How Apples, mRNA, Church Spires And Active Listening Can Help You Run Painless Transformation Programmes

Today I am writing to you from sunny Avignon.
Today’s topic? Key considerations for running painless transformation programmes:

– Leadership and direction, communication, selection and avoiding assumptions.
– Leadership & Direction – or why is the church spire always the highest point in the village?
– Communication – same, same but different
– On Selection – of Android and Apples
– Avoiding Assumption – the lure of the hive mind

Running painless, global transformation programmes is both an art and a science. As a baseline, you need to have adequate resources, good planning, sufficient time to deliver and realistic expectations. Once those things are in place, however you also need to keep the following in mind.

Leadership & Direction: Or Yes, you know where you are going. But does everyone else?
When I ran my first project many years ago I would sometimes bound ahead with such enthusiasm that I would lose the team. My manager said “Isabelle, do you know why the church spire is always the highest point in a village?” I said “No” and she said “It’s so people can always orient themselves”.

Remember, when running projects, it is important that you give all your stakeholders frequent reminders of where you are going, why you are going there and how you are getting there. You can do everything else right, but if you don’t make sure you are aligned on direction, you can’t succeed.

Communication: or same, same but different
When I was travelling in China, I would sometimes see an item at a market. I’d ask if they had my size. They would bring me a completely different item and say “same, same but different”. When talking to your teams about your project goals make sure you mean the same thing when you agree an activity. Be clear. Check back frequently. Different interpretations are frequent when working across cultures and in a multi-lingual setting.

Selection: of Apples and Android
I have needed a new phone for a long time. I interviewed all my IT friends. Unanimously they recommended an iPhone. I had reservations. My friends said it would be easy. It is, but not when you transition from android to iPhone. My IT friends couldn’t help, my IT provider couldn’t help and then he went on holiday. I spent an afternoon following YouTube videos hoping I could sort it out. Now I just carry two phones. When my IT provider comes back I will ask him to fix it.

When considering new tech, be sure you have taken all variables into account. The systems you will be running it on. The support structure of your provider. The longevity of the provider. Make a list of your requirements, technical, functional, flexibility, support, language, content management solutions etc. Make sure you get answers to all your questions. And don’t decide under pressure. And never believe anyone who says it will be easy.

Avoiding assumption – or the lure of the hive mind
When working with highly trained individuals, who like us, are scientists, or when engaging with HCP customers, it is tempting to assume a common level of knowledge. It is easy to assume, that others share our position on things. Like the risk/benefit profile of mRNA vaccines, for example. This is risky. Based on my experience I am willing to bet, that if you assessed HCPs inquiries to medical information teams on mRNA vaccines, and compared that data to data gathered from direct interviews, asking them how confident they are that they understand the technology, you would get very different results. Which HCP will readily admit ignorance to a lay, market-research interviewer? Likewise, your team members, may not readily share their misgivings, or concerns, with you, if you as the project leader, or business owner, make it clear you assume they share your enthusiasm or your opinion.

The only way to ensure you understand someone’s position, is to ask, without judgement. If you assume your teams are on board with a change. And you don’t welcome a conversation. You risk driving critical comments underground. Then you can’t have constructive conversations to navigate the difference. Whether voiced, or unvoiced, however, those opinions, will impact your project.

Wishing you a wonderful September. If you are running a global transformation project and want to have an informal discussion. Or if you are considering your next career step, and would like to discuss executive coaching, feel free to contact me to discuss how and if I can support you.

Photo by Dorian Mongel on Unsplash