Posts Tagged ‘change’

Start with the end in mind – whether it’s a wine cellar or a strategy for Syria

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

Two very different things this week have reminded me about how important it is to have a clear view of the ultimate objective of any project or initiative and to understand how, whatever it is we are establishing, will be used.

The first was reading an article in a wine magazine about establishing your own wine cellar.  Putting aside the basic assumption that anyone establishing wine storage at home would consume an average of 300 bottles a year (certainly wishful thinking as far as I’m concerned) the principle that you need to determine how much, how often and what you are going to want to drink over the life of the cellar is fundamental to a successful outcome.  There will be empty-791573_1920wine for special occasions in 20-30 years’ time that will certainly be much more affordable if purchased now and laid down.  Then there will be those mature clarets that you want for dinner parties that again are far more affordable 10 years before they are really ready to drink.  Then there’s wine for more frequent and everyday drinking.  How much of each will you want to drink and when?  Thinking this all through carefully results in the optimum plan for your cellar which, if you get it right, will mean you always have the right bottle to hand, or at least minimise the need to go out and buy expensive wine, and you will always have space for some of those bargain offers that appear from time to time.

The second was reading the debates around whether or not to bomb Syria and the Prime Minister’s aim to achieve a House of Commons consensus for a mandate to extend the action.   Many people are saying what seems to me to be the right thing, and asking the right questions – what are we ultimately trying to achieve, what is our strategy to deliver it and how does bombing fit into that?  Unless we are simply aiming to be seen to be doing something in response to the appalling events in Paris, then surely to be ultimately successful the international community needs to have a clear and realistic vision of what a successful outcome might be, and some sort of plan for getting there?

Our experience of delivering successful projects and change in a range of organisations over the years has made me realise that starting out with a clear view of the end point is a fundamental component of success:

  • Are we all agreed about what we are trying to achieve and what success will look like?
  • Do we understand what we are going to do with what we produce and how it will work?
  • Are our plans for delivering it comprehensive, realistic and achievable?

If we can’t answer yes to all these questions then the likelihood of failure will usually be high.

Does this mean that we should never start a project if these things aren’t clear? Not necessarily – there are sometimes circumstances where we need to feel our way at the beginning.  Eddie Obeng, the project management writer and guru, calls these ‘foggy’ projects1.  These ‘foggy’ projects have specific characteristics and need a different management approach – of which more in a future blog.

1 ‘All Change! The Project Leader’s Secret Handbook’, Eddie Obeng, Pub: Pearson 1994.

Planning Successful Strategic Change – using Appreciative Inquiry

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Last week we ran a very successful workshop for the Membership and Association sector on planning strategic change, with a particular focus on using the Appreciative Inquiry technique.

Why do our strategies for change so often fail to achieve everything they set out to do? How often have we seen change consultants who seem to ‘float above’ the organisation, delivering a strategy that impresses the Board, but which just doesn’t seem to land at grass-roots level and perhaps even ends up in the bin?

rainbow-92342_640-softMany of us are familiar with the traditional change management approaches where a ‘vision’ is developed by the Board or CEO and we attempt to bring the rest of the organisation along with us through a range of engagement and communication initiatives – often driven ‘top-down’.

Our work with not-for-profit organisations in recent years has shown us that other approaches are needed if change initiatives are to be more effective in our sector – approaches that build on the energy and potential we already have.   Discovering and working with techniques like Viral Change™, NLP and Appreciative Inquiry has made a real difference to organisations planning and delivering successful change. It’s not that the traditional change-management approaches are wrong – the principles of vision, coherence and planning are critical – but in using additional tools such as Appreciative Inquiry we can be much more effective in ensuring the approach we take is the right one for us, and that our change strategies are both effective and sustainable.

Our workshop last week, with around 30 managers and leaders in the Association sector, focused on using Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as a tool to address some of the significant issues facing us today. Abby Parkes-Wright of Optimist Consulting challenged participants around what the key issues for the sector are and Jane Royden (AI specialist from E AND H) facilitated the AI discovery and creation sessions.

The AI approach is deceptively simple – comprising just five steps, of which we worked through the first four in the workshop:

  1. Decide what’s on the agenda
  2. Discover best of ‘what is’
  3. Imagine and co-create ‘what might be’
  4. Pragmatic implementation of ‘what can be’
  5. Making it happen.

The discovery phase helps us to identify and focus on the positive things we already have, and the things our organisation feels good about – we look at what people were doing, thinking and saying to make it as good as it was. With an understanding of the best of what is, the AI approach then asks to think about what might be – not in a conventional way, but through placing ourselves at a point in the future where we have achieved something great, and thinking about what it feels like, what people are now doing and saying, and looking back at what we did to achieve it.

From the imagining of what might be we now start to think about what can be – how can we do what we imagined and make that kind of success a reality? In Appreciative Inquiry, this is done through the development of what are called ‘provocative propositions’ – grounded in the understanding and reality of our organisation, these are statements that describe the future as if it were already happening and form a basis from which we can prepare for, plan and deliver sustainable change. The provocative propositions developed in our short session last week showed the power of the approach, with one organisation having a new ‘successful individual membership option that generates income’ and another being ‘able to make all decisions in a good way within 2 weeks’. Participants found the event and the AI method really valuable.

The AI approach has proved effective in engaging staff in contributing, co-creating and delivering sustainable change in a wide range of organisations, from the Association that needed to find ways of delivering member services more effectively, to the group of forty social-workers who needed to make financial savings whilst maintaining service standards. If you think this approach might be helpful for your organisation, or just want to know more, then contact Jane Royden at, or phone her on 07815 886 864.

Visual Management Webinar

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Tuesday 28th July at 16:00 BST.   For all Managers who know there must be a better way…..

See the concepts behind visual management, a demo of the Targetprocess visual management solution for non-profit organisations, and ask questions about the system and the benefits. Click here to register your place.  For more information about Visual Management at

Visual Management of Projects and Processes

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

I’ve had something of an epiphany over the last 12 months or so, and now find myself selling software – something I would never have done before.  The software is Targetprocess, which enables any organisation to visually manage its projects and processes.  Let me explain why I changed my mind.

Effective management is all about getting people to do the right things in the right way, and I’ve always been sceptical of suggestions that a particular process or software package is a solution to a management problem.  Yes, in working with clients we use processes (even PRINCE2 sometimes!) and software tools of course, but at the end of the day it is the people that deliver the outcome for the organisation.  Project management software tools can be cumbersome for managers to use, requiring a level of expertise and a control structure that is simply not appropriate for many organisations.  Tools and processes can become an end in themselves, detracting from an organisation’s core activities.

Clients frequently ask us to recommend a software solution that will enable them to ‘get organised’, or make it easy to manage the vast range of projects and other initiatives that organisations often seem to find themselves with.  We never have done – effective organisation and control is really about having the right management ‘mind-set’ and culture in place, and we’d never found a software tool which would add value in any real sense.

A year or so ago we came across Targetprocess.  The ease of use of the tool and its flexibility surprised us – it was quickly adopted by people with no project management background and in organisations with very little in the way of a formal project controls.  Whilst management culture is still fundamental to success, Targetprocess reinforces good practice and provides a means by which everyone involved, from staff doing the work to senior management monitoring performance, can easily see what they need to see.  Targetprocess enables people to work together collaboratively to improve outcomes – it could perhaps even be that ‘silver bullet’ that we’ve been looking for.

To find out more download our brochure Visual Management.

And go to the Targetprocess website.




Leading Project Management

Friday, December 14th, 2012

In January and March E AND H are delivering a further two workshops in our series ‘Leading Project Management’ – for senior leaders in the Further Education sector.  The workshops, which are being done in partnership with LSIS (the Learning and Skills Improvement Service), focus on role of senior teams in ensuring organisations are able to successfully deliver change through programmes and projects.