A Pair Of Ruby Slippers

July 15, 2007

The Others

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 7:30 pm

kdm_header.jpgThe key to change here at Munchkin Land has got to be “The Others”. Seeing as I am marching about trying to bring about a change, I am pretty much catered for. It was my idea in the first place therefore I am happy, the thing is to get everybody else on side too. The actual change itself comes after that, well that’s what I have found anyway. Perhaps it is a bit like that thing women do when they want something – make the bloke think it was his idea, maybe that would help with the issues of ownership too. Make the leadership think it was all their idea. Unfortunately when I made a change via AI at work I ended up pretty much owning the subject being researched and then had created another issue, one of how to give it back to “The Others”.

 

Perhaps this is why we now have a “Change Management Team” (something I found out by chance) here at Munchkin Land. This team came about when we implemented a new large operating system (yes SAP) in 2001/2002. This was a global implementation and the team was at that time 60 strong. It is not really surprising that I didn’t know about them, firstly I was swanning off having babies and secondly the SAP implementation didn’t really touch me. This team is now down to 1 for Europe but a spin off team has been created to deal with other projects. There are 5 others in this team.

 

I telephone interviewed one of the change managers about his position (personal communications, 02/07/2007) and about the attitude to change here at Munchkin Land. He is clearly passionate about his role and about how our company tackles change and tells me that there is massive organisational change afoot that this team will help to manage. It was then that a crucial difference between this type of change and what I did with the AI occurred to me. We are back to the action turn. This team preps for and manages through a change but they don’t actually make the change – except in the smaller changes that support the big change if you follow me. So whilst they are part of that process the actual changes themselves (particularly the smaller local ones) still need to be actioned by the lumpenproletariat at the bottom of the heap. The Change Management Team is also not concerned with the initiation of that change – the changes that happen are not their ideas, these have either come from the workers or the bosses, although as I said above I suspect that most of their ideas have come from their teams which is fine if they then help them to fruition with the recognition going where it is deserved.

 

The Change team are rolling out information to line managers about how to manage change in the business, I am looking forward to getting my hands on this documentation to see if it supports and encourages initiatives like the one that I tried. Or if it just addresses major change sent down the organisational structure. The Change Management Team should certainly be able to help with communication and diffusion of the original ideas of the change, barriers that myself and others on the MA came up against in our projects. They also hopefully will help with feedback to the change originators – it would be good to feel we had a voice. Mr Glinda said something interesting about this today, he was told when he started here by his then line manager “if you enjoy change then you will get on OK here, if not you will be in trouble”. Mr Glinda felt that that was true of the time but in the 10 years he has been at Munchkin Land the reverse had become more the norm. Perhaps now with the new initiatives we are starting to slowly see that reversed. If you talk to the munchkins, there is a great deal of frustration with how long it can take to get any changes made here especially of the larger variety.

 

So who or what is holding us up and why? I suspect this is partly determined by our traditional relationship with the main company with whom we work very closely and their entrenched organizational behaviour. Our new Global CEO has threatened that if they don’t respond more quickly to our market place demands we will look elsewhere – could be an interesting one to watch. It seems we are between a rock and a hard place, in a liminal phase. We know we need to change as a company (for survival ultimately) but have not yet made that leap fully. The threat is welcome though, Victor Turner (1987) would point to the fact that it had been made publicly so with an audience in mind. Turner sees conflict as the start of a point to use theatrical language to gain insight. Goffman (1959) as I previously discussed, takes this one step further describing all social interaction in dramaturgical terms. Both seem to agree that change needs this type of interruption such as given by our CEO and then for us either to move through ritual (our change management team) to accomplish the change or to block it (the other company perhaps). So threatening to make a very drastic change could be the push both the companies need. It is after all, a highly interdependent relationship. In the mean time if they release another flaming flavour variant and call it innovation I will scream.

 

I have gained a bit more understanding of how complex it must be to turn a tanker the size of Munchkin land however. It was hard work just fitting my small AI project into the allotted timescales, so I surmise this is magnified with larger projects. Something to be considered up front. Then there is what changes exactly to make and do we have the skills within the organisation to be able to do that? Will that add to the timescales?

 

My experience of the AI project has overall encouraged me to keep trying to affect change. I certainly feel enabled by my current manager to do this but have no idea how his imminent departure may take effect. The issue of what to study was a difficult one, lets face it, what doesn’t need some sort of change in an organisation like ours? I do think the fact that my choice of study was team based, was a smart move as it was within my arena of control. I am always telling my son not to fret about things he has no sway over and to concentrate on the things he can influence. I think this is not a bad starting point for AI changes either. There would have been little point in me trying to change line production at our factories for instance, this is not an area I know much about nor would have any real influence over. That is not to say AI shouldn’t be stretching but if it is completely unrealistic it will be more depressing than anything else. Perhaps a point to note here would be that more complex areas of change if approached with AI could benefit from being broken down and looked at in manageable chunks. Rather like how I started with team communication as a whole but then concentrated on the meetings as the main focus of the work.

 

I do think there are areas of best practise that we unearthed that could be cascaded to other teams though. A barrier here is to get the buy in at the right level to make that happen. Frustrating yes, bureaucracy drives me nuts, but necessary to play the game successfully. There are fringe benefits to this effective brown nosing though. I would put money on the new VP remembering me over several other team members. This means that now I feel able to go and speak to him about my next venture when the time is right. I wouldn’t have been comfortable with that before the project.

We have had another meeting since the AI finished. There were a couple of items that reverted back to pre AI meetings – but several more that remained and again the meeting was again deemed a success by the team. An interesting point was that the person we invited to run a session at our meeting contacted me directly about the meeting and to arrange the session rather than the boss. I am hoping that this is because since seeing me present my AI at the last meeting she views me as having some authority there, rather than that I own the meeting. This type of impression of me could be very useful for my personal profile if and when I decide to try for a new position in CCE.

 

 

Goffman, E. 1959 The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin

Turner, V.1987 The Anthropology of Performance. Baltimore: Paj Publications

 

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July 14, 2007

Il a Dit “Non!”

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 2:44 pm

oztrain.jpgIt was all going swimmingly then the new boss put the kyboshes on it by saying “non” to us leaving the building for our next meeting. This is a shame as this was one of the key issues we identified during our AI and had team consensus. So what I did was storm straight up to his office, stamp my feet, slam my fist on his desk and demand that he listen to our reasons and insist that we hold our flaming meetings wherever we jolly well want to hold them…. OK no I didn’t, I moaned a bit and chatted it over with the team. The general consensus was that as he is new he doesn’t yet understand our company’s culture and is trying to make his mark (he seems to be saying “non” a lot at the moment). But a girl can only take so much, the next meeting is a 2 dayer and if he so much as pokes his nose in I will be up to his office with units 2 and 3 in hand to have a civilised chat about our well reasoned arguments for a bit of time out.

 

When I undertook the project, it was totally sanctioned by the then current bosses, The VP who says “non” is new, had he been in place before I started maybe this would have affected what I chose to study or at least how I chose to study it. Easy to say with hind sight but certainly a point to note for any future work. Actually Mr Glinda has just been promoted too so it could indeed be back to the drawing board, I will have to see who replaces him or if he is replaced before assessing the impact.

 

I don’t think all is lost however, what having conducted the AI has given me is the support to fight my corner. The research has armed me with the back up evidence I need to feel confident (get me) to speak to the boss if I have to, and not just to give him a jolly good listening to either.

 

I was asked in the forum if I thought that we would let the boss upset the team meeting again or if we were a little more robust as a result of the AI. Having pondered on this I think the answer is that we are now more aware that we need to be more careful with the scheduling of agenda items and visitors but that ultimately it is difficult to tell the boss to bugger off and stop disrupting the proceedings. Difficult but not impossible, I would hope that we would employ a more complete dialogue with him before future meetings, so that if he insists on coming he knows what to expect and so do we. This returns to my point above about getting his buy in before starting the AI.

 

Another question that has arisen concerning my AI was” were my methods of data collection appropriate”? A few people have asked me this and I have changed my mind a few times as to what the answer is. I have arrived at the decision that AI incorporating interviews was a really useful way for us to go. Had I taken a more ethnographic approach as some suggested, which would have been less obtrusive, I don’t think it would have achieved so much. Doing the research overtly had a few fringe benefits over and above the AI change outcomes themselves too:

 

  • I spent time chatting to each team member, this is something that has helped my communications with them especially the newer members that I didn’t know quite so well. I didn’t realise my communications needed to be improved before I did the research.
  • The team feel that they have had their say and that they can help to shape decisions that concern them – we recently ran a session on this in the follow up meeting.
  • They (and maybe more importantly I) see that I can have an affect on the whole team

 

I do acknowledge that the data collection wasn’t neutral but I am not sure that this is necessarily a problem and could it ever really be neutral? Additionally back to my postmodernist friends, why should it be that it being neutral or even that someone else’s view would be any better than mine anyway? I do think I missed a trick when I didn’t pay close attention (or maybe any attention) to people’s motives for what they wanted for the team meeting. My mistake here was to just assume they were honourable. Whilst I may have got away with it this time, it is certainly something I will bear in mind for future studies.

 

I am a bit disappointed that I haven’t managed to make the ripple effect of the project move far out of our team. I think this has been for a few reasons, obviously my lousy attention span and lack of confidence are well documented, but also there were a few other external factors such as the change in key staff roles and the fact that the subject I concentrated on within communication is perhaps too general? That all said, I think this is one for my future plan. Mr Glinda has also said that he would like to speak with the Learning and Development Team about what we did and that he intends to take some of what we have learnt with him to his next role if applicable.

 

I have also been asked a few questions about the blog we set up. Currently it is still not really being used, but no one wants me to delete it. I am hoping that this is because they are coming round to the idea of using it. I have heard team members proudly telling other people that we have a team blog (whilst I seethe quietly “why don’t you use it then?” under my breath) which is interesting. They like to be seen to be acquainted with emergent developments but not necessarily actually use them. However perhaps the idea was right but the vehicle wrong? Being in an eBusiness Team gives us a great excuse to use evolving technologies and applications. There is Second Life, Habbo and free collaboration tools available on the net for example and recently a few of us have got into Face Book, perhaps that could be more useful to team communications? I would have to convince the CCE Web Police to let it be accessed at work which could be tricky, but I have done it before so there is hope. A positive here is that it has made me start to look at these communication tools more carefully and consider their application internally and also externally for our websites. We have since employed one www.box.net to share some best practice between us and our Australian counterparts.

 

Something that constantly amuses me is the amount to which my studies have had an effect on my team mates and those in Munchkin Land that I discuss it with. I touched on this in my previous unit. But with the AI unit the self and team reflection continued, perhaps we did it anyway and I just didn’t notice, but I think not. I bear the brunt of it as I am seen as fair game seeing as it is me doing the course (I basically agree and my hide is getting tougher). So I am subject to fairly regular “honest and open” reflections on my behaviour that I don’t ask for. Just this week I have been accused of being “f*cking neurotic” (by a someone widely regarded as a bit of a nutter himself) of managing down my expectations so that I never disappoint myself too much (a short version of a long diatribe) and of having a mid life crisis (how rude) in public. I was saved by Scarecrow who called me a visionary in the forum and my Mum who said she was proud of me. Whether true or not, I suspect most, if not all of these conversations would not have happened if it weren’t for the course and these units tied in with self and wider reflection. However, I am left reflecting on whether all this reflection is making me more or less “f*cking neurotic”.

 

I do feel I am getting braver, the AI forced me to talk to the whole team and I have learnt that the next time I do it I need to take it to a wider audience and feel pretty comfortable with that. I don’t think I would have been a few months ago. I have re read my first post (https://apairofrubyslippers.wordpress.com/2006/10/03/dandy-lion/) about what I wanted to achieve by doing this course and although there is still some way to go I honestly feel like I am going in the right direction. I am not sure it will be at Munchkin Land, I have dipped my toe in other waters recently but so far have not been entirely convinced to move. At least now though, I feel I can.

Tin Man

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 12:17 pm

 

tin-man-box.jpgIt seems I have turned into a girly swat, I even handed in my last piece of coursework early. But it’s not that I was just so swatty that I couldn’t wait to get it done excluding everything else from my life (ha! my “Life”!) but rather that I have learnt something in the last few years, mainly from having had the kids. I have learnt that I can’t leave things to the last minute any more because if I do, one of the little dahlings will get Hand, Foot and Mouth or something gross and I will be in trouble. So I build in time for these things to happen just in case and then if they don’t I can hand in early and go and enjoy the weekend. One of the main things that struck me about Tin Man’s work is that he conducted the AI and I think wrote his report all in a space of about 4 weeks. I can’t help but be impressed as I would only be able to get about halfway through in that time but I do wonder if this made his job harder than it needed to be?

 

One of the main things that struck me about Tin Man’s work is that he conducted the AI and I think wrote his report all in a space of about 4 weeks. I can’t help but be impressed as I would only be able to get about halfway through in that time but I do wonder if this made his job harder than it needed to be? It then struck me that perhaps this is the same with the projects that he works on, that he has to deliver large pieces of work in a relatively short period of time, a common malaise for SMEs. Then that this way of working exacerbated the time he could allow for this AI, which could be potentially time saving – a vicious circle. This is an issue I have come up against at work that as a result of my personal experience have tried to counter. When I inform agencies that I want them to tell me (within reason) the timescales for a project they look genuinely gobsmacked – but it works well. Obviously one cannot do this for every project but I have found it to be a good approach when possible. It is also an example of how I like to work with my agencies, more in the spirit of a colleague that I would sit next to rather than a contracted service. It is this idea of that relationship that forms the basis for my main area of criticism of Tin Man’s AI.

 

As “a client” myself, I would love to have someone like Tin Man to work with, he clearly cares about and wants to improve the experience for his customers. Tin Man didn’t involve anyone from the client side in his study, if he had I suspect that the materials he produced would be a little different and he may have got another slant on issues and opportunities. In choosing the subject of improving client communication for his AI he is picking on a key element of this relationship between agency and client and in my experience something that is usually overlooked. I have recently run a pitch process in Munchkin Land to decide who will create our new corporate site, all of the agencies we saw would no doubt be able to give us something technically splendid, what I spent more time deliberating over was, could we work together? Do they understand our culture? Can they work with us to develop the site in line with other channels’ strategies? And crucially, how would they go about helping us to source content? This is an area that Tin Man gives scant regard pushing it back to the client – but then not giving them the chance to respond.

 

When questioned about the decision not to involve clients in his AI Tin Man explained that he felt his team meetings (where he conducted research for his AI) were not the appropriate arena to consult with clients – sounds like he felt they would either be scared off or would change the dynamic so as not to make them useful to his team. I know he intends to involve them at a later date (and indeed views this as the second cycle of AI) which is useful but I still feel they could have been consulted earlier. I can’t help but wonder that if he had been able to give himself a little more time he might have been able to incorporate some contact with them. If Tin Man’s team meeting was not deemed an appropriate platform to involve clients I feel he could have made use of other media such as online surveys or even emails or phone calls. There was also an opportunity to involve ex-clients or tap me for info if using current clients was not sanctioned by the bosses.

 

Following on from my criticism of not involving the client I wonder if Tin Man’s AI provides an opportunity to take exploring this relationship further. I would like to see the whole relationship between the agency and their clients examined as an extension of his work on the communication media. I wonder if the agency Tin Man works for can use AI to try and move how they are viewed by the client from the arena of tactical supplier to something more approaching strategic partner by refining how the 2 parties approach projects together using the AI process.

 

If they can be seen as a strategic partner the agency’s clients will start to view the agency as a crucial intrinsic element of their future business success. On a basic level this would help to bring in more work, but also it would be interesting to see what effect it had on the issues that Tin Man mentions that prompted his study These being: understanding what service the agency offers, sourcing content and the design process. To be viewed as strategic partners, the agency would have to reach a detailed understanding of the client’s business organisation, culture and strategy. I would say that Tin Man’s AI has been looking at the reverse – the client gaining an understanding of what the agency does. Whilst this does clearly need clarification, I think there is a chance that examining both sides in an AI study would provide a fuller picture. This is assuming that Tin Man’s agency engages in some strategic (as opposed to purely tactical) projects of course although I would be surprised if they didn’t having viewed some of their work via their website such as the Drysuits & Wetsuits company for whom they have done more than 1 piece of work.

 

This type of AI to change the client/agency relationship would of course need buy in from the client side. Tin Man has used Goffman (1959) to explain why he didn’t invite the client to his meetings as he saw the client as undermining, their authority. Goffman further endorses Tin Man’s point about changing the team dynamic with his theory that the audience (his clients) also often like to sustain the impression fostered by the performers. So possibly even if Tin Man and his team were to invite a client in, they may not be willing to actually see what was taking place in the meetings or to surrender the impression that they previously had of the agency. Goffman attributes this to the audience seeing a time and hassle saving by not breaking down the illusion. This might translate into Tin Man’s work by what we have seen already from some of his clients – they just want to deliver a brief, possibly not a very good one, then see some pretty designs closely followed by a website that looks fab and does what they want without them ever actually having to get involved at all. Therefore would they view getting involved in this type of study as a hassle, or could they see that potentially it represents the opposite?

 

This is tricky stuff though, Goffman also highlights that performers may be unaware how routine their performance with their audience is. For Tin Man this means trying to gently show this to his team without upsetting them. It is possible that the team meetings could change and still be productive or even more so for example, but routine is stopping this from being seen. Marvellous I can come in and use my team meeting AI on them – how convenient. This could mean that having the client in the very meeting that they don’t want to disrupt could have a positive not a negative effect. I guess there is only one way to find this out and it could be risky.

 

To add a further layer of complexity, Goffman alerts us to the issue that audiences when not colluding as above, are looking for clues that the performance being given is false, so to move the agency from performer (or tactical supplier) to becoming one team with the client (strategic partner) the original performances by Tin Man et Al have to be flawless to convince them it is a good idea. Incidentally this harps back to a discussion in the forum where there was much written about why a live performance is frequently preferred over a recorded one – it’s the same thing; everyone is waiting to see if you go wrong!

 

In the forum, we discussed with Tin Man about “cover your arse” type of documentation. Others pointed out that they should have this in place so that they are covered when their sometimes wayward clients request excellent things like switching on the Google button. I know where they are coming from but feel that the AI has the potential to find a different way round these issues. Ultimately even if a client is completely in the wrong and directed back to Ts and Cs it is unlikely to pacify them if an issue arises – the kind of “tough, that was in the small print” type response is not terribly helpful for either party. If the two worked together in a different way then these types of issues need not arise as regularly. Perhaps there is scope here for the AI to look into different ways of imparting Ts and Cs rather than the “cover your arse” doc? Is there potential to try out client training perhaps? This could be extended to cover the issues created by clients expecting the agency to write copy too – it is not rocket science (I do it all the time), a few pointers in 1 session could go a long way – could be chargeable too of course.

 

Then there is the thorny issue of content gathering. With Tin Man’s it AI feels like stale mate to me – he is quite rightly pointing out that he doesn’t know what these companies do and that they need to generate their own content. But then it is likely that these companies have never had to do this before and don’t know where to start. Is this another area in which AI could help? Could there be a trial of something like seconding an agency member of staff into the client office for a day to help them start to generate the content perhaps or a workshop to generate ideas. This would all be part of moving the relationship to strategic partner too. Potentially if these ideas worked they would be cost and time savings. I rather suspect we are back to where we started though with the initial outlay of time being a stumbling block needing a fair amount of influence and negotiating to overcome.

Enough of this talk of expansion of Tin Man’s AI I think. I am getting carried away, but that is really only because these issues are dear to my heart and I am really encouraged to see them being tackled. Although Tin Man says his personal profile in his office has not changed, I feel sure it must have done slightly and even though this might not show immediately, perhaps there will be opportunities in the future that arise as a result of this? Sadly I am not convinced that his bosses realise just what an asset they have in Tin Man and how what he is doing could be so beneficial for the whole company. I guess there is a challenge there for Tin Man to show them. I promise this is the last time I bang on about involving the client, but if he did there is a chance that the client might feed this back to his bosses for him. I certainly would.

 

Goffman, E. 1959 The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin

 

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