Transformation — Momentum and Mindset

PODCAST | With Guest Kevin Murphy | 16 May 2018

Transcript

Narrator

The future of Project Management is changing fast. On Projectified with PMI, we'll help you stay ahead of the trends, as we talk about what that means for the industry and for everyone involved.

Stephen W. Maye

I'm Stephen W. Maye, for Projectified with PMI. For an easy way to stay up to date on Projectified with PMI, go to iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music and PMI.org/podcast. In this episode, we continue with Kevin Murphy, Head of Bain's Centre of Expertise for Co-Creation. In part one of our conversation, we learned what sets transformation apart from other projects and key characteristics of the co creation environment. Here, in part two, Kevin shares his insights on maintaining momentum, dealing with culture, and the essential role of clear and compelling drivers for transformational change.

Kevin Murphy

Whenever you run one of these events that triggers, um, this, this, this thinking, you know, people always walk out of it at the end of the day saying, "that was fantastic", "that was great". You know "we, gosh we got somewhere that's new and different" etc, and then I always think of um, a phrase you and I have both used over the, the years, of, you know, the half life of that energy and enthusiasm, is 24 hours. A week later, they're thinking, "that was pretty good, um, yeah what we did, um, I remember some of it, um I still have some of that enthusiasm and energy". And, a month later, they're going "that was kind of a monumental waste of time", um, you know it was, it, it, it was like um, you know, you know, carbs to somebody on a diet. Um, you know, short term, um fix. But now we're back running the business, um, as we are today. The challenge is to keep that momentum going. Again, when you talk about come back in to the organisation, um, the, the role that you know project professionals and, and, and other leaders can have in the organisation is, is to preserve that way of working. It's, it's not a single event, you know, it's, it's actually, at the end of the day, it's about changing mind sets and attitudes, and having people work in a different way. And that doesn't happen, um, in a single event, so it's how, how to do you build it so out of the coming months ahead, you continue. And not, you know, it's, it's not that energy declining, but actually you get it to, you know, in-, increase and go on a, on an upward slope. We actually talk about having a, a system of those interactions. So, one doesn't make a difference, afterwards the energy just, just comes down, two and you get people to a higher plateau and the cl-, the climb begins to reduce. Three, you take them higher again and now you've got more of a continued kind of energy, um to support it. But then it's how do you take, that way of working out of just the leadership team and into how you work as an organisation? Um, you, at, at work just last week, with uh, a financial organisation, and we went through two major events., um, in the space, in a ver-, very short um, space of, of time. One with the very senior leadership team and then one with um, the team um, below them. And, and, sort of a group were clearly influenced by um, the experience, um, that they just had. And in one of the um, leaders who was instrumental in put, in putting that together, yesterday was sharing with me, you know, we've got a leadership meeting at the end of this month, I don't want it to be a standard leadership team meeting. You know, we've a couple of decisions we need to make, how do we make it more like what we experienced when we were together in the room. So now, we're just gonna design a couple bits of our, it's a four hours meeting, we're going to design a couple of hours of that four hours, to get them to another, you know, level of, of result and outcome. But to begin to embed in the, the, the understanding that this wasn't a one off event, we're actually changing the way we work together.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah, so the good news, bad news is you create an, an appetite?

Kevin Murphy

Yeah. Now we just need to have them eat healthy food [LAUGHS] and it's good news, good news.

Stephen W. Maye

Right, right, right. And, and do you find that, as you create that appetite and, and people continue to say we want to continue to work this way. For a given group, I can say see where that continues on forward sort of linearly. But what about down below that group? Does it cascade down that way as well?

Kevin Murphy

Yeah, it, it absolutely has to um, uh, when, when we say you start at the top, it's you start at the top, um, if it, if that's all, if, if that's where it stays, you haven't created a lasting or enough impact, you're back to the 50, sliding down into the 50 um percent. Um, so you what to create, more opportunities and more ex-, ex-, experience. One of the things we haven't talked about, but for me is related to this um conversation, is the relationship between transformational change and cultural change. Um, when you transform organisations, you almost and I, and I, and I would become close to putting at a, it at 100% of the time, you actually have to make a significant shift in the culture of the organisation. If it is truly transformational and what was, becomes something very different, it requires a different culture, um at the end. And, very often at the outset, when I'm working with the senior team, we'll, we'll go through an exercise to describe what that future needs to be, and I'll actually ask them, how would you need to behave differently? To lead in that new environment. And it's again, always a great conversation and a good contrast between where they are today and where they see themselves um needing to be. The challenge is to make that cultural shift. And one of the, I think it was Einstein who said, you know, you can't solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it, um, in the first place. Um, I think that's very true of major cultural shifts. You can't invent the new culture by living the old one. If you're locked in the old culture, then you know y-,y-, you may pay lip service to what could be, but you're still living in the old, um culture.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah, so you, you, you, transitioned there just a moment ago by saying, look, if we're really talking about succeeding at something that is transformational in nature, there's, there will, inevitably or almost inevitably be culture change required. Well, so what re you, what's your simple definition for, for culture? So, everybody's commenting on, we got to do some culture, I was working with someone recently, executive kept saying, yeah we got to get a group together, and, and we got to get started on the culture. So, tell me what you're talking about.

Kevin Murphy

First um, what do I define as culture? Um, culture's everything to do with behaviour. Um, and, and I define culture as um, how people behave when nobody's watching. Um, the culture influences that behaviour and if you wan to see the culture and how it's represented, it's not big fancy culture words, it's look at what people are doing. Um, and that represents the decisions they're making, how they're deciding, how they're thinking, um, when nobody's looking over their shoulder. That's the culture in the organisation. And it's often, if you see culture in that way, it's often very different to what people have written down as their culture. Um, it's frequently an exercise I do with people, I, I, ta-, talk, culture is expressed verses culture as experienced. Um, and they're usually two very different um, different lists. The second thing I want to pick in this, is, you're executive who said we're gonna do something cultural, um, they are in the 38%. Um...

Stephen W. Maye

Okay, I'll be sure and let her know.

Kevin Murphy

If you set out to make a purely cultural shift, you are going to fail. Uh because, culture is the hardest thing to change. I, I, when, when I think about changes, I think of them at three different levels. The first level is changing what you do, you used to do this process, now I want you to do this process. We, we do a lot of that change in organisations, it's the easy change to make happen. The next level and in kind of order of magnitude harder, is changing how people think. So it's not just how, what you do, but, I need you to think differently about how you do, what you do and how you choose, um to do it. Much harder change to create for people. The third level of change is, changing who you are, that's the cultural change. That's, you used to operate in this way, I need you to be different. Not just think different, I need you to be different. You know, so, I want to create a customer orientated culture, you know, we throw that around um, all the time. Huge challenge if you want to shift the way people are gonna interact, um, with, with customers. Um, so, back, back to why you're and that person is going to um, to, to fail, um, they're gonna fail because, you know, culture change is hard and you haven't given them a, a reason to change. Um, I see a lot of people who, who chase the latest buzz word. You know, for their culture. To me the culture change that succeeds is actually the one that's riven by a transformation. Where you say, we actually need to create a different level of performance, in the future. We need to create a different way of operating, we need to create, you know, but there's a, there is a who we need to be aspiration and then you say, but to get there, we would have to change how we behaved. So it's, the behaviour is not the driver, the behaviour's a consequence of the business change, um, that you want to take palce. They're the culture changes I've seen, um succeed. And, and, and back to you h- how do you make that happen, if that's uh, so different from where you are today, you know, how do you make that, that happen. The first place the new culture emerges or is im-, applied, is actually on the transformation project. You actually have to tran-, you actually have to create your future, create the transformation, with the mindset and culture and attitude of the future, not the mindset, culture and attitude of today.

Stephen W. Maye

I love that. So, the i-, so the idea, so we're building something for the future, but we that are involved in the initiative, in the transformational initiative, the big 'I' initiative, we have to start living in that new culture. Before, before that future exists.

Kevin Murphy

I, I'll tell you a great story. Um, working with uh, a utility company. Um, very committed to major change, they had to go through leadership team getting on board, we had one of those, experience, getting them to visualise the future and talk about you know, if that's the future, how would we have to behave differently, as leaders, very focused on them and how they would have to behave differently. Um, everybody was in a very good place, very excited, very enthusiastic, then next day, we're sitting in the room, the same room together. And they're having a leadership team meeting. And what are they doing? They're displaying all of the culture and behaviours of the past, that they said was a problem. So, we did, this is an exercise I, I, I think you're familiar with. We did a, we, we happened to still have up on the board, the list of behaviours that they needed for the future. So, I get, get everyone up of the fl-, off, away from the table, we went and we stood around the board, and, I pointed to that list, I said, imagine that you were all, you the leadership team, are the future you. Yo-, you're three years from now, and that's how you behave, pointing to what they had cre-, said the previous day was what the f-, culture that was needed. Now look back at the table, what advice would you give your current self? About how you're behaving. What advice would you give your team mates around the table, about how they're behaving? And are they living in the old culture, or living the new? They spent an hour talking to themselves [LAUGHS], talking to the empty chair that represented their current self and had so many break troughs. For months afterwards, they were referring. They, they didn't talk about it to others, because they were kind of embarrassed, but among them, it was like a secret hand shake. Um, to have been part of that um, experience. [VOICES IN BACKGROUND]

Stephen W. Maye

How did they carry that forward? So, they had this breakthrough, kind of moment, they had done what a lot of people do, which is identify what needs to be true, about the future culture, but, then they went a step further, they recognised how they were performing in that moment, inconsistent with that and what they could do differently, but then, how was it carried forward, once they left the room?

Kevin Murphy

So, we actually made it present in a number of things that they, they do. A very simple one was, uh, from that day forward, they ended every meeting, by giving themselves feedback. So at the end of every meeting they had as a group, they shared with one another, did we live up to and what could we do better and how do we make the next meeting better. We also paired them up around the table, and they met, once a week with a peer to give one another feedback, or just share with one another what they were, and were doing. So, we made it very well. Then the big step, um, w-, which took a, a, few weeks um to get to, each of them got their team together. And shared the behaviour that they were working on, with their team. And they invited their team to give them feedback on what they were doing and what was happening. And in a very short time, they and now their dir-, direct reports were all behaving more from the future perspective than the current.

Stephen W. Maye

I think about some of the places where I've, where I've worked, where, there was a culture that was counter to transparency, counter to feedback, and would actually result in uh, in a, in a kind of offence being created, if uh, if, if people heard anything that was sort of hard for them to hear, or didn't, didn't make them feel or look their absolute best. So what were you dealing with there as a starting point? You know, in other words uh, it sounds like they're they're doing something that for some organisations would be very hard to give that kind of feedback.

Kevin Murphy

Oh, w-, w-, we're talking about the leadership team of an electric utility. Um, very traditional, um in attitudes and mindset and process, this was very new and very different um, for them. But, again, remember it was anchored in remember that future we all said, not just that we want to achieve, but that we have to achieve. This is necessary to get us there. So, you know, n-, n-, it's not that there weren't times, when people faltered, when people got frustrated, when people thought it was a game and they didn't want to um, continue with it, but you know, we would take them back to, okay, which of, what part of that future that you described are you okay with giving up? Because, if we don't make this behavioural change, here, here are the elements of that, that are no longer possible. If we're all okay with that, then we can agree.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah. So, there's been a um, there's been a well known, well known, known company in the, the news this year, very recently, um and the, one of the words that appears in every single article, and in every single story and every single comment is, culture. Keep saying, yeah we have a culture problem, they have a culture problem, and then of course fast forward, it becomes almost comedy, where you see the, the board is meeting to discuss this culture problem, and one of the board members has to resign, because he makes an inappropriate comment, that demonstrates [LAUGHS] the culture problem. So, the-, this is that, when I think about their example, and we know that's, that's something that's gonna, assuming they solve it, it's gonna take a while to solve, if I go back to what you described earlier, saying look, if you're just trying to change culture for culture's sake, you're gonna fail. So, w-, what does that say about their prospects, cause, what I keep hearing is, not that our business isn't prospering, not that, we aren't growing, not that, it's that, we got a culture problem. So we're gonna go solve our culture problem. Does that d-, what does that say for their uh, prognosis for success?

Kevin Murphy

In each of the companies that I have described and, and, and work with, there has been a leader, who is um, you know, behind and riving, um, the, the success. And, and at the end of the day, yo-, you know you, you turn to that person, um and kind of look for their support, look for, you know, they've got a personally model, and what it is you're trying to achieve.

Stephen W. Maye

Where does the Project Manager fit in this broad range of roles that are in, in moving major change project forward?

Kevin Murphy

Everybody can be a Change Agent. Um, the roles that Project Managers sometimes play, um, in organisations, are a little too narrow. Transformational change is big and complex, it's also dynamic and shifting ans changing and it's very personal and there's the knowing when to keep focused on the target and knowing when is the right pl-, time to, get a move and um, and, and, and, and, address something um. Different. It, it, requires a lot of it's kind of discipline and flexibility at the same time. Um, I can't think of the rig-, the right comment, discipline, discipline ability, for [LAUGHS] flexiplin [LAUGHS]

Stephen W. Maye

You're gonna coin a, coin a new term, just, just, you know you heard it here, you heard it here first.

Kevin Murphy

The Project Manager who sees their role um, as part of the big picture, um, who is, kind of integral to what's happening and, and, and frankly not just kinda, ticking the project management boxes, um, is hugely valuable. Um, but it's, it's the environment and the opportunity um, to make, to make that work um. W-, we talked about again transformational change being big um, and, and the need to, to manage it and keep up with the changes and the twists and turns. Um, w-, we implement something we call a Results Delivery Office, um, you know which will sound a little bit like project management office, but, and, and, and, you know the ideas are built on top of a, of, of many of the ideas from project management office, but, but, it's also different and and one of the things is, you know, the highest level we see three lanes and three disciplines, three focuses really, within um, a Results Delivery Office. And the three are value, delivery and people. Um, value meaning, you know, are we creating the result, are we getting into the 12% are we paying attention to understanding you know, the levers that we need to pull to create the # result, um, that, that needs to happen and is all that staying focused over the, the long term. Um, delivery, uh, meaning you know, are we keeping the trains running on time? Are we you know achieving the, the result in the time frame, um that we wanted, but, also are we, are we helping people with the, the process and how they go about making the change? We see the delivery role as being a Coach to um, to teams and, and, and you know, getting them the right tools, um, to make, um, to, to create the result. And then the, the three stream being people. Um, and ultimately it's back to our culture conversation. You know, organisations don't change, people do and um, you know how do we ensure that, that behavioural capability, organisational structure, etc, is all in place to ensure, that we have you know, people who can and will support um, the solutions that we're putting in place. And you know I think of those three, value, delivery and, and, and, uh people and project management skills being you know present in all three, but mostly in the delivery. Um, you know band. But I think of those three and it's, it's like if there isn't some tensionbetween them, um, we aren't thinking of the trade offs, I could do this faster, but it doesn't get people, you know, on board in the right way, or it may have an impl-, impact on the value that we're, um, generating. Um, if there isn't frequent debate, um and even sometimes, raised voices, between those three, you know, you actually don't have a functioning resource delivery from an office. Uh, you've people who are you know, doing the job, not, you know achieving the, um the, the result. And that's my guidance for the, the project management professional is, put yourself in the bigger picture. Don't see your role narrowly, um, be a part of you know, what's happening and you know, challenge and support your peers, um, don't just uh, speak up, whenthe Gantt chart you know, comes out, you know, get, get involved in all of the dialogues and be part of the, the full solution.

Stephen W. Maye

If we are involved in something that is, uh transformational in nature, major changes rolling out across a broad scope of the, the organisation, there will be some push back on that. Where does the Project Manager fit, in getting past that resistance?

Kevin Murphy

So, so firstly uh, I'm wholly in agreement with you, there is always resistance. And um, when, when managers or leaders tell me that they're not seeing resistance, I say, you're absolutely right you're not see it. Um, because the, the only res-, re-, resistance that you can't address, is that which you can't um see. Um, you know the uh, o-, one of the things about transformational change, is that it challenges many people's, you know, basic assumptions and experience. Um, the, and that particularly applies um, to resistance. Um, I tell leaders that, when you hear resistance, when you first hear resistance, you know, go back to your office, close your door and quietly celebrate. Because, resistance is the first sing that people are taking you seriously. Um until you experience resistance, people have been nodding their heads and saying, this'll go away, it always does. Um, they don't put the energy into resist, until they believe it's going to happen.

Stephen W. Maye

That, that's a great re-framing I think. I, I'm thinking about, pro-, so many Project Managers, who have been on the receiving end of some leader, saying. Why are we seeing this? Why are people unhappy? Why am I getting this noise? And, and then part of that, whether they say it directly, part of it is and why aren't you fixing it? And I can see people, going away from listening to you and, and walking into that [LAUGHS] office now and saying, hey, now that we've heard resistance, we should close the door and, and quietly celebrate, because, people people are taking you seriously. I think that's fantastic, the idea that people are taking it seriously.

Kevin Murphy

It's not only that, but, as you were describing it, um, because many leaders don't understand that, they're reaction to resistance can often be all wrong. So, if you haven't thought, taught them there's always resistance and, and it's a good thing when you see it, when they do get resistance, the push back is this too much, too fast, we can't do it, is it right? Um th-, they, they have a tendency to take a step back. And by take a step back I mean begin to question themselves. Maybe we are going too fast, maybe we should slow something down, and of course, if they do it, they just teach people that resistance works. Oh good, it's worked, let's resist some more [LAUGHS] cause, it's working. Whereas, if you understand that resistance is inevitable and it's a good sign, when you encounter resistance, you're reaction is actually to step in and to resistance and not step back. Of course, you would always start with empathy, because empathy is so important, um, in these, these environments, so I understand that, you know, you think we're moving fast, um, I'm glad you're raising it, I'm glad it, you know, we can talk about it, but hold on, I want to remind you why we're doing this. Let me, let's go back to the case for change and, and why we absolutely have to do this. And, and then you're actually getting people to kind of recommit and double down, instead of kind of stepping back from, um, huge, huge shift. If you can make, make it happen.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah, so if I, if I combine that with something you said before. You talked earlier about your advice being that Project Managers not define, define their roles, so narrowly. And when I fast forward into what you've just said, I could see more and more Project Managers, Project Leaders, maybe taking a step that feels a little frightening, which is to start holding leaders accountable to that. Saying, so, h-, helping to prepare them, saying look, we're gonna go have this meeting today, and here's what's likely going to happen. So, in other words whatever label you want to put on it, there's going to be some level of resistance, there's gonna be some noise. But, being able to say, don't let that deter you, don't let that deter you. Hold your ground, if you, if you, pull back from this, we're never gonna get anywhere. And, I can imagine in, in and those are not always gonna be the appropriate words, but I can imagine more and more Project Managers and, and other project leaders kind of stepping into that and not, not being so quick to just take the instruction, but to provide that kind of accountability that kind of feedback, you know, some have said, you know, hold up the mirror.

Kevin Murphy

It's finding the confidence um, to do it. You know or to do it again, or to do it in these new um circumstances. And, and, and my you know, guidance, advice for what it's worth, um, to the people who are, are listening is, try. Find the right situation, find the leader that you think is the right person and, and, and might be open and, I think you'll find that it is more welcomed, more than that, more needed, than you anticipate.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah, yeah. On a very practical note, you know, if I find myself managing a project or in a significant project leadership role, within something that, involved significant change, at a practical level what change's for me?

Kevin Murphy

My advice to you would be to leave your office. To get up, to walk around, to spend more time with the people, um, you know, who are playing different roles, um on the project. So, you know, instead of 90% of your time in front of the screen and 10% in meetings, maybe 10% in meetings, 10% in front of the screen and 80% out, looking at what's happening, experiencing understanding. I mean we often are marking up things on you know, charts and we don't actually understand what people are doing or what it takes.

Stephen W. Maye

And with that, uh, occasionally open the door and get out, uh, Kevin Murphy gets the last word. Uh, Kevin, it is always a pleasure and uh, love following your work and uh, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. For an easy way to stay up to date on Projectified with PMI, go to iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music and PMI.org/podcast.

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