Monday, April 29, 2013

The Hero’s Journey

Wikipedia defines the hero’s journey as:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

I’ve read several articles expressing the viewpoint that we should view our live and how we live it as a “hero’s journey”. In that view we begin our lives and encounter various obstacles that we must overcome. In overcoming those obstacles we grow and become more competent giving us the resources to overcome even greater obstacles.

While this may be a great metaphor for life in teaching us to persevere in the face of adversity there is a counter unspoken message that since life is a struggle, why try to overcome those obstacles?

In reading those articles I am reminded of the little boy who went to his first day of school and when ask by his father at the end of the day “How did it go?” Answered, “Not well, I have to go back tomorrow!”

While amusing, this child’s eye view of their world can be instructive. After some period of time you just get tired striving and look for a lower level of stress. Even an army is pulled off the line and sent to rest and recuperate after extended periods of combat.

At the same time, just cruising through life without a challenge gets boring. The key is to strike a balance between the obstacle-laden path and the clear sailing of an open road. For business the trick is to challenge your employees with difficult work and yet give them some less challenging times to allow time for both mental and physical rest and recovery.

In the past, I worked for a company that kept my department at “maximum effort” with no slack times for recovery. I watched my department lead routinely work 50 to 60 hours a week simply because the senior management didn’t do their job of time management.

New jobs were accepted with unrealistic delivery schedules forcing workers into extreme overtime to get all the jobs completed within the arbitrary delivery schedules. Burn out was common and I eventually left and the overload, while only one reason, was a significant component in my decision.

Each of us as individuals must recognize when we need to take a break, whether that is a quick trip to the water cooler or a 2-week vacation. As the boss it is part of your job to monitor your staff and ensure that you don’t overload them without enough lower paced work to keep them fresh.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fourth key to change

4. Remember that the person who bucks the system is the most likely to be a creative problem solver:

Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves.
All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.
George Bernard Shaw

One of the hardest parts about change is that the change advocate generally has to make a lot of noise just to get the decision maker's attention. Making this noise can get the change advocate labeled as a troublemaker.

Perhaps because they really are making trouble!  They are questioning the status quo and in many cases they've been told by their managers that "this is the way it is, quit rocking the boat".

Because they've kept on with that "courageous patience" and been ignored, they've ratcheted up the volume. One of the hardest thing for a decision maker is to remember that it's not about the messenger, it's about the message.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Third key to change

3. Understand that your system will resist change:

Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience.
Admiral Hyman Rickover

People resist change for almost as many reasons as there are people. That said, resistance does fall into two main categories, first the "I like things the way they are", second, "it will cost too much".

Even after you get the decision makers to sign up, the people who actually do the work will have to be sold on both the need for change and the new methods.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Second Key to Change

2. Accept that your system is the problem:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Benjamin Franklin

Again, I chose the word "accept" for a reason. No one wants to accept that "their" system, carefully crafted over time, at great cost and effort to solve problems is now, itself, the problem. Your audience may resist change because learning a new method takes time and shakes their comfort zone. 

The person who needs to agree may have been the author of the current system and feels a personal attachment to the system. Until the decision makers accept that the system needs to change, they will not authorize the time and effort necessary to find and implement a new process.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The first key to change

1. Agree that your not getting the results you want:

You can't change what you don't acknowledge.
Dr. Phil McGraw

I use the word "agree" because before you can start the change process, the decision makers must recognize that they aren't getting the results they want. Far too many otherwise intelligent people avoid recognizing a need for change because they immediately jump to how much cost and effort change will mean. Without agreement, no change can even be proposed because no one is listening!