do not want to make the wrong decision – this is understandable without additional context. They also presume that there is such a thing as a ‘perfect decision’. What if I told you there is no such thing as a ‘perfect decision’, and that the need to maintain momentum should be, in most cases, a stronger driving force. This is not to be confused with making rash or ill-considered decisions, as this can be equally damaging and frustrating to co-workers.

I would argue that that the purveyors of the 80% in time, as compared to the 100% too late rule are often those that excel in competitive markets, and generally maintain momentum towards project success.

Sir Richard Branson once said,

“There’s no such thing as perfect decision making – only hindsight can determine whether you made the ‘right call.’”

Branson placed greater emphasis on gathering accurate information in order to answer specific questions of fact, which would later either confirm or deny a decision to move forward. Too often people appear to be gathering information without a good understanding as to what decision it will influence. In these instances, people are most certainly busy, but unfortunately they are often collecting the wrong information. Quantity in this context does not ensure quality.

So what can leader and managers do to ensure they are assisting their teams with collecting the right information?

  1. Categorise your questions of fact – Determine what one must know/must have vs what is nice to know/nice to have. In some cases a metric or means of measuring the data will assist in knowing when it has been successfully gathered upon. Greater emphasis should be placed on answering the questions which will determine go/no go criteria for the project.
  2. Ask the right questions to the right stakeholders – Too often we are not engaging with the right people, nor asking the correct questions. When engaging with SMEs ensure that your question: is used to drive a specific decision on your end, and is asked in the correct language or vernacular (note: words have different meanings to different organisations). Don’t assume everyone speaks the same technical language -Engineers vs Project Managers is a recurring theme in many industries.
  3. Streamline data collection towards specific questions, which will confirm or deny a specific decision to be made – Effective Project Managers are those that can adequately define the Project Scope and ensure the project remains orientated towards a measurable end-state. If people are collecting information that does not target a specific decision, stop collecting it.  
  4. Sequence your data collection to align towards project milestones – Note: you often do not need all the information at that point in time. Some information will only become relevant later. If you wait for all the information you can miss critical opportunities as the project evolves.

In summary, if you have enough information to make a reasonably informed decision – make it! Nirvana is never reached in the pursuit for the perfect decision.

 We have taken many of these lessons and incorporated them into The Eighth Mile Consulting.