Making change happen for people and organisations.

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What’s in a name?

I’m often asked about my company name.  Firstly, how do you spell Feldspar and secondly, what does it mean?  Why did I choose it?

Well, I love moonstones and jewellery and so hit upon ‘Feldspar’ as my company name which is the geological term for the group of minerals that moonstones belong to.

However, I recently decided to investigate the properties of feldspar further to see if the name had further meaning to my business.  Feldspars are the most commonly occurring minerals in the earth’s crust and are used in glassmaking and ceramics.  All very interesting.  But I was also interested in other properties.

clear glass figurines

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I discovered that feldspar is often seen to be the stone of new beginnings as the colour of the stones are reminiscent of the night sky, with darkness giving way to light.  It is also the stone of reflection, used in self observation, improvement and growth, inspiring passion and creativity.

What could be a more perfect name for my business which is focussed on enabling people and organisations to achieve change.

I’m always interested in stories and I’ve always been able to tell a story about my business name, which I hope is memorable.  But now I can tell an even more interesting story about the way in which my company name reflects the way that I want to work with my clients.  Encouraging new beginnings and growth.  Inspiring creativity and energy.  And bringing light during dark times.


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Deep thought: why is it hard to find the time and space to think?

analysis blackboard board bubble

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The chess fans reading this will know that Deep Thought was a computer developed to play chess against the best (human) chess players in the world.  The science fiction fans among us will know that Deep Thought was named after the computer with the same name from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy which came up with the answer to life, the universe and everything.  Two computers which were excellent at thinking deeply.  If only I could do the same….

I sometimes struggle to find the time to think deeply about things.  These ‘things’ could be spending time reflecting on my work, coming up with new and creative ideas and even focussing on my own development.  And that is a problem.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this.  It has been claimed that our attention spans have been reduced through a diet of social media, on demand television and political discourse reduced to the length of a tweet.  However, much of this research has now been questioned (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38896790).  It’s not that our attention spans have been reduced, it’s just that there is so much information around, we have become better at filtering out the dross and focussing on what we find important and/or interesting https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/321266.  After all, as the article states, we have no problem binge watching Netflix, but we might struggle to sit at our desks long enough to develop a business plan.

So, it seems that in order to focus on something, we have to make it interesting enough for us to devote ourselves to.  And, we also need to give ourselves the time and space to do it, which of course can also be difficult.

A study at Stanford University found a link between walking and increased creativity      (https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xlm-a0036577.pdf) and I would certainly agree that going for a walk clears the head and gives me the time and space to think (as long as I don’t have to keep an eye on what my dog is doing!).  I also find going for a swim is a great opportunity to wrestle with ideas and solve problems.

Using a daily journal to plan out my day helps keep me focussed and ensure that I find the time to everything that I need and want to do.  As long as I don’t give myself a huge ‘to do’ list as experience has shown me that that is counter productive.

I’m interested though in what other people do.  What are your strategies for giving yourself time to think?




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The individual journey of change

red and green tree leaves on a sunny day

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I am currently writing up my PhD which focuses on how organisations manage change.  Well, there is more to it than that but it takes a while to explain!  Anyway, I was reflecting the other day on the key themes that have come out of my research so far and once I had started writing them, I thought that they might also be interesting to a broader audience.

In the organisation that I am studying, the corporate culture and values (it is a mutual insurance organisation) are seen as really important to employees and something that resonates strongly with their own personal values.  This has come out really strongly with all the participants in my study and is something that they are anxious to save during the current period of change.  Whilst there is recognition amongst them that the organisation needs to modernise, there is real fear that the organisation will change too much and lose something important from the past.  Fair enough you might say!

But, when I have tried to delve deeper into how this culture and values manifests itself in everyday life; what actually happens in the organisation to show that this is ‘the way things are done around here’; I have been unable to find any answers, despite my best efforts.  Something just seems to happen to people once they join, and they feel part of the organisation and identify strongly with it.  There are no formal induction programmes or communication of the culture or values to reinforce them, it seems to happen by osmosis.

This got me thinking about all the change programmes that I have been involved with as a consultant and made me realise that as consultants, we talk a lot about creating a new corporate culture, how to communicate it so that employees understand it but very little about maintaining the bits of the organisation that are important to employees during and after a period of change.  And, I would guess, these aspects of the organisation are probably important to customers too.

Additionally, if we are not able to define how the culture and values are maintained in the organisation on a day to day basis, then how can we keep this culture going through a period of change?  How can we allay the fears of employees that all the good bits of their organisation are going to be lost?  I’m not sure I have the answers to this one yet but perhaps it will become clearer to me as I continue to write my thesis.  Watch this space!

The other thing that occurred to me was how the perceptions of the participants have changed through my work with them over the last 12 months.  When I first started working with them in action research groups, they were negative about employees who had been in the organisation for a while and were seen as being disruptive to even minor changes to current ways of working.  These ‘old guard employees’ were seen as too negative and dissatisfied and the participants couldn’t understand how they could be so negative about an organisation that they themselves loved.  These other employees were even described as ‘organisational terrorists’!  Fast forward 12 months and now the participants are complaining about ‘new people’ who have been brought in to drive forward change and how these new people don’t respect the history of the organisation!

This struck me as really interesting and something for me to bear in mind in future consultancy assignments.  I’ve previously used the change curve to talk to clients about how people move through a change programme but I hadn’t really considered that people move through a lifecycle in terms of their temporal relationship with their employer, i.e. who is new? who is old guard?  And that this can be different in different organisations.  In my research organisation, long service is not unusual and so someone can be considered to be ‘new’ even if they have been with the organisation for 5 years.  When I worked for one of the Big 4 consultancy firms, my 10 year tenure made me positively prehistoric.

So, what am I going to take away from this experience so far?  Well, I’m hoping that more insights will emerge as I continue my writing but so far, I have learnt that:

  • It can be really difficult to pin down how an organisation culture or values are created but if they are something that employees identify strongly with and if they are positive to the organisation, then efforts need to be made to maintain them during change…even if they are difficult to define.  Efforts should be made to communicate with employees during change to understand what elements of the organisation they identify with and how this can be maintained.
  • Employees can change their perception of their place in the organisation during a period of change and so can switch from being a ‘newbie’ who supports change, to an ‘oldie’ who fears it.  In a short space of time.  So, as a consultant, I need to be mindful of that in my dealings with them.  And also, be mindful of my place as a newcomer to the organisation.

I always knew that change was a journey but my research so far has surprised me with some of the outcomes.  I’m sure that there is more to come.


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The lost art of conversation

two man and two woman standing on green grass field

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Whilst talking to my primary school aged daughter about friendships this morning, we started talking about how best to resolve arguments between friends. I said that the best way to resolve an argument is to simply talk to the other person. My daughter immediately replied “Oh no, I couldn’t do that!”.

It got me thinking about how not talking to other people is at the root of so many issues within the workplace and that as an independent HR professional, the first question that I usually ask my clients when they approach me about a difficult employee, a performance issue or some other thorny HR problem is “Have you talked to the employee about this?” And their response is usually the same as my daughter’s!

I often joke that if managers talked to employees about issues at work, I would be out of a job but I do think that we in the HR profession have a responsibility to give our line managers skills in the lost art of conversation. I usually advise managers to talk to employees about issues straight away rather than leaving them to fester (which only makes things worse). Also, it is best to consider how you would like to be treated in a similar situation and make sure that you apply the same approach to the discussion. For example, having these conversations in private, being clear about what you need to say and treating the employee as a grown up. And then it is just a question of getting on with it. The thought of having the conversation is often worse than actually doing it.

Imagine how great it would be if everyone felt more confident in their skills to do this. And how much HR time would be saved and could be focused on activities that really add value to the organisation.