Monday, 16 July 2007

NLP in Business and Process Management

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In my BPM and Process training classes and seminars I use a lot of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). As anyone who has ever been trained in NLP will tell you. You can't help it, once you learn the skills and your brain is wired with the techniques they come naturally. Of course the more you practice then the more natural they become.

I am often asked why, in a world where for some people NLP used to be seen as bad, that I talk openly about it and the techniques that I use. I usually explain that the aim of classes where I reach is to be able to coach others in learning how to make changes in people and processes. Not something that happens if a "magician" waves a magic wand and generates the wow factor, but instead something that happens after the trick as been performed by explaining how simple it was and letting people try it for themselves.

Now, this puts me at odds with other trainers I know, they, rather like the magicians want to use the techniques to create the wow factor and make themselves look good. Don't get me wrong, I like to look good to! but I don't feel that the techniques should be used just to impress people with clever use of language. Instead I think it is better for people to feel good in both knowing what is happening and how it can work for them as well.

My belief is that this also helps to dispel some of the myths that have grown up surrounding NLP.

So how does NLP relate to Process and to Business Change? Below I have listed just 5 of the things where there is an obvious overlap and in fact where NLP has a lot to give in terms of providing techniques for more successful analysis and design in process.

1.    Working with reality - The "Map is not the Territory" is talked about in process, but is actually a core fundamental of NLP, and one that is rarely fully or properly explained in process or analysis training.

2.    The As-is To-be Trap- NLP works on the concept of taking "Current State" and moving to "Future State", this is far more powerful and useful than the failed concepts of "As-is" and "To-be" still used in process and systems analysis. For me the concept of As-is leads to a blame culture. You start a project and someone takes out the As-is map from 2 years ago and immediately someone says, "well why are you not doing it this way" or "if we have a map the we don't need to do the As-is" again." In other words we start blaming people. The reality is that the map was created based on the perceptions of the time and the knowledge of the people that created the map then. Over time we get new information that was not available at the time or things change, so we need to start from where we are today – the "Current State" Think of the fields of science and medicine, how many of the things that were taught or drugs that were prescribed 100 years ago have changed today? So starting out with "well we used to…." Is not especially helpful. Instead it is better to start with where we are and what we know today.

3.    Change - In any business or process design project or program there is assumed to be a requirement to "Change", yet traditional techniques talk about changing others or the behavior of others. In NLP you learn to first change yourself, then you can assist others to change. You will learn that actually changing yourself may actually cause others to change without anyone even realizing.

4.    Communication – A key element in any analysis, design or change project, but how much do you really understand about the language you use and the effect that it has. The NLP meta-model provides a deep understanding of how to: Get at the information you need, change people' perceptions on any subject, and to be more persuasive in communicating with them.

5.    Modeling – A major premise of NLP is if you want to be the best, then you model the behavior of the best, and as you see through their eyes, hear through their ears and feel what they feel you will notice the little things help to make them good at what they do. Once you have done this you can bring back with you new incites to assist you and adopting some of their behaviour. This of course has been the holy grail of people looking at best practice for years, yet in NLP it has proven more effective over the past 30 years than any of the traditional approaches to analysis and design used in process or IT modeling.

Successful NLP is based upon experiential learning, the more we learn the more we experience, the more we experience the more we retain, the more we retain the more we learn. If you are not sure about this then just take a moment to think about the 5 points above.

Now, I don't know just how much these words have changed your thoughts, or how many of your own experiences you could think of when you were reading them. But, you will have thought of your own examples, where a change in behavior could have driven a new and more positive result, or maybe you could think of times when people we so busy arguing about the past that they forgot to look forward to the future, a future that looked much brighter. However, think about those things now and imagine that you are able to use language differently, to exude alternative behaviors and to act differently. As you do so, just a take a moment to reflect on how much better it feels when you replay these scenes with their new outcomes.

We are not together, we are only communicating across the ether, so I can't know just how much of a change has taken place inside you, but I do know that you are now party to by 2007 goal to get people to "Think Differently", for you see it does not matter how much you agree with me or my words, you are already thinking differently and that is all that I hope for, to give people the chance to be able to think differently and to have more choices over how they act in situations, the more choices we have then the more flexible and adaptable we can become. Which of course brings us full circle in why NLP is as good for business and process as it is for people – It provides us with choices that enable us to become more flexible and more adaptable, in other words it becomes a strategy for survival.

If you are not yet convinced about the differences it can make, then perhaps you might like to read some of the testimonials on my web site, here you will find the source of my greatest pride. Some testimonials from people who suggest that while they came to learn business process, they learned process and more importantly in some cases processes that they tell me have helped to change their lives, that to me is what teaching and coaching is really about. Helping people learn how to help themselves – and others.

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