Circles of Meaning

Once in a while, I like participating in the “Weekly Photo Challenge” over at The Daily Post. A new meme comes out each Friday and I think about the proposed topic. I wonder what I could say about it and what my readers will be interested in as well. This week, Cheri asks us to let a shape, a circle, inspire us.

Circles Change Management Business TimeI took this picture at the James J. Hill Business Library because it had a certain old world charm that grabbed my attention. I like the concept of time as it relates to the evolution of knowledge throughout the ages.

Circles have been used metaphorically since the beginning of history. In many cultures, they represent unity, enlightenment, divinity and protection. At first glance, a circle can seem simple, yet they are one of the most common and universal signs used throughout history of the world.

Circles have symbolic use in divinity: For example, with Taoism the Yin Yang image embodies two forces in the universe that are opposites that balance one another. Hinduism uses the Dharma Chakra to represent the wheel of law that leads to enlightenment. Artists have used halos in Christianity and Buddhism to symbolize light and holiness. Paganism circles exemplified supernatural forces, and in ancient times Celtics stood inside of circles for protection.

Circles are symbols of inclusiveness, wholeness and eternity because the continuous line characterizes something with no beginning and no end.  They also represent completion or “coming full circle,” as in starting where one began. Circles often remind us about the cycles of life, years, seasons, days, minutes, hours and of course, TIME.

In business we use circles in many ways. In meetings, we sit in circles, in flow charts, circles show beginning or ending of processes, we move in cycles from centralizing to decentralizing something away from or to something else. We also assume many things in business happen in linear patterns, which is not the case. A circle could be a way to make the case for this.

In change management, we can think about circles as cycles of behavior. We evaluate and measure individual change differently than organizational change because successful organizational change happens when individuals deliver and sustain the new behavior.  Our focus is to change old ways of thinking by providing various levels of coaching guides and tools for leadership, Circles of Concern Influence Change Controlstakeholder and sponsors during different stages of projects.

We provide assessments to mitigate resistance to change because we understand that behaviors happen in cycles or patterns. One example of many, might be to leverage Steven Covey’s “Circles of Influence” model (where appropriate) for conversation about what we control, influence and have concerns about.

When we integrate change management with project management, studies have proven it leads to higher levels of success such as increased in adoption rates and sustaining of new behaviors.

Are there other ways you see circles used as symbols in business, project and change management? I’m looking forward to having you join the conversation.

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Project Initiation and Stakeholders

Just to find something new - State of MindProject initiation is the first step in the project management process.  It is where we have to figure out who the key players will be on our team and how we are going to define the scope of the project. This is where we do a stakeholder analysis. A sample template of a stakeholder analysis can be found at the Project Management Institute website.

I’d like to compare the stakeholder analysis to the game of chess. It is very strategic in nature, but in order to learn how to play, one has to know how to identify the difference between the rooks, king, queen, bishops and pawns. Players need to know how to move around within the 64 squares of the board. In project management doing a stakeholder analysis is sort of like learning a chess game because a good project manager learns who the customers are and what resources are available, because resources will always be limited, so who you know and how you build relationships will matter.

Not all stakeholders have the same reason for participating in a project so it is important to understand why they are there and what motivates them. Having that knowledge will be helpful for figuring out how to manage them.  Looking for people with the right attitude will matter. For example, is there a way to know where they fall in the Meyers-Briggs scale or other tools to identify social styles? What are the social ‘norms’ of the organization? How do people communicate and interact? Some prefer face to face meetings, others email or voicemail. Keep track of this because it can be an important factor. Our expertise doesn’t have to be what we do for our job. It is about what the culture wants. Give rewards, find what people are doing right and they will do more.

Good questions to ask around the stakeholder analysis:

  1. Who are the stakeholders and how can we help them understand what is in it for them?
  2. How do they want to receive communication?
  3. Do stakeholders understand their roles in the project?
  4. Where do they fall in organizational hierarchy?
  5. What happens to the project if a stakeholder gets overlooked?
  6. Can anything be done to avoid missing stakeholders in the future?