This is a LinkedIn answer of mine in the Change Consulting Group. The question was about starting change/a change group.
Done effectively a change entity is a mix.
Externals can bring a different set of eyes with a wider and more reasoned perspective (internal politics and performance management seriously effect perspective… and maybe reason at times).
Internal know their organization and have working relationships. They know how to get around the symptoms of their own root causes.
Externals are best guiding (outsourcing in this context is a scary word even though I mostly agree with Bud). Internals are best owning.
For your 800 people Trevor you would do fine with just one external with lots of separate talents (training, communications, behavioral change management and some business and technical experience).
Bigger or growing organizations can then scale in more externals, build the capability of more internals and create an entity that morphs with the amount of change in the organization.
For Change Groups: The short version is don’t do this solely internally or fully outsourced.
Also be very careful of owning this in the wrong way as an internal. The politics of ownership of change management (rather than owning the end state of the change) makes for a mess much worse than before the change group started.
Big change around the corner?
Thinking of setting up some kind of group to organize and consolidate your change work?
The end of that thought about the change group thing is where you need to pause.
Do this wrong and I guarantee you will reinforce your current problems and stroll along with them into your future.
Enough organizations have gone before you to illustrate what works and what does not.
Change Entity is For?
Most change management tends to jump quickly to the to-do list (and so it fails in some way).
Most organizations that want to set up a change group follow the same process (and so the groups are busy hives of the same status quo).
Ask, and answer, why you want this group. (And you thought gathering “best practices” was the first step).
I will change a word to help you- group becomes “entity”. Change Entities are different.
If your organization is about to go through genuine transformation (transformation is an overused word sometimes used disingenuously) a change entity might make sense. In this case the entity needs to be autonomous, it has to be connected as a partnership to the CEO/Top Leader and it has to have leverage and visibility.
For the really big stuff it absolutely HAS to have early outside influence. We just do not see the future from our own present without help.
“Why” in this case is to craft, guide and build toward a brand new future.
Does your organization come up with plans and then pass them off to someone or some function to “implement”? Is that really working for you? Could you make a list of how that is not working?
A Change Entity placed high enough, with enough autonomy, can knit together strategy and work. One well designed (outside influence set up correctly will help here too) can even help to craft smart strategy. If not crafting then planting the seeds for smart ideas.
Implement was in quotes earlier. Integrate and implement have a different feel and a different meaning. Implementation ends, integration continues. As you are thinking through this change entity thing keep in mind times when continuation makes sense and times when beginnings and endings need to be clear.
Are you short of competencies?
Is half of your stakeholder base contracted?
Is the reason it is tough for your organization to change because the resource loading takes so long (and never really fills needs)?
You can create a change entity that pays attention to old fashioned OD. Use projects, programs and initiatives as the forums to build skill and competencies. A change group can pay attention to who those externals are and how that knowledge and capability is being transferred to internal resources.
Improve Project Process
This is the most common reason Change Functions (a purposeful change of our word) are created.
The project teams are not doing their job.
STOP again. It is likely not their fault, but a combination of many things, that is making projects “fail”.
A well constructed change entity that knows CM is very different from project management, can help address the people equation, the project process itself and the ties to strategy and competency building.
Has to be said- do this on your own and things will get MUCH, MUCH worse. This is a scenario where a trusted adviser is your best bet. That and some dedicated, talented internal leaders.
This is the most common kind of change group with a long list of “should not have done’s”. The amazing thing about these groups is that they do not see the damage they are doing. They often have motivators beyond actually getting change to happen…
Maybe you just want to make the future arrive smoothly?
Maybe you are a young organization that will most likely change soon, but you are not sure when or what that might be?
Maybe you want to build capability and capacity?
A change group calmly designed and put together before that fact (the fact being inevitable change) gets your organization ready with all the tools, processes and a few good people, to tackle that upcoming change.
That entity can morph and grow when the change arrives. In the mean time it can also help facilitate our other categories of project process and strategy integration. If you truly are small all that is close together now- manageable.
Are you thinking of a Change Entity for your organization? First ask for what. Good answers might be: true transformational change, strategic integration, organizational development, improving your project process or smartly preparing for your organizational future.
I coach soccer.
A parent volunteered to create a website with Shutterfly (quite the smart marketing idea for a photo company to provide this service for free). Looking at the preloaded site I realize most of the things I am keeping track of as a coach are there (the parent loaded what I gave him). But not everything. As the coach I have information that should not be shared (or at least have levels of security)…
For a previous post, “Change Management What to Keep Track of”, I looked at what might go in a CM spreadsheet.
Now I am wondering about the spreadsheet itself.
This is why: My information will always have to be entered twice.
In the soccer scenario when a parent adds vacation time I can choose to also put it in my spreadsheet. If a parent gives me vacation information, and I want that available for the team, it has to be recorded twice.
The same thing happens on engagements. I have had this double entry scenario when making lists of competencies. It is helpful for stakeholders to know who the experts are. That talent recording will always be in my CM spreadsheet.
Reactions to This
- If websites (for organizations usually SharePoint) can sort then what is the point of the separate spreadsheet?
- If the practice was to make most things public then the whole issue of recording to show you have done something goes out the window (and you get others to do the tactical work).
- CM processes will/would have to change if information is really “web based”. Do we store the things we look at but don’t want others to see separately, or just keep that information in our heads? (I always have a file that looks a little like the red, green, yellow process I pick on to keep my own notes on individual and group stakeholder motivation).
- What would be the reason for having a public forum? (In the case of the soccer team it could be as a place to share all of the information that might otherwise fly around in emails. The same could be said for the organizational version).
- If you build it will they come? (hint the answer is not so much).
A portal could replace spreadsheets (or another type of file) or it could be twice the amount of work for the change team. Where is the balance between transparency/information and secure storage/note taking? Thinking this through with soccer as a comparison has me wondering about some assumptions we are making about change management’s engagement process and exchange of data.
A site has started in England that might be fun to watch.
Their preamble, and a great post title on Business Week “Clever People vs. Dumb Organizations”, caught my eye.
It is meant to be a forum where people (my words now) can call out the “dumb” thereby reaffirming inequity and, we hope the site creators are going in this direction, do something to make organizations a little smarter. Smarter organizations, by association, will support full potential.
The purpose of this site is to create a virtual place where people frustrated by “Dumb Organisations” (Organizations if you are American) can investigate different views as to why clever people seem to produce organisations that most employees view as underperforming their potential.
This is so true.
Dumb organizations absolutely get in the way of performance, ability to utilize competency and, you have to think, profit.
Let’s go after those dumb organizations and make things better, right and smart!
Before you go storming the castle of dumb consider this: dumb is the symptom.
What you need to look for, to get improvement (always… why is this so hard to comprehend for change?) is root causes. Don’t ask why the dumb came about, don’t analyze the current environment of “dumb”, don’t dwell on all the ramifications of organizational dumbness.
Figure out what is causing this!
Did I say “what”? I meant who or whom .
Still chasing them would, at this point in the dumb cycle, be following symptoms. Those people or persons are now playing in the world of dumb.
Dumb Root Causes
If some (most?) organizations are dumb, I am guessing we can agree on that generalization, then why?
The resources (compensation) that organizations can give to employees are finite. If you were to graph that money out, especially here in the US, you would see a pyramid. I have created a visual representation for you:
Behind every organization’s dumb is a clever person(s).
Let’s face it business is all about hoarding at the top. Start a business you will know what I mean (as clever as you are).
The dumb is created to protect resources.
Protection of resources also equals power. When you have more money than you need there has to be some kind of incentive bonus, right?
This may not be the correct word to use, but since almost all organizations go from the big cheese pyramid to locked-in-structural-dumb it might fit. The pyramid starts early in the organizations history. The structural elements that reinforce it build as the organizations grows. Think of all the things that we assume have to be present in big organizations- governance, performance management systems, hierarchy, acronym titles, steps for pay, etc. These are all Group think. Yes, there ARE organizations that do not have one, two or more of these things (although in fairness those companies probably have informal hidden versions).
Somehow we have all become dumb by having let this happen.
The people who create this are clever and the people who buy into it… my kids would be calling me out for using that “D” word over and over.
So now we need clever people to overcome the dumb?
(Snicker: hey this is what change management practitioners do- the real ones anyway, the others help to reinforce the dumb…the pay is more consistent there).
What will probably not work is to pursue the symptoms of dumb, chase down all the comments this website will produce, thinking that will somehow change things.
Most organizations need some serious transformation to change dumb to smart in order to fully utilize (and fulfill) the competencies of their employees.
This is a Monday morning, “Really?”, post.
Read this McKinsey article, “Managing the People Side of Risk”.
Tip: never start with or ignore assumptions. That is how change fails.
The title itself reveals the underlying assumption.
First who am I to take on the bulk and spread that is McKinsey?
Far enough into my career with enough real experience (that partners in those big firms often DO not have what with their percentage time spent hustling business) to have the credibility to be discerning? I hope that is the case…
Having read quite a few of these McKinsey posts I see it is obvious they have created a huge business around mostly catering to clients wants (vs. the kind of needs independent consultants see) and hopped up versions of status quo. This seems strange for a firm that is known for strategy. They tend to reinforce the very things that are getting in the way of their clients change.
To me, from their posts and the trail they have left at a few of my clients, they seem like a TACTICAL firm rather than strategic.
Could it be big firms and big organizations have lost the meaning of strategy?
Start with the title (which was meant to draw people in by catering to their perspective of change). So people are a risk? We are going to automatically assume that? Really?
Not the underlying structure?
Not processes within?
Not the way people are rewarded?
Not how work gets done?
Not how reporting works (both hierarchy and keeping track of things)?
I snicker. They assume two sides to risk. What is the other side? Business? If business gets a side why not structure for the other? Both happen through people.
As I speed read these things (it bugs me too much to slowly read the group think) notes pop into my head. Here is the list from this article:
- Governance is a prevention for this “people risk” thing. Really? And nothing ever gets through prison walls…
- Risks must move UP (?) the chain of command. Oh come on really? Which makes yet another wall that protects senior leaders from accountability.
- The risk culture must be determined and then change is built around that? Really? Create it and they will follow? No mention of understanding what that culture would be so that they can then determine controls, just discussion of what the risk approach should be. See… TACTICS.
I could go on with the discernment (it is always easy when change approaches start with big, false assumptions), but let’s spin to positive.
“The best cultures actively seek information about and insight into risk by making it everyone’s responsibility to flag potential issues.”
quote from the McKinsey article that I am willing to back fully
This quote makes sense. Yes monitoring risk is smart. The more that monitor it the better. We are assuming “everyone” includes the highest leaders, right? (See what I mean? Go with that assumption and your change may be in serious trouble- best to monitor a little).
The authors do acknowledge there can be too much and too little risk management. And they do insert some good examples. Their final paragraph would have been a great start- with a different title.
This McKinsey article while containing some good examples and overall suggestions is itself a good example of how change management can start off on the wrong foot . It is a mirror for the thinking behind some change approaches. Start with an assumption and then mold your model around that. What if the assumption is wrong?
What should go into this empty space?
Lot’s of time gets wasted in organizations keeping track of things that do not need to be kept track of.
Measurement can be a good or horrible thing.
Records the same.
When it comes to change management what is helpful to put in all those little (but expandable) cells?
If you want to remain pure to this software the answer would be numbers that you will crunch and/or things that need to be quickly sorted.
For the first it might be:
- percentages from surveys
- size of groups (number of people in groups can be a helpful figure for change)
- possibly a budget (but that should really be the project managers spreadsheet)
For the second (sorting):
- Maybe a stakeholder list
- A list of communications
- Important dates
- Regularly scheduled events
- Events specific to this change
- Media used in the organization
Are you keeping track of things for yourself and team or recording for later use?
I find this question not asked. Which means the secondary question, why? is definitely not asked. There are so many times with junior practitioners that I want to scream out, “do you realize you are only using half of that stuff you are recording?”. To be fair it is probably someone else I need to be screaming at- the practitioner is the symptom filler not the root cause problem.
The things that are regularly kept track of are big time wasters (read expensive):
A stakeholder list: I have only had two engagements where I had access to a good list. Every other request has been nixed by HR so we literally guess from existing records and spreadsheets. Guessing means most of the important information is missing. That means the change management itself is subjective (read guesswork).
Red, green, yellow columns: is that for yourself or recording? You do realize that people will see the yourself version (and be able to read into your subjectivity things that do not exist in your mind). Is it for recording? Same thing only in this case they will be able to look back on your subjectivity. One can only hope that they see how little objectively was used so there is improvement from your recording effort.
All the contact information: This is the stakeholder list on steroids. Is there an organization that doesn’t have a directory. Why are people duplicating that?
Everything that leaves blank columns. The only thing worse than blank columns that never get filled is a spreadsheet with hundreds of repeating duplicate fill ins. Without the duplication you can’t sort, but it makes the spreadsheet an ugly monstrosity. (When I know my spreadsheet is for my or my teams use with little sorting we assume a blank space is the cell above repeating the same information).
What I have never seen kept track of
(except on my own tools by me)
Huge initiatives will have titles and specialties, but they often have little to do with the change. They represent the present for that organization. What about the end state? What about the journey? There have to be things, people, specialties that need to be filled in or built. Do practitioners and organizations needing to change just not think that way? If so then things like competencies DO need to be recorded, if only to be thinking in the right direction.
Notes on stakeholder comments
Valuable information surfaces early on if you do a real assessment connected to the change. Stakeholders give feedback that can save time, help craft end states and make a connection between their talent and the end state or journey. That should be recorded. And rewarded later.
Notes that show communication loops
I keep track of specific things that I have relayed in both directions, to leaders and stakeholders, in order to see patterns in the way things are interpreted. I said things, sometimes it is people. Does an effective loop exist? Is it getting strengthened through my mediation? Is either side learning from the other? Most of the communication loops in organizations are controlled by a vetting process where leaders look at some presentation and give a thumbs up or down. Not the best way to understand each other or work together toward change. (It definitely does not change the LEADERS behavior).
A list of things to tie back success
No not “best practices”, but specific things that pulled the change forward. Maybe a leader made a bold decision. Maybe a stakeholders comment or tip was integrated into something. Maybe someone was willing to call out the difficulty of their own behavior change to speed that of someone else. These events, things, need to be called out, rewarded and recorded to show examples of specifics that pull change.
If you have done any change and have any leftover filled in tools look back at them. Ask yourself how the information in the cells is REALLY connected to the change your were seeking. Or is it just stuff that needed to be put down to show you were doing something?
So you have a change group set up in your organization.
Things, maybe, aren’t quite going the way you expected.
Perhaps Internal Change Management Side Effects have appeared?
In my own work I spend a lot of time dialing back organizations, teams and internal practitioners to fill in things they missed.
There are some core things that HAVE to exist for change to happen. Getting a few of those “have-to’s” in place can give internal change groups a chance at that leverage and exposure (and dare I say effectiveness?) that they desperately seek.
Need some tips?
- Change your perspective.
First and foremost you HAVE to start thinking in terms of end states, solutions and goals. If you are present focused you are doomed to stay that way. Nothing wrong with the present… when it is the foundation for the future. Craft examples of the future you are going to help guide. Not the “we need this”, “we need that”. Not company x is kicking our you-know-what’s. The spot you want to be that is where you should be looking.
- Back away from the tools.
Tools are a dime a dozen. Pay me for a day and I will give you a stack of them “completely original”. A tool never caused a change. A tool never really facilitated change. A tool always takes time. That was the time you were going to use for tip #1. Without tip #1 you WILL FAIL- no matter how pretty that tool you designed or got sold.
- Give up on owner connection.
For 6 years now I have watched presentations about “leadership buy-in”. Give it up. See scapegoat in yesterday’s post. Those leaders are not listening. Lucky for you there are leaders who will listen. Not the owners, unfortunately, but the implementary leaders. Those leaders who got the buck passed to them and are now the unofficial owners. Officially they are the owners now, but stakeholders see right through that. They could really use your help (you NOT your tools).
- Partner with implementary leaders.
Teach them how to craft end states. Give them a communication plan that is both formal and informal. Create a set of templates that call out this change (yes there are some tools that pass muster). Get a quick mix of leadership interaction early in the change process (use video, audio, text, social media and surprise in person visits). Be the spokesperson and the conduit for this leader (like you wish you could do with the owner-remember you gave that up, right?). (Do this right and the leader you are working with now, will become the owner you crave in the future- call it your personal change end state).
- Establish a landing spot.
It shocks me that these change groups so feverishly set up rarely have a virtual landing spot. There are a lot of hoops to get through to create social media, even if it is just one SharePoint portal, I realize that. I have had a couple of change initiatives that were JUST social media set up, nothing else. This is HAVE #2. Without a landing spot to help differentiate, compare, contrast and put change in context you will FAIL.
- Get out of the cave and see the light.
Insularity kills change groups. Actually I have yet to see a change group be taken away (which bodes well for CM). So inward thinking makes for sick, unhealthy change groups. I can say, no generalization what so ever, there is not a leader of a change group who is more senior or more experienced than some external consultant. I, personally, have been in 70+ cultures doing something for each organization. There is no way an internal can match that. Why would you not use mine or some other external consultants knowledge? Is this about you or the results and the effect you have? Hiding in a cave has never made change happen.
Tips aside look at it this way: You are trying to help your organization get to a spot. That spot requires the talent of individuals. Those individuals need to be able to participate. What can you do to make sure the right people are lined up at the right time to use their talent to pave the way to that spot? It is your role to lay the trail to that spot.
Six tips that can help change groups catch up a little and survive even if a few pieces are missing: how you see change, what you use to get there, who you partner with, how you communicate and a suggestion to look outward instead of inward.
In keeping with my inability to hold back when I see things that do not make sense or are not right…
Internal Change Bad Side Effects
- Project focus
- Leverage Lost
The internal entities that I have seen (seen not been a part of creating) all have one thing in common. They were started by insanely focused and energetic limelighters. If their design wins the competition everyone will know who they are. Not just the “everyone” in their organization, but the “everyone’s” at conventions and conferences. Their speeches are all about the things they did, not really what they accomplished for the organization (other than a whole bunch of “tools”) or how what they created (or forced to happen) directs and leads change, just all the stuff that has their name on it. That is one form of internal change arrogance.
The other is the way internal change groups treat stakeholders. It is often the, “I know better about change and people than you do” approach. Gee who else do you remember acting that way with you. Oh… maybe YOUR PARENTS. This kind of approach to change comes out condescending, overbearing and, from the eyes of an outsider, more harmful than helpful. And to think we externals used to be blamed for this attitude.
A mini version of this happens, I think IMHO, because the internal groups have very little connection to senior leaders. They pretend like they do and then they show up at conferences with speeches that are all about how to get “leadership buy-in”. Seriously? Your internal group is at a big deficit if this is the approach they have to take.
When it fails-connecting to owners of change- (and it does) they become arrogant and blame lack of results on the stakeholders resistance or fear or lack of competency (in others).
This side effect is a great (in a bad way) example of human nature.
In order for an internal group to get the kind of credit internals need (to make more money) they have to check things off. They have to show specific accomplishments and busy work along the way. (If I was an executive owner of a big change I would make CM practitioners keep track of listening time and maybe talking time-CM is an insurance policy). The best way to do that is to layer the change approach right over the organizations project process. Project managers do a TON of checking-off-of-things. Grab on to their coattails!
The side effect of this side effect is that project management does not necessarily facilitate behavior change. In fact you could say it does not do that at all. There is way too much risk in behavior to tackle that as a PM. Project management is all about curtailing risk. People are really risky.
Usually internal change groups are set up by someone who really wants the change management label. Sometimes, though, they are set up by executives- for the wrong reasons. Maybe someone with a loud voice (could be the same person from our first sentence who got the ear of a leader) is hollering this needs to be done. Maybe everyone on the golf course is talking about THEIR internal change group. Regardless the set up of this group by a senior leader with little thought or external input tends to turn out the same every time.
The group becomes the scapegoat for everything. (And the contractors they hire become human punching bags).
If initiatives fail it is because this group did not “manage the change”. It is because this group could not deal effectively with “resistance”. It is because this group did not train correctly or communicate effectively or engage fully (even though every one of those roles is someone else’s responsibility, we facilitate them).
It is actually easier for the leader if this group does “fail” at just the right level. That keeps the scapegoat intact.
Need I offer who really causes change to fail in these situations?
Somehow, somewhere along the way a gene got implanted into people that says if you repeat something it will be understood. For CM that has translated to saying things in a million different places will get people to change their behavior.
Setting aside the fact that they could be saying the same thing over and over. Or that the message may have nothing to do with end states, just reiteration of what is bad in the present. Or possibly it is wrapped up in some of our first category. Setting all that aside it is possible to over communicate.
The more you say the more messages get muddled. The more something is memorized, it seems, the less connected we are to content (memorized and acted on is different).
Again we have an overcompensating side effect.
The biggest side effect of all for internal change groups is lack of leverage. I would say leverage lost. Because if the group was set up correctly, more an entity than a reporting group, they could have used the leverage change management can provide. When I come in as an external I always have leverage (for awhile and depending on where I am placed in the hierarchy). The accumulation of the previous side effects erases leverage.
The side effect of that is this change group spends a lot of time convincing. Convincing people the change makes sense. Convincing them they have to do certain things. Convincing them leadership is on board. Convincing them they will not lose their jobs as a result of this change. Convincing them something is wrong with the present. Not the way to ever have the leverage needed to change behaviors.
Five side effects from internal change groups and internal change management: Arrogance, project focus, scapegoating, over communication and leverage lost.
Thanks to the power of Google we can ask questions and usually find the exact question.
Or we can ask a question and a blogger will create a post with an answer.
This question has landed on my blog multiple times.
My experience tells me the answer is a list of underlying things that develop over time to manage, control and keep track of an expanding company. Anything that reinforces the present can be said to make change hard.
Start up’s often have a completely loose structure that utilizes every bit of each individuals skill and time. Stuff has to get done and people are anxious to do stuff. Everything is solution and goal oriented. No fluff. No monitoring.
There comes a point in a company’s development where the goals get bigger, the solutions wider. Either by the nature of the confusion of big, or because this is the way it always works, levels of reporting are added. First it is founder and employees. Then Directors get added (or with some firms, comically VP’s who set up and find reports). Then later the Directors need a promotion so another layer is added. Each time a new product or service is created more layers (or at least verticals) get tacked on.
Each employee has to have someone to report to right?
(Except that I have seen start-ups with lots of employees not have any real reporting structure).
Each new reporting arrangement creates another layer of potential internal politics. Practitioners take note- chasing politics for change management is addressing the symptom rather than the cause.
Measurement is a necessity. Without it there is no way to adjust planning and process to get better (and more profitable).
Keeping track of things like sales figures makes sense- especially if the recording is baked into current processes to not take much time.
It is when measurement becomes a thing in and of itself, say measuring the effectiveness of a change process, that change gets hard. When measurement becomes justification for something (this is the perfect example of that) then it will be hard for an organization to change. Never have I seen this example lead to betterment. The numbers and “best practices” end up sitting in a spreadsheet on SharePoint gathering dust.
Measure for effectiveness. Measure for genuine improvement so measurement does not make it hard to change.
The world seems filled with many more rule makers than the opposite.
Organizations at a certain size suck these people in like a vacuum. Governance is putting parameters around things. Governance is putting parameters on the things people do within organizations. Governance is police measurement. People (who are the core of the actions needed for change) don’t much like that much external control.
I find it interesting that those who are in charge of governance in organizations are the least amenable to change.
The more inward an organization the harder it will be for them to make any changes.
The worst change initiatives are those done completely internally. They rearrange everything in the present to create a new present.
The things that make the organization turn inward are the things that make change difficult.
Here is a short list for insularity: measuring your best practices, gathering the best practices of equally insular organizations, hiring contractors instead of consultants, insisting on “industry expertise, any “my way or the highway” attitude, command and control structures, silos within etc.
This list of four things: reporting, measurement, governance and insularity is the framework I use in my practice to decide whether (and to what extent) it will be hard for my client’s organization to change. These four things answer the question, “Why is it so Hard for Organizations to Change?”.