Perks & Perils: Optimizing Internal and External Change Management, April 16th at 4 pm PST, for the Los Angeles ACMP conference. We have a chart we will use to show the strengths of external and internal along with the overlaps. I gave you some outside the panel insights for External Change Management Consultants last week. This week let’s look at “Internals”.
You see above I have highlighted our panelist “representing” the internal perspective- Ania Spzakowski. She has made a clear distinction, and opened my eyes while doing so, for our two roles. I am not going to steal any thunder other than to say I now see clearly how the two roles can work together and potentially be stronger than one plus one. That’s good because I have been sour on internal roles and the reasons for creating them (more to do with cost and control than successful outcomes). Another tidbit: Ania has had a chance to do a similar version of change in a different part of a huge organization and operated like an external. Interesting. Not a recipe for replacing externals with internals though. No organization is THAT big.
Here are things that internal change management consultants can do (sometimes solely, sometimes better than externals):
- Business Process
Internals get measured with the documentation trail they leave. They have a reason to be good at this (and the organization trains their behavior accordingly).
This alternately astounds, intrigues, puzzles and confuses me.
It seems with internals every change action they take is one to be looked back on and measured against. I often hear the refrain, “someone in the organization will probably do this again, we want to leave best practices and tools for them”. Fair on the surface, but no organization goes through the same change twice. And approaches that model change as the same process each time end up templated and simplistic.
I have had a few engagements where the client insisted on the approach they had been sold (either by a salesperson or through internal organic influence). “Sold” approaches are often very templated and documentation heavy. Practicing change in those scenarios is as simple as filling out the forms, right?
The smart internals have created a base level of templates and tools to make change communications and interaction recognizable and different from normal. They use that documentation to get things done.
If I am a representation of external it is easy to say internals are better at this paper trail.
This paper trail, as I mentioned, is “important”. Internals know how to make it more important. For this I personally love working with an internal resource. (Because I get the internal organizational connection).
Communication is a little like documentation. Knowing the avenues and having a quick form to fill out crosses off some of those things that are essential for change, but time-consuming (and arguably not that effective). Certain kinds of regular communication fall into this category. While an external may want to go out and connect to get things to happen and internal wants to make sure everyone knows what’s going on.
So they communicate that information.
They are usually good at communicating just above the radar of rules. They are making tiny pushes to the big ship of change with each of those individual communications.
Honestly externals rarely have that kind of patience. (Patience should be a category for internal positives).
This is where internals shine.
They often have come from a training (rather than a consulting) background so this was, and is, one of their strongest competencies. They also are often subject matter experts for something which makes them perfect to train that thing.
And they know the organizations guts and how to maneuver through the logistics of getting people to create training, getting the training to happen and getting the right people to show up. Every change has training as a component. Every change initiative should have an internal connected to this piece.
At a tactical level (swim lanes and Visio diagrams) internals are great at diagnosing business processes and then figuring out how to tweak them.
This category is a squishy one because externals are good at going in and out of business process to see bigger pictures. Most business processes are connected to others. Remove or tweak a piece here and something collapses there.
It is not that internals can’t see that big picture; it is that the organization does not like to let them do so.
There are a lot of power levers in that larger view. (Hint for the panel discussion: there appears to be agreement on externals ability to leverage power).
Is high level tactics.
My generic distinction between internal and external is that internals are best at tactics, externals at strategy (yes that is a very broad stroke).
Some of the internals I have worked with that are exceedingly impressive, are so because of their ability to manage the logistics of the whole change equation. They are almost like project managers. And, in fact, many organizations seem to think it is somehow good to be project and change management certified in the same person. (Outside those organizations that is considered a little schizophrenic).
Internals are most impressive when change initiatives get to the inevitable extension of the end state date. For IT that might be a Go-Live, for a cultural initiative it might be the period where the project team will roll off or the money spigot is set up to end. Get the steering committee together, agree to the new date and internals are scrambling to rebuild the fallen house of cards. The externals? Are scratching their heads confused at the inevitability of these situations. (They wait a little before helping to set the cards back up knowing that the whole change environment has now gotten MUCH more difficult). (Think waiting a bit while catching your breath climbing a sand dune. Wait long enough and a dust storm may just build that mound up bigger than it was when you started).