Frameworks And Their Ability To Empower

When you don’t get this right what you’ll find is people are feeling a little bit confused. They are unable to follow your direction and they may even be actively sabotaging your projects. But when you do get this right, it’s fantastic because you empower others and you don’t have to do everything yourself. I’m talking about having frameworks.

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What do I actually mean by a framework?

Frameworks are a series of methods, processes and procedures, standards and policies that outline the way you work.  Frameworks give you the ability to achieve a documentable process and outcome that’s repeatable. This replicability means other people can take on what you’re doing.  You can leverage their expertise and their talents in a very structured way.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to leverage your team/s to deliver something of your own high quality?  Because at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be the one that’s doing all the early mornings and all the late nights.  Ask me about how I know about that!

Some other consultants will say that when you go with frameworks, you have to get a standardised one,  They say it has to be approved by the ISO community.  They say you should take one from something that’s being done before and there’s no point in coming up with something yourself.  But the reality is – one framework does not fit all. In most cases you have to tailor frameworks to make sure they work in the right way. Every industry is different.  Every company is different.  The reality is, even if you tried to use a standard framework, you have to put a lot of yourself into it anyway.

The other thing I find happens is people tend to make frameworks overcomplicated. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a framework which has maybe 10, 20, 30, 40 steps.  And that’s just at the top level.  Well, that just becomes overwhelming to most people. In fact, some of the frameworks I have had to work with are over 2,000 pages long.  How is that meant to work for people? How is it possible to remember all those elements?

How Long Should A Framework Be?

There were a lot of studies done back in the sixties and seventies around what the human mind can actually remember. They came up with some figures of between five and nine items.  That’s it.  The normal amount of content that someone can actually keep in their mind at one time.

For me, the magic number is seven. Seven things that you can keep in your short-term memory. Here’s the thing, if you can actually make your framework have no more than seven to nine steps at the top level, then you’ll find that people are able to understand it.  When they get to step number seven they can still remember what was involved in step number one.

If you’ve got maybe twelve or thirteen steps, by the time they’re at number ten they have forgotten what the first step was.  And then you’ve defeated what you’re trying to do in the first place -which is to make things simpler.

That doesn’t mean though that you’re going to get away with just doing things at a very high level. Your framework also has to have depth. It has to tell people exactly what you need them to do.  They have to be able to do things to the same quality that you do or hopefully even better!

Now, this reminds me of a time back in 2007 when we started doing a £1 billion pound hospital divestment. It was the biggest piece of work the company had done. You would have found me at eight o’clock at night still working on some of the due diligence processes.  I was trying to work out how to transition from where they were to where they want to be with technology. This wasn’t uncommon.  I think I was there at eight in the morning and at eight at night most days.  In fact, you’d probably find me there at six am and 10 pm, if you were daft enough to be there as well.  Because at that point in time, I hadn’t really understood the power of a good framework.

You see, I hadn’t appreciated how you can create a framework that makes things happen.  I just thought that other people didn’t want to do it.  Actually, they just didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I heard them asking, “How can we help you, Martin?”. “How can we relieve some of the struggles?. We want to be able to make sure we get the best thing for our client, we’re really invested in this project.” And others were saying, “Why can’t you just tell us exactly what is it that you need us to do?”. “Why can’t you just take us through that process?”.

The reality was, I was too busy trying to ‘do the do’ to actually take myself out of it for enough time to create a framework.  Or I thought I was.  Until I made the time and created the first version of what we called ‘Strat-o-matic’.  This framework worked on the understanding of what the chain was between the vision and the mission of the organisation. It covered how we built up all the objectives, the goals and the drivers through to action based requirements and it evolved into something that actually worked.

That was a great success for me and I learned a lot of things off the back of it and one of the most important of which was the power of the framework. To be able to put things into a system, that can give somebody else the ability to be able to deliver.  It gives them the key steps that they need to do, and it empowers them to work to move forward. Without you having to oversee every single thing.

So, I’m going to challenge you – are you going to analyse how you do your work and procedurise it so that it can be repeatable? Are you going to spend that extra bit of time to empower others so that they can learn, they can develop, and they can help you in delivering things so you don’t have to do all yourself? Are you just going to be the one that does all of the early mornings and all the late nights?

This reminds me of a quote, ‘The beauty of empowering others is that your power is not diminished.’