Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Opportunists Conquer Climate Change

Here we have a perfect example of opportunistic behavior. In the Swedish press, Aftonbladet, reporter Joachim Kerpner writes the story behind ethanol production. European providers of ethanol are blooming like cauliflower. Sweden, an example of counties who have put much of their environmental energy into ethanol and bio-fuels, encourage companies as part of their strategy to fight global warming. Competition is created so that the companies are looking for the cheapest prices for their customers. Governments desperate to decrease their carbon emissions (and looking for new ways of employing citizens) create markets and encourage companies. The expression “Make hay while the sun shines” apply describes this situation.
What are the consequences? Kerpner reports that Brazilian sugar cane workers work fifteen hour days chopping the cane by hand. Competition comes from Tanzania where sugar cane is also grown. By keeping salaries low, their employers ensure a cheap raw product for ethanol production in India, England and Holland. Buyers think that they are providing jobs that will lift the poor of Tanzania. The consequences are that any monetary gains will be pressed by competition from some other poor, tropical nation and what’s left lost to health issues. Another consequence is that land owned by small farmers growing a diversity of crops will be turned into industrial farming. Ownership moves from the local grower to the “industrial” grower; crops that once nourished local families are gone. A leading Swedish company calculates that 3 million Tanzanians will be lifted out of poverty and assert their desire to avoid physical burnout. Huge tracts of land, the size of the Swedish Provence of Sk√•ne will be involved and the social structure related to small farms and communities will be broken forever. As we know from Foresight Styles, consequences are not a big part of opportunist thinking. A generalized wish not to overwork cane cutters and give them jobs satisfies the opportunists need for meaning.
Technology that will allow production of ethanol from cellulous fibers found in all plants is still under development. Between now and then companies wish to earn as much as they can from sugarcane and assure high market share for 2010 when Swedish use of ethanol is scheduled to play its role in slowing climate change. We are going to see more of this opportunism because the systemic change to renewable fuels will go in phases rather than an overnight flip flop. The trick is for companies to realize the transitional nature of their enterprise and be willing to employ foresight skills in order to maintain flexebilty and survive or move from one short term project to another. Source: http://www.aftonbladet.se/klimathotet/joachimkerpner/

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Change - innovation: what is the difference?

As a consultant working with companies or as a coach working with individuals it is important to help clients understand how they move forward. Let us begin with an individual. One of today’s most discussed personal problems is obesity or overweight. There are many products on the market that promise you will loose weight before swim suit season, in two weeks or in a month. Most of these work on a few, but fail for the greater majority. Another group of weight loss writers speak about a lifestyle change. What they mean, but don't say because it is too loaded is that a lifestyle change means a change in how one uses his or her brain. The brain must be taught to think long-term instead of giving in to instant gratification. It means taking responsibility for ones self and making decisions about products. It means learning more about how the world works, spending more money on food and taking responsibility for ones self.

This is a huge "change". After commitment to the new direction there are many “innovations” that will help the individual. Information from informed people who talk about more than food, they also speak about exercise, good mental health, understanding ones own body and its peculiarities will suggest innovations in each area that can enforce the new lifestyle.

In many companies and organizations a commitment to providing customers with products and services that are sustainable and provide ones workers with fair salaries and working conditions represents a huge “change”. It is not a change because they think these goals are inherently wrong, but that they appear go against the maximization of profit. If one is mandated by law to earn a profit for the sake of shareholders, it is much harder to make the change. The two seem incompatible.

However, a number of companies are slowly trying. Of course, none of them will truly make the change until they are released from the need to maximize profit in order to pay stockholders or if they remain small and or private. The idea of local and small companies is taking hold in some areas. The large Wal-Mart’s have been denied building permits in some towns. The trend of the dying mom and pop businesses is slowly reversing itself. One of Sweden’s largest and most successful business is IKEA. It has gone international but is not listed on the stock exchange because it’s owner and founder has refused to go public.

Remaining small and private are “innovations” that will lead us to a very different business paradigm. For a long time big business (that is stockholder held international conglomerates) will continue to make profit, but in the long-run, they will fail. They already have divested themselves of large numbers of employees, an innovation that serves the dying paradigm. This is an interesting point. One can innovate within the existing world view with the idea of extending its past glories longer into the future or one can adapt the new worldview and innovate to give life to and assure success in the new one.

If you are consultant to a company do they want help extending the old world view, or do they want help with actualizing a new one? Which type of work do you prefer to do? Are they up for a large change to a new paradigm, or are they just interested in innovations which lengthen the status quo?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why Strengthen Your Organizations Change Muscles?


Naturally you will have heard the following phrases in the news and read them in newspapers; climate change, energy crisis, peak oil, hybrid cars, sustainability and many more. These are signs of the beginnings of a huge paradigm shift. A paradigm is a world view, and our view of our relationship to nature is changing. You in companies and organizations will be affected in ways that were unthinkable only five years ago. We are in the beginning of a new S-curve or paradigm. The lowest point of the S-Curve marks the beginning of a new world view. The growth of the curve means that more individuals have begun to change and innovate.

Companies and organizations are adapting new ideas that will help us live more healthfully and prosperously on the planet earth. These changes are going to clash often with existing policy and systems and create new challenges. It is not just a matter of a little innovation; it is a matter of a myriad of innovations which must hang together if your organization wants to survive the shift. Your clients or colleagues will be continually asked to readjust, innovate and integrate new behaviors and new ways of thinking in order to keep up.

Technology is already spinning. Cheaper photovoltaics are being developed, advances in wind power equipment, hybrid cars and biofuels. Hydroelectric production and equipment is the next layer of change in the energy field. What might this mean to your organization? It means careful with investments because, just like computer’s, energy sources will both improve and change, making your expensive investments out of date. More local power stations to prevent brown and blackouts will be adapted by companies. Unlike computers, where basic knowledge can be used even though the programs and machines are upgraded, changing energy sources or equipment could involve totally different technologies and high costs.

Technology is not the only area impacted by the changing world view. Mass production and the idea of “Bigger is best” is being replaced by local and transparent. Individuals want to know that their food is fresh; grown without chemicals, pesticides and that the money they pay for it stays in the local community. People want to know that the companies they buy products from have control over every stage of product development. They want to know that no pollution occurred as a result of obtaining the raw materials, that the workforce was paid and treated properly and that their health and working conditions were satisfactory. Now many can get away with saying that they will try. As the S-Curve grows trying will not be good enough, it must happen. As a company, you will be increasingly expected to open your books and processes to consumers.

The building industry is awash with new, renewable products that do not pollute, are strong, cheaper to produce and use less wood. Window glass that reflects or draws in warmth, while not effecting light transfer, is now available. Wind and solar power solutions to home energy make homes increasingly less dependent on the mass energy networks of the “mass production” era.

The changes in values and thinking, plus new duties, routines and responsibilities increase in intensity until the S-Curve reaches the top. Climbing the S-Curve requires mussel. Companies are going to have to train their ability change and then stretch to meet new ways of doing things. Just like athletes, train and stretch and compete. Then it will be time for more new changes!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

After the lay-offs - a consultant inquires

I got a call from a customer today, a business consultant and she asked some very important questions about Foresight Styles.

She began with a little background: I have been contacted by a production company that has just laid off a number of workers and the rest will be doing their work plus that of those who have been laid off. How can Foresight Styles help me in this task?

My response: A change has already occurred. Clearly the CEO is hoping that the remaining employees jump in and get to work. What expectations does he have for your possible intervention?

Consultant: He wants to know that I offer something that will positively effect his bottom line. That productivity will increase and that earnings will rise. It could be that he wants me to give the workers bad news or press them to work harder. It could also be that he has a desire to assure that the employees who are left are given the best chance to succeed with their work and show new profit highs.

My response: Does the CEO know what kind of responses to expect from his employees? Does he think the workers fall into place and work to raise productivity and income? Foresight Styles Assessment could give him an idea of the type of company the employees feel they are working in:

a Cutting Edge Company that sees new solutions to old problems, A state-of-the-art firm which is first out with new ideas that challenge other production companies.

a New Thinking company that changes the way business is done. They focus upon that which dramatically threatens their survival, articulate the danger for their employees and become a will articulated force for change.

a Quality Lift organization uses best practices and implements new innovations successfully tried by others. It uses benchmarked or best-practices obtained from successful companies in the same field.

a High Profit company looking for lucrative opportunities. Their goal is to assure a constant income flow.

a Corrective company seeks to maintain balance. They maintain that which is traditionally successful while adding new products or equipment which corrects for changes occurring in the external environment.

a Structural company is a pillar in their community with well-known trademarks. It is however fading, living upon its reputation and can only survive as long as their reserves hold out.

If the CEO and leadership group identify their company profile, the leadership version and the employee version could be compared. FSA could give clients insight into the way employees see the company by creating a group profile from their responses to FSA. Differences would mean some work is necessary, if it is about the same then the business is on the correct track. If the management view and the employee view do not match, it means that they are working in different directions. The straightest way to a healthy bottom line is when all members are working for the same goal.

Consultant: What if the CEO or employees are hesitant about responding to a questionnaire? They have taken them before and gotten their hopes up and nothing has happened.

My response: FSA begins with a response on an individual level. It is a tool for personal growth. Respondents need to know before taking it that their specific responses go only to them, not their boss, HR or anyone else. In a group profile, which higher management does see, individual profiles will not show, only an indication of the kinds of competence for change they have within the organization. Whether or not the company uses this information as the basis for an organizational intervention does not eliminate the personal growth potential for individuals. The FSA Manual gives a few suggestions about how one can grow from FSA. Employees have to see what is in it for them personally.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Some Things We Know About Change

Individuals approach a change or an innovation from their own style when trying to judge what advantages the change/innovation holds for them. The advantages must be greater than the disadvantages of the current pattern. In order to even consider a change it must be compatible with employees existing values. It must not interfere with their feeling of contributing (meaning inherent in the work). If the change is perceived to be too difficult it may not be accepted even if many agree it must be made. In the case the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, the change/innovation fits their values system and does not appear to be too difficult, the individual would be helped by seeing others integrating the new behavior.

The hardest changes are those which others initiate. In most companies, change, of necessity, comes from the top down. The difficulty with discussing a specific change in a democratic way with all employees in a large organization is apparent. It is why we have leadership. Foresight Styles Assessment gives an overall view of the way in which employees handle change. The discussion of how individuals meet change and their capacity for foresight opens the way for healthy strategies as each change comes up. Individuals are not forced to go against their own patterns, but use their style in the most positive manner for the organization. While every one does not have access to the same information, the more information individuals have the greater the flexability. It signals trust and respect that are key to a healthy organization.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Getting certified

A new FSA user recently asked "At the moment we have no change situation, how can I use my ten Assessments to get certified?"

I replied, "You are the Director and have more than 10 people under you", why not use them as the basis for a workshop on how the group handles change?"

Let's look at one way to go about it. Pick a possible change, in this case it might be new software for the clients. That means that all personnel must learn to use this package of new programs before the clients use them. Tell your staff about this change and have them write on a little scrap of paper just what their first thought or feeling was. You may have them get paper and pencil ready first.

Then, to relieve the anxiety you might tell them that this was just an exercise to get their reactions, but there will be new changes coming in the future and that you would like it if the staff were prepared. Then instruct them to take the test sometime in the next week (give them their code numbers),print out the results and bring them back to the group meeting. Tell them when and where the group will be meeting. You might share that you will provide a basket of fruit or a healthy snack along with coffee and tea.

The first meeting should only take 20 minutes or less.

Don't wait longer than a week before the next meeting and make sure to mention to thank those who took the Assessment in good time. If some one waits until the last day you might want to remind them privately. They should take their profile from the test and compare it to their reaction written on a scrap of paper and see if the two jibe. That would be a good topic to begin with. Let everyone who wants to speak do so. Now go into the Manual and look at the suggestions for getting started. End with them each making a profile that they feel is the style of the group. Show them their guess against the computer generated copy (you will get from www.foresightstyles.com) and talk about the similarity's and differences.

Since all the styles make up your system, let them discuss how their profile could contribute to possible future changes(you may have them brainstorm a list of possible changes first).

Results: This exercise opens their consciousness to the idea that change does occur in the workplace and focuses them on a personal strategy for handling it as well as developing a strategy for the whole group. When a change does come, you can take out the group profile and help them develop a strategy to handle it.