The future can’t be predicted simply prepared for…

Recently a load of people have been talking to me about restructuring their teams for the future.
I’ve noticed that to do this they collect vast amounts of data in an effort to predict the future trends, business conditions, customer needs and so on.

The problem with the future
The problem is that the future is unpredictable. and the only people to generate a “five year plan was thr old Soviet Union…and look where they are today!

Take technology for instance…by the time it’s clear what will be affected in the future it’s too late! It move so fast that catching up is difficult far less being able to stay ahead. THerefore traditional planning where the object is to predict the future, develop detailed plans and restructure teams to take account of those predictions no longer make sense.

It must be assumed that the future can’t be predicted…but it can be prepared for. The answer is to shift how business prepares for the future.The task for business is to structure the organisation to be immediately flexible. That’s not new idea…but it’s rarely implemented successfully.

I’m excited about the future
Over the past months I’ve talked to so many business leaders about this topic. I’m excited that the result will be that I’m organising a series of events for selected business leaders to talk to them on how they can plan for the future they don’t yet know about.

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Who needs a teambuilding away day?

I’ve had a number of meeting where team managers have suggested an “away day” as part of a team building strategy.

When asked “What’s the objective” I’ve sometimes been told “So that they’ll be motivated”
Further discussion around the outcomes can sometimes generate a confused response from the manager.
On one occasion I was told “I don’t know what outcomes but I want them motivated”

I was tempted to ask “Motivated to leave?” but persevered to a conclusion which resulted in the team’s manager attending one of my 1:1 strategy planning seminars. The result was even more positive than the team attending an awayday.
The lesson is to focus on the who as well as the outcome when planning team development.

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The Disaster of Team Decisions

Last week I was talking to a team manager who described to me a team descision and them ended up by saying:
“Everyone seemed to agree with the decision but when people came to act on it each person had a different idea on the action we agreed upon or reserved the right not to implement it”

False Consensus
Implementing team decisions can be difficult. Particularly when the members of the team are senior in status or are members on the basis of voluntary membership (they can leave and take their ball with them without any reprimand). I know this as “False consensus”. The problem for the team manager is that to try to play amateur Psychologist to solve the situation is likely to make the situation worse NOT better.

Shared Values
Consensus in team decisions is a powerful goal in decision making and often the reason for team meetings in the first place. Where the team members know each other well, share the same values and spend considerable time discussing issues with each other then it’s often easy and preferable. But where these factors are absent the team leader often has to develop them.

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When the party’s over, what then?

I was having a discussion with a friend last night about the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics and how business is going to cope with the distruption to travel in London and the time off taken by staff. However soon the discussion moved to what happens when it’s all over

However, I wonder what happens after the party’s over?
Once the Jubilee and the Olympics are over will there be a sense of anti-climax.
Will people feel less enthusiastic at work as winter comes and economic troubles hit us again?
Or will one of the legacies be that a “Feel good factor” will last though the winter?

The challenge for business leaders
The challenge could be to assess the possible legacy on our team and how to keep the team motivated once the fun has ended.
It’s a challenge that managers should start to think about now.

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You can’t be caught working if you’re in a meeting

A great friend of mine, John Donnelly, always says about team meetings that “You can’t be caught working if you’re in a team meeting” and of course he’s right. It amazes me how many people still flit from one meeting to another, particularly in public services, that actually believe they are doing something! The problem is that when they attend the next meeting to discuss actions from the previous meeting they often haven’t had time to do the work because they’ve been too busy attending meetings!

Three hours a day in internal meetings
According to the figures, almost a quarter of employees spend up to
three hours a day in internal meetings.
Answering emails is another time waster with the average number of internal emails received being 32 – although
nearly one in five say they get up to 50 a day, which works out as one
email every eight-and-a-half minutes.

Internal meetings a colossal waste of time
Management today have an article that suggests that UK businesses waste
£255m a day on internal meetings and emails. And that’s not just on
multi-packs of chocolate Hobnobs: The refreshing thing is that those attending meetings often see them as a
colossal waste of time, that is except those that spend their days in meetings rather than be seen working.

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What do they discuss at planning meetings?

I had to laugh at Management Today’s article on Ryan Air’s plans to replace toilets on their planes with paid seating.

Famous for its cut-throat approach
to cost-cutting the budget airline plans to remove two of its loos and replace them with up to six extra
seats but as MT asks “Is its latest ruse literally taking the piss”. 

Planning meetings:
We can only imagine the suggestions that the management team come up with at cost-cutting planning meetings. Presumably
they’ve considered building on the priority boarding model by charging for in-flight
commodes. this could be a money earner whilst saving passengers having to get up from their seat mid-flight.

It should be noted that there’s no legal stipulation for
an airline to provide toilets on its aircraft. It’s just if you’re supplying loads of beers to stag parties off for the weekend it would seem sensible to keep the seats dry for those coming back on the return journey!
Or will dry seats cost extra in the future?

Maximum seats allowed
As Ryanair proposes to prevent passengers from squeezing one out at one
end, it’s simultaneously doing the squeezing at the other: The airline carries an
estimated 75m passengers per year, and currently flies only Boeing
737-800 and has installed 189 seats on each plane, the maximum
allowed under current rules and it also charges up
to £20 per piece of checked luggage per flight. The Office of Fair Trading is investigating a ‘super-complaint’ by
the Consumers’ Association into such charges by low-cost airlines.

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100 questions to ask at a team meeting

“What are the top ten questions that a team leader could ask at a team
meeting to generate discussion that will lead to team improvement”
a good
friend asked me a few days ago.

I found providing an answer very difficult
because the questions a team needs to consider will depend upon the business
issues at the time, the maturity of the team and other factors. After thinking about it I told him that I
probably had a hundred questions I could ask and he challenged me to email
him one each day for the next one hundred days!

The first two questions have already been sent to him and then I got thinking that I could include the questions as a Tweet to all my followers.

So each day I will Tweet a question that could be asked and discussed at a team meeting. If you don’t want to miss these Tweets then “LIST” me on twitter so that you can have them sent directly into your list

Questions to ask at a team meeting that have been sent so far are:

“How does the team generate and progress new ideas?”


“What level of clarity has the team of the expectations of it?”

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Can Lloyds TSB navigate the storm?

In announcing that Lloyds TSB are to shed 15,000 jobs over the next three years probably contained little surprise to most people. Indeed there will be many that will be quite pleased that some bankers are reaping what they sowed without realising that the middle management and back-room boys losing their jobs are not those who will be receiving big bonuses over the next three years.

Restructured teams have an increased chance of failure

My real concern is that five thousand job losses each year, for three years, will mean a vast number of teams being restructured. The problem with team restructure is that only 60% tend to deliver targets. That means that 40% of teams fail to deliver on expectations. That’s one big storm of disruption for Lloyds TSB to navigate.

Costs can be huge
The cost of such failure in lost opportunity terms can often amount to ten times the salary of the team and in banking circles that can be  huge! ( a team salary of £1million could produce a potential lost opportunity cost of £10m) However, when one’s focus on savings will be judged on salaries saved the actual costs of the restructure often get ignored.

That is until financial statistics reveal that further jobs have to be cut because the anticipated results haven’t been met!

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Budget cuts will affect teams

The UK Government announces it’s long awaited budget cuts next week. The result is that over the next few years thousands of civil service teams will be restructured. This will inevitably be felt by private sector companies that supply the Civil Service and companies that supply them. The domino effect of the budget cuts is likely to mean that most business teams in the UK will need restructuring over the next two years.

The problem is that every time a team is restructures three scarce business resources are put at risk. There are time, money and opportunities. Put at risk because statistics show that 40% of restructured teams fail to deliver what is expected.

Risks of Team Restrucure

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Team Assimilation isn’t always a success

At the current time many companies are restructuring their teams to make savings but in the hope of increasing productivity.

The problem is that too many teams fail to achieve their anticipated outcome. In fact our research shows that only 60% of restructured teams increase productivity. The benefits have more to do with saving wages and staff costs.

A few months ago a business restructured its sales team. Territories have become larger, management reduced and incentives cut. All necessary business strategies.

However, the new team’s assimilation was poorly undertaken. Rationale for the need for the changes was poorly described to those affected, management went absent after the restructure to work on other projects, as a result morale dropped and a very popular sales manager left to work for competitors.

I was called in to help and after a series of individual and team meetings, changes to old fashioned reporting to remove some team frustrations and changing the office layout the team’s productivity has begun to rise and meet expectations.

The message here is that post assimilation of a team is as as important to the planning part of team assimilation after restructuring.

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