Showing posts from January, 2020

Co-creating change: Future state design sessions

I wrote earlier about my experience co-creating change, with advice to start by listening. Today I want to talk about another technique we've used repeatedly: sessions where "customers" (employees and leaders in our HR world) are invited to come together to discuss what the redesigned future program/tool/service could look like. We have run these sessions using design-thinking approaches, in particular "empathy mapping." 

Our approach to empathy maps is a bit different. Rather than using them to imagine the thoughts and feelings of different "user personas" ourselves, we've designed them as tools gather employees' thoughts and feelings directly, in sessions where we elicit their views of what future needs to look like.

Here's how it works. There are typically four or five empathy map posters set up around the room for an hour-long session, on large, dry-erasable surfaces.  The first question on each poster sets the focus for that part of t…

How I learned to be a better writer

When I first joined my current employer, it was in a communications role. I had been a consultant for over a decade, mainly working with tech companies to develop PR campaigns and hone their marketing messages. I was pretty good at it, especially the writing part.

In high school, I used to ace my writing assignments, and I would help my romance-writing mom by proofreading her work when asked. In university, I successfully completed a master's in English literature while taking on freelance writing and editing gigs. Along the way, I contributed articles to the campus paper, even becoming arts editor one undergrad year.  After graduation, writing was an integral part of every job I took.

Along the way, I got used to being considered "the one who could write." It's how I thought about myself too.

Smaller fish in a bigger pond
So, it was a change for me to join an organization with a sizable communications team, where communications is central to the organization's ma…

Slow down, back up, and listen: Some goals for 2020

Here are some of the ideas on my mind as I think about my development (in the work context) in the coming year:

I've learned I need to intentionally slow down and let others help shape the work or the discussions I am leading. This is especially true when I am feeling stressed about the need to get sh!4 done! I will be looking for a technique or a way to remind me to do that when the crunch is on. (This is something I will talk to my leader about. I am also open to suggestions!) Related to the above, I need to be mindful of the advice I sought last year around running better meetings. While I am good at providing background info most of the time (one of my colleagues calls me the Queen of Context), I have sometimes skimped on this in meetings. I need to remember to back up and let people know where the current discussion fits into the overall process, i.e., what is the ultimate deliverable, what has happened so far, and what happens next. My technique for this one is to add somethi…

Co-creating change: Start by listening

As I previously blogged, my organization focuses on co-creation as a way of enabling change, and I am a huge proponent of the approach.

One of the most powerful early examples for me was at the outset of a multi-year plan to modernize pretty much everything HR did and every tool we used to do it. Like other departments, HR was offered the opportunity of hosting a booth at the annual employee conference that year. It was too early in our planning and too broad an audience to engage on specific questions about tool functionality or new approaches. At the same time, we wanted to plant the seed that change was coming, and possibly gather a bit of information to feed into our thinking.

Rather than go for the usual show-and-tell, we decided to use the booth to hear what mattered to employees. And so, the "Tell us your HR story" idea was born.

How it worked On the backdrop of the booth, we created a linear map of the "employee journey" at the organization. We then invited …

Don't "manage" change; co-create it

My professional focus these days is on leading change, which taps into my past communications and strategic planning work.
I am in a great HR shop with thoughtful (award-winning!) leaders who understand more about successful change management than I do, and certainly more than I did a few short years ago, when I joined the department. Back then, I would have described change management as "applied common sense" (probably causing my boss and many other Prosci-certified colleagues to cringe when I did). At the time, I felt the main manifestation of good change management was effective communications.

(To be honest, I still bristle a bit at the term "change management" because I believe it's less about managing change more about inspiring and empowering people to embrace changes, and laying the ground to ensure take hold.)

I've learned since what good change practitioners and change leaders already knew: successful change management is good sense, but it'…

The liberating power of accepting responsibility

For this post, I am reflecting on another lesson learned long, long ago, when I was just starting out in high tech. The company was riding a wave and growing fast, and I rode the same wave. I went from "marcom writer" to head of PR within a couple years.

Heading up PR was a big job. We went public and attracted a lot of attention from Canadian and US media and analysts. We were one of the first Canadian companies to go public on the hot Nasdaq market (in the early 90s!), and we had PR firms in the US and in Europe. I was learning as I went how to support all those efforts—what we could and couldn't announce as a public company, and how to engage with reporters in a way that worked for them and for us. I struggled to satisfy a marketing and sales imperative for positive news while not getting the company on the wrong side of the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

I gobbled up all the advice I could get—from journalists, from other PR practitioners, from our US-based ag…