The Engagement Fulcrum

Workplace has been traditionally a ‘tell’ environment. If you are not familiar with engagement-led models, how do you lead change when a ‘tell’ is not an option?

When working with people who are new to engagement models, the common themes tend to be based around all of some of the below:

  1. We’ll never deliver on time/on budget
  2. I don’t have time/am too experienced/other to have to learn new stuff
  3. I may mess this up and look stupid
  4. Engaging with Bob is going to be a whole world of pain I could do without

So let’s just stick with the ‘tell’, it’ll be easier to maintain control on all of the above.

Control and Engagement, not easy bedfellows. It’s like a seesaw. The more control applied to one end has an equal and opposite effect on the other end. The skill is managing how the control is applied so the other end reacts the way you want it to. Oh, plus emotions, that ever-present ingredient.

Seesaw Example:

  • High control = low engagement = end users get what they are given.
    seesaw underdog status - leahy

    How not to view the process…..!           (Source unknown)

    • Emotion: Impacts trust, loyalty, well being, employee satisfaction.
  • Low control = High engagement = end users expect to get what they want.
    • Emotion: Confusion, frustration; and I’ll be taking bets on ‘high dudgeon’ if things get really bad.

Find a balance. If you wish to engage, and I recommend you do, try this:

Always

  • Get your ducks in a row first. Be detailed and thorough when setting up your Framework of Influence.
  • Carry out mind-mapping, categorise the output, group into common themes. Use front-line knowledge and proven experience to help you do this. Also get these people to support you with a dry run, or soft landing if they are also part of the change. Incorporate feedback.
  • Maintain credibility with your end users and mind the 5P’s**

    influence, kinnarps gensler future of work

    (Source: Kinnarps-Gensler ‘The Future of Work March 2017)

  • Choose your attitude. Assume the best, prepare for the worst.
  • Prepare to be challenged; some cultures will engage most obediently, others will engage with hearty debate or eye-watering ‘black & white’ directness. None of which is wrong, except for offensiveness. Accept that different cultures have different methods, including their definition of ‘offensive’.
  • Be prepared to politely and firmly direct people back to the framework model. If asking for a swimming pool is out of scope, do not support conversations about how great it would be to have one.
  • Acknowledge if you need to hire someone to do the engagement for you. They will have tried and tested tools which work, and work well; do you really want to reinvent the wheel? After all, it was a long, bumpy journey between rolling over logs and using an inflatable tyre.
  • Remember: if you are leading the change, or asking people to change, you must adopt and embody those changes. People will look to you. Walk your talk if you want the change to both land well and be sustainable.

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*Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance….but you knew that already, right?

 

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More Than Meets the Eye

A short piece on when people are more than their CV, how a simple engagement direction has made some people very proud, and how going the extra mile benefits the project.

At one interview the curveball questions at the wrap-up was: ‘Does your sewing machine have a name?’

We’re all long enough in the tooth to understand that the dreaded ‘Hobbies and Interests’ section of the CV gives people a glimpse behind the professional mask, though when was the last time you actually used those hobbies at work? Or asked your employees to share those skills…and they actually agreed to give up their free time?

So this comes back to two of my favourite subjects: 1) engagement and 2) delivering a quality space on time and on budget.

Engagement:

These images were taken by employees. Their roles had nothing to do with photography, graphics or artwork.  I run a photography competition on live projects. The competition is only open to end users at the affected site; the short list is created with Brand influence before being shared across the site for peer-voting. The winning image is installed with the staff member’s name embedded in the image for all to see.

Their skills, their office, their pride and recognition. No matter how many projects we roll this out on, it’s a humbling and uplifting experience.

 

Delivering on Budget

I object to paying 70 Euro for a single, simple cushion. There, I said it. So when the budget is (once again) directed towards infrastructure and the FF&E budget is cut, there is only so much I am willing to sacrifice. The cuts need to still provide an effective, appropriate solution from Day 1.  In my view, one does not simply walk into Mordor install bleacher seats without something soft to sit on.

Which is how I found myself sewing 22 identical cushions, all with inset zips (without a zip foot on the sewing machine) for a project. Would I do it again? Ask me in a few months. It gave me a whole new respect for professional machinists.

milan cushions

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The Framework of Influence

How to create a ‘Framework of Influence’ to manage engagement effectively.

At the heart of every project is a Scope. It defines the project in terms of what needs to be achieved and the work that needs to be completed to deliver said project.  That’s the easy bit.

It’s easy because ‘relocate A <business entity> to B <SqFt> space by C <date> to meet D <growth forecast> using E <desk sharing %>’ doesn’t tell you everything required to be included within the Design Management workstreams. For that you need to start asking questions about how people use the space, how they should use the space, how the business leaders want to lead business change in their staff. These kind of topics define a good amount of how the space will be designed.

This is where, if you are not careful, that you will end up unwittingly setting expectations and a brief that far outstrips the scope. This is avoidable.

  1. Know your audience. It is cynical though it is useful to assume they know little about project processes and will ask for the moon.
  2. Always go into a conversation knowing what you can/cannot offer.
  3. Promise nothing, consider most things.

Why not consider everything? Because this comes back to the scope. It’s easier in the long run to be very clear up front about what can/cannot be affected or influenced. This is why having a Framework of Influence (FoI) is critical for every piece of work that requires engagement – with clients, colleagues and suppliers.

An example below is taken from a previous project of mine. It was targeted at the Working Group which included selected end users, the architects and the change manager. The outcome was assessed and incorporated into the brief.

Blog slides

Objectives of the FoI

  • Confirm what is not possible or not up for debate (Out of Influence). This is the ‘to be obeyed’ bit.
  • Make clear where staff can debate and innovate, including simple target metrics (the human brain loves a puzzle).
  • Provide a clear direction for their journey; if you reference other sources, ie: business case, make sure the relevant pages can be shared – and fast.
  • Start behaviour awareness (liaise with the Change Manager to ensure you are on message, ideally they should be part of the Discovery process).

Remember:

  • Those you engage with many not schooled in processes or language of projects, programme or construction. Keep it simple, keep it honest. Be prepared to help their understanding.
  • They also may be an old hand at this kind of thing and be more help co-leading the Working Group than being a delegate.
  • Include another slide explaining a simple timeline of when any decisions and sign offs need to be completed, and by whom.
  • A Framework of Influence can be applied to any situation where you want to seek engagement or put governance structures into place that you require to be applied to the outcome.