Outwitting the lovely Ondine, or making the right choices in hard times!

I watched a piece on breakfast television about a small child with something that sounded sinister, Ondine’s Curse.  This is a respiratory disorder that is fatal if untreated as sufferers stop breathing during sleep. It is very rare and the name is a reference to the myth of Ondine, a water nymph who had an unfaithful mortal lover. He swore to her that his every waking breath would be a testimony of his love. He was unfaithful so she cursed him; if he should fall asleep, he would forget to breathe. Eventually, he fell asleep and his breathing stopped. Anyway the story this morning was really about the child being able to be at home for Christmas because someone had invented a ventilator that was small enough for a child’s room!

Ventilators are usually large, cumbersome and difficult to accommodate! So this invention, not only adds to the happiness of a small child and her family, it also reduces the cost of her care to the NHS. No longer will she need expensive hospital resources, even with back up at home from community nursing staff, there will be a saving!

What struck me most was the need to take a long view when reducing costs. Inventing new equipment to reduce costs (and hopefully improve quality) long-term takes time and investment. Also, it requires creativity and teamwork! None of these qualities thrive in hard and uncaring environments. To achieve a climate that can deliver long-term ‘efficiency’ improvements while maintaining (or even improving) quality takes great leadership.

Exam question for December 2010 – do you think your leadership abilities would be up to the challenge? How are you going to maintain/improve them next year?

I would like to wish all readers a very Happy Christmas and a very creative New Year in this time of challenge! I hope you will come back because there will be lots more here next year to help you manage the changes you face!

Leading With Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results By William F. Baker, Ph.D. and Michael O’Malley, Ph.D.

“By now, many leaders have realized that when it comes to business, nice guys often finish first. Old-fashioned images of corporate callousness and greed have been replaced by a gentler, more human conception of great leadership. But how does one define “kindness” in the context of business? And what is the best way to “use”this deceptively complex notion as a guiding principle to lead an organization successfully into the future? Far from presenting a naive idea of kindness, this eye-opening book identifies the surprising attributes successful “kind” leaders share. This realistic book shows leaders how they can use sincerity, honesty, and respect for the good of their organization……  For more follow this link



A whitepaper at our sister blog Making Performance Matter provides you with a step by step guide to mapping processes and changing/re-engineering them!  The guide consists of a four step process which is easy to follow and can be used in simple or complex situations.  Use the technique to deliver measurable benefits to your own processes or to help your client. Remember the importance of engagement and consultation.

Follow this link


Taking stock of your life to see if it is on track is a bit like going to see your dentist for a regular check up! We all know we should do but lots of us don’t!  We find lots of excuses for not actually getting on with it.  For some of us we put it off until it’s forced on us, for example, at redundancy or some kind of personal tragedy.  But most of us would probably gain from a simple check up periodically may be once a year!  December is a superb time to take stock on where you are both on a professional and a personal level.  You can then begin to  think through your plan for next year and how you are going to make it brilliant!

So get your pad and pen – here are some thoughts to speed your on your way!

Most of us will probably find it easiest to start with work!  What is your work all about?  Why are you doing it now?  Why did you choose it in the first place?  Has it got meaning for you and is it fulfilling?  Be specific and very honest!  Think through how you would really like to spend that one third of your life. How does that match up against what you are doing?  Identify the gap between the career anchors you aspire to and what you have –  autonomy, expertise, security, creativity, the ability to use your professional knowledge!  But be realistic about financial reward and how important that needs to be!

Identify what is  non-negotiable for you!  The factors in your work and personal life that you’d never contemplate compromising. This might include the type of work you’d consider doing and within what industries.

Be realistic as well about the present climate! Having a job is a great plus, so don’t immediately think you need to move.  See what can be changed where you are now!  Are there other ways of doing your work?  Are there new challenges you can take on and new skills you can acquire?  Does your boss know what you would really like to do – are there opportunities that your boss can give you access to?  But don’t let your unwillingness to move from an existing comfort zone hold you back.

On a personal note, the “non-negotiable” factors could include things like the relationship with your partner, where you live, the house you live in,  the friends and family about you, your willingness to travel, and the quality of life you enjoy.  But again think about your relationships and how you manage them!  Is there work you need to do to improve them? How could you make your life outside work richer for you and those about you?

Understand your strengths, your flaws and your fears.   Be honest about who you are! What are you good at?  Write it down and be proud!  What do you think you can’t do and why?  Where is the evidence?  Decide what you are going to work on and decide what you are going to give up trying to do!   Are there things you think you should be good at rather than things you want to be good at or need to be good at?  Do you really want to waste your precious time on them?

Now make your Action Plan for next year!  How are things going to change? What are you going to do?  Above all don’t let lack of self confidence hold you back!  Dream you dream!  Believe in you and what you can achieve.  And next year come here again and do another stock take!  Reach higher and higher until you reach the star right at the top of your own personal Christmas Tree!


Wendy Mason has spent many years, both as a line manager and as a consultant, delivering change and support to individuals and organisation going through change   She is happy now to offer this support to you and your organization.   If you would like to talk to Wendy about how she can help email her directly at wendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439 


In managing change as well as projects and programmes, we all talk a lot about quality and quality standards but how to you establish a standard.  Here are some tips

  1. Do you already have quality standards in your organization. Do you work in a large organization.  If so, someone has probably done the job for you.  If you have a central programme or portfolio office or Centre of Excellence they should be able to guide and advise you. If you have a central unit the chances are, you are required to use their standards anyway.   Even if you don’t have a central unit ask other managers what they use and consider using their’s as a starting point from which to develop your own ideas!
  2. Set up a quality group. Assemble a team from those with an interest in your work or your  project .  Start out by asking them what they think acceptable standards would be for the area they are interested in.  Then use them to monitor as you go to make sure you achieve the standard.    You’d be surprised how willing people are to help with this kind of activity!
  3. Understand how others perceive quality. You can conduct interviews with interested people and your stakeholders to ensure you understand the expectations for what you are trying to deliver.  For example, for an IT project, you could discuss expectations with managers about  usability and support. Ask them what they think is needed to deliver a successful project. You may think this is an obvious question, but some responses may give you a very different perspective on your stakeholders’ values, and also what isn’t important to them. Don’t underestimate the power of these interviews: they can help to align your perceptions of quality with those who have the major interest in what you do!
  4. Start with a template. There are lots of standard quality plans and templates out there – trying searching on the internet!  So you shouldn’t have to start with a blank sheet of paper. Use a good, robust template with options to pick and choose what might apply to your organization and project.
  5. Develop a consequence for each quality standard. For each standard you should identify what will happen if you don’t achieve it!  If the answer is not much, then it isn’t a real quality standard .  Don’t throw everything in – focus on what really counts.
  6. Review. Putting standards in place is a great way to ensure the quality of what you are delivering.  But you need to make sure they continue to be right!  Include a regular review.   Find whether or not they were used and what happened as a  result.  Revise and up date them as necessary to ensure they continue to  meet your organization’s needs.

Making Performance Meaningful with KPIs

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) help an organization define and measure progress toward organizational goals.

Do you have good KPIs defined?  Are they ones that reflect your organization’s goals, ones that you can measure and that you can use as a performance management tool?  Find out how to get them at Making Performance Meaningful


Some years ago I had a major change to manage and we needed to transform delivery of one group of services,    If the in-house team couldn’t improve performance, while reducing costs, they would be out-sourced!  The service lead had no experience of change management but she learned quickly and the whole exercise turned into a major and very public success.

At the end of it I gained a change manager and but I lost a very good service lead.  She was no longer interested in operational management and making incremental service improvements.  She wanted to do the big stuff – organizational change – and the world is short of people who can do that well!  Had she stayed, I thought she, and we, would have been frustrated!  She moved on to a sister organization very quickly and has done very well since!

Some outstandingly good change managers need the buzz of change around them!  And it is true that if they can’t find positive changes to make they may start “fixing” what doesn’t need to be fixed – negative change rather than positive – fine difference!

With the benefit of hindsight, I regret letting her go!  I know now that I could have found a better way to use her and she would have become an ever more valuable resource.  What can you do as a manger if you find yourself with someone like this on your team? You want to get the most from them, while still helping them to feel satisfied with what they are doing?

Is there something else for them to fix? Let them find it!

These kind of people (and I have to own up now, it does include me)  love the challenge of fixing  something!  Have you got something you think could be improved? Most of us have something!  Turn them loose on your organization  and ask for their recommendations.  It’s important though they understand you may not implement all their recommendations, but make sure they, and others, understand you are still interested in hearing what they have to propose!  But keep an eye on where they are! You may need to re-direct them to places they can make a difference before they waste time and energy on something that will leave them feeling frustrated.  Help them understand that their energy and insights are better applied in another area.

Make them justify

If they are interested in making a change  and you sense there is a potential benefit from their ideas, don’t just accept them off the cuff.  Make them package them, think them through to completion, and present them as coherent, well analyzed plans, rather than coffee napkin ideas.  What is the driving reason for the change and how does it fit in with your vision for the organization – is the time right? What are the costs and benefits really going to be?

Not only will you be helping them develop the skills of executing their ideas to completion  – something many rapid changers have an issue with!  But you are developing their abilities and potential for more senior management as they become a very valuable asset for your organsiation


People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.  Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. And that light is the light of Confidence!

Think about football – talent and hard work alone do not win games. To be a consistent winner a player must have a winning attitude. An attitude that will begin with and comes from self confidence – confidence that they and their teammates can get the job done.

For a team managing change that same self-confidence is required.  Here is a short check list to establish whether your team will have confidence to manage the change! .

Positivity –  Do you and your team think positively?  How does the team react to negativity?  What happens to pessimism in your team?  Does the team challenge negativity in themselves and in their fellow team members?  Do you have strategies for challenging negativity?   Everyone makes the odd mistake, so do not dwell on the negative. The key is to relax and manage the outcome. Fear of failure creates negative tension, but desire to excel and succeed creates positive reactions.

Clarity –  Are your team clear about the vision and the objectives of the change?  Do they have a picture in their head of the end state?  Have you painted that picture for them?  Do they believe in it?  Can they all state the vision and really mean it?  Can they focus on it?

Focus – Are you and your team clearly focused on the task ahead?  Do you know how to maintain focus?  How does the team deal with distractions – do they challenge each other? Concentration will always be better if you have prepared and planned

Preparation – Have you put the right team together? Are there enough team members and are they well prepared for the task?  Do they have the right balance of skills and experience?  What about the mix of personalities – do you have your completer-finisher as well as your resource investigator, plant etc etc?    Have they sufficient resources for the job?

Leadership Are you set up to lead them?  Have you done this before?  Do you have learning needs?  Do you have plan for meeting them?  Have you got a mentor – an experienced change manager to guide you – remember people feel flattered if you ask them to be a mentor.   How will you monitor positivity, clarity and focus in your team, as the project progresses?  Have you built relationships with you team to support this?  Do you know how you will reinforce confident behavior – a word from you will make a huge difference to their morale.

Remember as Henry Ford said  “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you are right.”  Have confidence and lead your team to success.


It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.  ~W. Edwards Deming

Change always comes bearing gifts.  ~Price Pritchett

They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.  ~Confucius

Nothing is more inevitable than change!  From the day we are born to the day we die, we and those about us,  change constantly!  Sometime this is slow and and subtle – from youth to middle age!  Sometimes its dramatic and quick – winning the lottery or a serious accident!  But most change is about adapting to the circumstances round us!

What is it about the present that brings us such a feeling of security? It certainly isn’t because we have a record of world peace, prosperity for all, crimeless streets, complete happiness, etc. If we look at the state of the world, and even of our own personal reality, one would think that change would be welcomed with open arms. So, what’s the issue?  Well we understand where we are now – at least we think we do!  Certainly we understand our immediate circumstances.  We know how to act – we know the dangers and we know where to find the good things.

With change comes uncertainly and risk!  We won’t know the rules anymore!  We don’t know where the monsters are!  We might lose the map to the good things!  But change can be wonderful – look at some of the positive things that have happened over the last few years from the Berlin Wall falling to the advances in technology that have made global inter-connectivity a reality!

What has has happened recently is that the speed of change has risen dramatically for us and everything about us!  Change is being fueled by a whole range of factors from technology to economics and politics.  These changes are bringing new demands for goods and service – but as new markets open, inevitably, some markets close.  If we are going to survive then we need then we need change competence in ourselves and in our organisations.  What is change competence?

For an individual it means the ability to scan the world around us, learn from it and adapt!  For an organization the competencies are similar but putting them into practice is more complex.

A business organization has mastered change when it can successfully and consistently perform on each of the eight dimensions of competence listed below:

  1. Knowing when to Change
    An organization with change competence stays tuned to the business environment and its own internal business situation.  It will constantly monitor the change around it and  identify the right time to begin its own change
  2. Keeping the Vision Fresh
    An organization that has mastered change will keep live a  Vision for a more successful future that relates to a detailed and valid business model that can be achieved with a high degree of confidence because of the organization’s track record of change.
  3. Planning and Resourcing the Vision
    An organization with a strong change competence will ensure that all the resources needed for the change are made available.   The change-competent organization will develop a change plan that will meet organizational needs while accommodating work needs of managers and employees.
  4. Engaging the Organization in the Vision
    An organization that has mastered change will work to engage all staff in the Vision,  The change-competent organization will describe the impending change and what is required to meet the organization’s success targets in sufficient detail to convince about the worth of the change.
  5. Enlisting the Organization in the Change Process
    An organization that has mastered change will sign up all those needed to make the Change on target, on time, and on budget.  The change-competent organization will make arrangements as needed to ensure that Change Work and existing work can both be accomplished without compromising the motivation of the workforce or service to customers.
  6. Changing the Operating Model
    A change-competent organization will change over to the new way of working with most of the performance bugs all worked through in advance of the change.  Recognize that there will be bugs – chase out what you can and contingency plan for others.  Warn your customers you are making the change but do your very best to make sure they don’t feel it!
  7. Stopping the Old Work
    An organization that has mastered change will stop doing work the old way and shut down those parts of the operation that are no longer in sync with the Vision.  The change-competent organization will not wait until evidence of old operations forces them to complete the shutdown of the old way of doing business.
  8. Refining New Work to the Needed Level
    A change-competent organization will work rapidly to refine their changed operations to reach the targeted and needed level of performance. The change-competent organization will not wait for customer or investor feedback to stimulate and motivate them to get it right!