Laura Davies-Clare

Do I Need to Change

By Laura Davies-Clare on 2 May 2017

Connecting to Change

These days, ‘change management’ is all too often about large scale process or IT ‘projects’.  In a world that needs us to adapt quicker than these projects take to deliver, how do we survive?

Challenging circumstances often result in us getting busy, but all too frequently our efforts are without consequence or real commercial impact.  Anyone who has worked in a high octane change ‘initiative’ environment will tell you it’s exhausting and frequently unrewarding. 

Therein lies the conundrum; how do we make a positive impact to change our business for the better when priorities are many and often conflicting?

The first step is to consider whether you are ‘stuck’?  That is, whether you have many tasks or a strategic goal, and no idea where to start.  When everything is seemingly business critical, how do you know where to begin?  

Recognising you are stuck and contemplating why is a hugely powerful place to start.  However, before we launch off and get build an empire of change, we need to make sure we have the right foundations..

To allow us to be effective at the three levels of self, team and organisation we need to be able to have quality dialogue with the people around us.  The ability to connect ourselves at these 3 levels is a fundamentally basic and business critical skill that many are lacking. 

The reality is that current thinking occupies the space of ‘communication’ and ‘engagement’ being a discrete function which is the domain of a few specialists.  In subscribing to this trend, we are failing to release the potential of our living organisational system. 

In considering our organisation as a sum of its human parts, the first step on our change journey should be to ensure that all of our people have the fundamental skills they need to interact in an effective and meaningful way.  These needs can be varied, but we know that in embarking on a change journey, the most significant and sustainable investment you can make in your people is enabling them to have a good conversation.

So how do we have this dialogue/good conversation?

Firstly, we share our perspective (advocacy), backed up by data and information to support our view.  We test our conclusions, invite input from others and really listen to their responses. This includes the parts of their response that we may not like that much!

Secondly, we inquire of others (inquiry).  We ask thoughtful questions, being clear about why we are asking them. Our intention. We listen to what others say, seek new understanding and are prepared to explore alternatives.

Understanding the impact of a good conversation and harnessing its potential in the moment can produce significant and truly transformational outcomes.  It builds our connection to enable us to change. The power of high quality advocacy is influencing those around us; the power of high quality inquiry is learning.  As a combined force they amount to a competitive edge.

Returning to where we started, in a world where change and adaptability come at us thick and fast, it is easy to lose sight of what can truly make a sustainable impact.  Communication is not a profession, it is a truism, one which is the lifeblood of our living and breathing organisational systems.

There is however good reason why we fail in addressing the basic needs of our organisations – learning to practice high quality dialogue on a consistent basis requires focus and dedication, which can be difficult in a volatile and chaotic environment.  

The good news is that we can apply our high quality conversational skills in the moment to help us unstick critical business issues, immediately.

So, rather than addressing complexity with complicated solutions, one way we can achieve sustainable and rapid change is by focusing on the foundation skills we need to be and do differently.

To know more or get help with your change challenge, please contact us.

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Michael Thorley

How your intention is more liberating than a plan!!

By Michael Thorley on 25 January 2017

New Year is a time where people come together to celebrate, reflect and look ahead.  For many, it also lets us know the numbers and kinds of people we know. In what ways are we connected and included with those around us? New Year is a great time of year for many. Yet for others New Year can be a time which reminds us that perhaps we are more isolated or lonely than we would like. 

So, at New Year, we tend to make plans for the year ahead in order to change some things.  We may then get caught up in planning and the scheduling and that, whilst helpful for some, can be self-defeating for many. It can be all too much of a chore. If you look at the numbers of resolutions we make, how many do we hold onto for the whole year?  Some, but not many.

Not achieving our plans (falling off the wagon, missing a low calorie day, not reading that book or article, skipping a planned run, not calling that guy/girl you’ve been interested in for a while) can send us into all kinds of emotions and thoughts. These may range from a shrug of the shoulders; “no problem I’ll do it later” to deeper thoughts and feelings “well I’m not very good anyway so what’s the point”. 

In my experience, most people tend towards the negative judgemental aspects and, given that negative thoughts aren’t that pleasant, the plan tends to get placed to one side. So, whilst a plan can be useful it should not be the focus.

It is usually far more useful to hold the bigger picture of INTENTION.  We can review the choices we make in the context of the intention. In this context there is less room for judgement and more room for flexibility and learning and thus growth and achievement.

So, if we are working towards finding out what I intend to do this year, here are some thoughts to get you going.

•  What is it that I want? (my intention; run a 10k, meet a new person, stretch every day, feel happier)

•  When roughly do I want it? (short, medium, longer term)

•  Who do I want this for?

o  Is it for me? 

o  For someone else?

•  How will I know when I am on my way to achieving my intention? (this can include “I know more people, I have run for 30 seconds and walked a minute, I started reading and spoke to someone about it)

•  What am I prepared to invest to achieve my intention? (this can be time, money, relationships, changing habits e.g. ensuring I go to one networking event, ensuring I talk to one new person)

•  What is the benefit of not achieving my intent? (This is a nice brain teaser but helps us really think about our intent and motivation rather than the plan!)

•  What are the smallest signals that I am beginning to take the steps towards my intention? 

•  What else? (Who can help me? Who can I offer help to? Anything else coming up?)

So, remember, that while a plan can be helpful it can be a bit “all or nothing”, “success or failure”. Clarity on your intent is the more important thing. It allows you to reflect more thoughtfully on what happened and continue onwards. 

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Innovation and creativity through systems thinking. Workshops facilitated by Transcend Consultancy Ltd. 

In the last decade appreciation has grown that organisations behave more like living organisms than machines:

A change in one part affects all the others

If people are given the freedom to interact and take responsibility, new ideas, products and approaches emerge without guidance from formal leadership

Welcoming a diversity of perspectives while forming plans or strategy makes them more likely to be robust

Supporting people or partner organisations to take their right place in the system releases innovation, accountability and learning

But how to weave these insights into the fabric of your team or organisation, partnership or network? How, in other words, to become skilled in bringing a ‘systemic’ mindset to the everyday?

We can take our inspiration from forest gardens where the aim is to create a food producing system modeled on a young natural woodland in which the elements perform many complementary functions and an eco-system evolves that is productive, balanced, diverse and adaptable.

How do we create the conditions for this to happen? What can we learn from nature for our team or organization?

Come to be inspired and to challenge yourselves to think differently. Use the experience of the forest garden system together with insights from human systems to transform your work in changing your organisation, to stimulate innovation, strategy or your quest for a renewed purpose and mission.

For more information please see the link below:

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We designed one with RWE called Delivering Breakthrough Performance and this is what one participant had to say about it:

“I never did a programme which affected me so strongly.  It’s a bit like walking with open eyes and consciously noticing the complexity of a changing world.”

Christof Kortz – Innovation Strategy Lead, RWE

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Michael Thorley

A little patience won’t hurt you

By Michael Thorley on 25 April 2016

I was in London last week and as I glided along the escalator I got to thinking about the power of this message. The text alerts us to injuries and fatalities "due to rushing or lack of attention."

How true is this of us in our professional lives? When we sit in a professional setting are we creating the conditions where we are able to carefully consider what is going on around us and HOW we are focused on the matter in hand? Hopefully this can lead to the most optimum decisions. Many will say that organisations can and do slip up due to lack of attention and rushing to get on with things as the pressure is so high. Organisations are nothing more than the people within them. So it is people, who are trying their very best to get things done, who rush and attend to things that may not need attention. But how do people know where to focus their attention and who do they talk to in their attempt to make meaning of what is important. How many people feel that they have to do it alone? The last point brings me to something I see as stark in this picture - the individual is alone and they will be hurt. The poster misses the point that rushing and lack of attention usually impacts on others and creates a systemic cascade of seen and unseen consequences.  

In a working environment in which everything seems to be urgent, or important, we move from one thing to another at pace. So how do we become more patient and stop to see what is ahead of us and consider the pace and speed and attention that we need to take when there are obstacles ahead of us (queues of people on the escalator)?  

Mindfulness (the latest "in-thing" of which I am a supporter in its intent but perhaps not in its tendency to be seen as a technique) can be a way of practicing internal attention and focus to support us in being able to improve our decision making.  Whilst this is absolutely valid the connection to being part of something bigger and our responsibility to others seems to have been lost - which brings me back to the picture....

A little patience won't hurt you and it is necessary to help other people stay safe...

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Paul Pivcevic

What can a forest garden teach us about change?

By Paul Pivcevic on 5 June 2015

Gardening is changing. Fact. And at so many levels. A few weekends ago I attended a ‘forest gardening’ course in Devon. Alongside me were a variety of gardeners: the curious, the passionate, the skilled and seasoned, the philanthropic landowners and the downright newbies including me. They came from dark pine forested Finland, from northern Italy, southern Portugal, from inherited acres in Shropshire, from Denmark, Holland, from the Cotswolds and from urban Warrington. There is a ‘forest gardening’ movement emerging. Previously unknown outside parts of Africa and Asia, there often innocuously known as ‘home gardens’, two thousand or so forest gardens have now sprung up in the UK, and Dartington is the centre of this European gardening convulsion.

Out with the annuals: our familiar leeks, carrots, cabbages, broccoli, a plant group whose evolutionary function is only to cover and protect soil after a soil disturbance, and in with the perennials, the plants that naturally take over from annuals, and come back year after year.  But why?  Mass farming of annual crops counts for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions mostly because fertilisers are needed to keep them going in depleted soil, and fertiliser is made from oil, as are the pesticides and herbicides that keep away pests. And the bare soil between plants also vents CO2. And anyone who grows their own veg knows the effort that goes into weeding, and watering!

The edible forest garden I spent a weekend in has never seen a herbicide or chemical fertiliser, not even so much as a slug pellet. The tall Italian Alder trees fix nitrogen into the soil, comfreys fix potassium essential for fruit trees, lungwort and periwinkle attract bees, sweet sicily interplanted with New Zealand daisy bush distract the aphids that plague fruit trees and bushes with a strong scent of anis and attract hoverfly that eat them, a healthy ground cover attracts beetles that fight the slugs and a pond which sustains a frog population that finishes them off. No watering, and no digging and weeding only once a year means you don’t disturb the soil fungal network, the thinnest network of filaments that stretch right through the soil like the body’s circulatory system delivering and exchanging minerals and nutrients with plant roots. You can grow walnuts and hazel nuts for protein, tall French sweet chestnuts trees and bamboo for carbs and feast on cherry, kiwi, Nepalese and Korean raspberry, quince and medlar, and Babbington leek, Good King Henry, Solomon Seal, Turkish rocket, Ostrich ‘fiddlehead’ ferns as your greens. In all the maths say you get a 30 or 40 x return on energy invested in a forest garden as compared to 5 x or less with conventional agriculture. Of course if your garden design incorporates an open sunny area you can grow your favourite annuals too. Few really enjoy shade, while their perennial cousins are much hardier.

And the lessons for change? Martin Crawford, our teacher for the weekend and the UK’s foremost researcher in this area says there are three simple principles behind this:

·  create the right conditions, like shelter from wind and plan with the sun in mind;

·  embrace diversity – broaden your taste in order to create a self supporting system that works well together;

·  relax control! 

As if to underline the last, the author of a book that’s guiding my first steps, Anni Kelsey adds another: follow and celebrate nature.

“Nature”, she says, “is efficient, conserves energy and produces no waste…and promotes variety and diversity in unplanned but endlessly beautiful and productive ways”.  In other words, set the simple rules, step back and allow it all to emerge. Without going into a whole further treatise on ‘this is what the world needs now’ I thought I’d just share the elegant and thoughtful simplicity of this. It’s no wonder, at least to me, when you attempt change of this order that trust and connection seem so important. Just what we are discovering now with a major client as their leaders reach inside themselves to unlearn decades of mistrust, to free themselves of the impulse to drive themselves and others to ‘the perfect solution’, and to connect a-fresh and liberate those around them, perhaps also to listen closely where are they being called; where is their place in the garden?.

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In 2008 Deborah Rowland and Malcolm Higgs, along with their Transcend colleagues, published a groundbreaking book entitled “Sustaining Change: Leadership That Works.”

The findings of the book were based on client centered rigorous research and these findings have been applied widely in many organisations.  Additionally these findings have been widely referenced by academics in the field. 

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