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.
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.
The question, “What are Change Management Consultants?” gets the answer, from me:
: a means of transmitting or distributing <a conduit of information>
: a natural or artificial channel through which something (as a fluid) is conveyed
What is the best way to control things within organizations? Stand in the middle of the exchange of information.
What causes status quo to build up over time? Layers and blockage and rules.
What gets in the way of change? Poor communication and interaction.
What would help move change forward? Something that unclogs these barriers. Or maybe a fat pipe with enough pressure to push past clogs? Maybe an actual person who can both dodge the clogs and clear the reason for the blockage?
We are conduits when we go back and forth with information refining the interpretation each time. I have many exchanges where I must explain one sides perspective while gathering information from the listener to feed back. That gets repeated in both directions. (This is interesting… a change practitioner could actually BE the stoppage if they do not handle this correctly. I have seen this happen with internal change agents).
We are conduits for good energy. We take the energy and carry it with us, around anything or person that may sap it.
We are conduits for interpretation of end states. We carry explanations of leadership perspective much more powerful than anything we can put in a newsletter or email.
We do the same thing when the flow needs to go in the other direction from stakeholder to leadership. We don’t hesitate after flowing through the invisible pipe to call things out (with perspective wrapped around the exchange).
At times we are also the valve that controls the flow back and forth. Those are the times when, I think, we push the boundaries. CM practitioners should guide rather than control. Sometimes we have to release a little pressure to do what we do well.
Change Management consultants are the conduit for information which creates clarity and exchange to speed up communication and effort.
One of our panel questions (sneak peek!) for: Perks & Perils: Optimizing Internal and External Change Management, is
What is the single most important success factor for internals or externals?
Like the rest of the panel I have had a couple different answers which have been refined as we practice.
I have decided on a singe word answer:
With the owner
A change practitioner (the generic term I used to include both internal and external) is the most successful when they are partnering with the owner of the change. At a partnership level their influence can guide both the initiative as a whole and the senior-most leader. The owner can be a powerful influence. High level organizational influence gives a level of trust and shows the importance of the change role.
Think of it this way: Those who are placed below the owner have less influence (and likely little to none).
Have you noticed how rare this is?
Have you noticed a lot of initiatives suffering because of this?
Do keep in mind though that placement does not necessarily give leverage. That is why the ability of the practitioner to influence is so important. (It is desperately important when the practitioner is placed low in the organization or for an external that is brought in late).
We talked a lot in our practice session about the difference between internals and externals in terms of connection to the owner. There was less conversation about the stakeholder level of connection. Influence only with the owner at “higher” levels in the organization is not enough. Change practitioners also have to have influence with individuals.
The first, the owner form, has a big organizational component. The second, stakeholders, has more to do with understanding, empathy and relationship building.
I think the best way to get influence at the individual level is to be talented at interpreting perspective. People aren’t always good (or maybe just don’t have the time) at understanding where others are “coming” from. Change practitioners who explain why certain things happen and why the individuals are doing, or asking for, something get things to happen. If they are internal they build even more influence to get things to happen later too.
Influence for internals is often guided by politics. Knowing how the organization operates and how things get done is crucial for internals. Most internals are placed well below the owner so they have to rely on influence in the middle of the organization through multiple individuals.
For any effort that is heavy on the project management side and has a lot of to-do tasks (think IT initiatives) this kind of middle-of-the-organization influence is crucial. If it is crucial it may also be so because there is an organic decision-making process (or committee based). Change of this kind is often about bargaining and compromising just do get things done. Being good at this is a special kind of influence (externals are rarely good at this).
What externals are good at (to be fair partially because they carry the halo of outside influence) is calling things out. This is a very precarious way to gain, and get good at, influence. But it is powerfully effective for big change. It is the elephants in the room, the individuals who are digging in, the structural root causes that get in the way of change. Being able to influence those things changing before the real change of the initiative is a distinct external trait. (Internal don’t dare call things out for fear of job loss).
The one word answer to single most important change practitioner success factor? Influence.
Up high on the things that get in the way of change is decisions. Or more refined: Lack thereof and difficulty getting them.
When I am really disillusioned I want to scream, “just decide already!” or “just make someone responsible for this!” (then go back to the first scream).
It really isn’t that simple this decision-making thing (and for that I am wonderfully disillusioned).
Decision Making Options
Command and Control
This is the easiest right?
The highest person on the ladder for this particular thing makes the decision. They always make the decision (that is why we call them decision makers). They decide, everyone else follows (or obeys depending on your perspective). It is simple. LOTS of decisions get made.
For anyone who has followed (or been commanded to follow) a bad decision you know why this category can make you disillusioned. In many ways the status quo of command and control makes it very hard to address, call out or reverse bad choices. Theoretically those decision makers can be easily fired. After all the trail is clear.
That rarely happens. When it does that person takes their resume to a new place where there is no track record. Rinse and repeat.
The wonderful part here though is that it is easy to find and go to the person who HAS to make the decision.
Which is why some organizations slide into empowerment mode.
That clear trail to someone to blame gets mixed up if you start empowering people and sharing responsibility. Empowerment is wonderful, but it can also be a mask for ineffectual leadership.
For change, empowerment decision-making is wonderful, but empowerment must come with clear responsibility and rewards for success. Adding the opportunity to be mentored past mistakes is nice too (and reinforces the organizational ability to empower).
Put a representative from different functions, specialties or areas of your organization (the mix depends on what the steering committee was SUPPOSED to be for) together with a regularly scheduled meeting and let them decide. It is the perfect cross functional decision-making structure, right?
Or it is a place where decisions go to die.
Without mediation these kind of competing interests do not do a good job of making decisions (if they are the results are usually watered down and ineffective- think government).
Organizations quickly realized that so a status quo set up started. Let other people gather information, maybe even basically make the decision for you (those are usually called options and you only have go to one to decide), present to you and then you decide. Actually not you. You and all the others on the committee. For the committee sitter this is a wonderful spread of responsibility. For a CM this is disillussionary. (Although we do sometimes pull in revenue for that previously mentioned mediation).
Or you can just make sure everyone agrees.
The only time consensus makes sense is when you have a small group that knows they share responsibility for something. A project team is the perfect example. You probably still have competing interests but end state views are usually fairly close (it is the path and the lists that vary). These groups can decide. They may bargain a little- you get your choice this time I get mine later.
Small groups are willing to be bold. If consensus makes for a solid, rather than watered down choice then it is wonderful for everyone to agree (said with a little disillusioned snark).
Organic decision-making just happens.
I think organic decision-making is a response to no decisions being made. It is the “I will do it myself, then” approach. The wonderful part is that it often works. Agreement can have a powerful momentum. If an organization develops a pattern of individually being on board when they really do not care which way the decision goes then any decision automatically has a group of adherents. It is like built in consensus for boldness. That is wonderful.
When the whole thing plays out willy-nilly and decisions (a lot of them bad) are like presents on Christmas gone wild it gets not so wonderful. It can be comical when everyone wants to be on the decision-making band wagon. I get disillusioned when the good decisions don’t get their fair credit. Organic organizations still have a gossamer thread of command and control- just enough to often render the power of organic powerless.
Whether by command and control; empowerment; committees; consensus or organic, good decisions are fantastic. Bad decisions or no deciding at all can make you a little disillusioned. Figuring out how to get things done through the right decisions is wonderful (and often the forte of change management).
If you have been following this blog you know I use the word (a made up one) templated disparagingly.
The idea of a template is great. A form set up ahead of time that helps gather information. It is the “set up ahead of time” part that disillusions me.
How much time was spent questioning the future use of the data that will be collected?
How much time was spent judging the time it would take to fill out all of the places for data?
Really what IS the purpose for the data?
And so why this template?
More disillusionment questions:
Who is the template really for?
Is a set of templates (they so rarely stand alone, they seem to just LOVE company) masking as a process?
Does one person own the creation of the template and another its use? (Which makes sense on the surface, but might mask the answers to some of the previous questions).
Will someone make money from the sale or licensing of that template (and all of its friends who HAVE to be included in the price)?
How about this: could you get this thing done without the template? Would the result be just as effective?
There are just so many things within the change management world that are not being questioned. Templates carry a ton of groupthink with them. Find me at ACMP (one place to start: Perks and Perils: Optimizing Internal & External Change Management) if you want to banter about CM groupthink.
The templates that are being designed separate from a sale and separate from those power-hungry-internal-change-process-designers are getting SIMPLER. I have even seen one, gasp, that did not have the silly column for red,green,yellow “impact” (how about we make change a little less art and subjectivity and a little more science and objectivity- to the extent we can, I am still on the art side- when we are talking about talented artists).
Simple is wonderful! (and has a way of scraping away a little disillusionment).
I have seen a few template sets (disclosure: I DO design template sets for clients) that are project specific in their style and barely, just barely, include any ridiculous company branding. (I think it is the craziest thing to brand to your own employees. It almost seems a little creepy). Project/Change specific templates convey messages much better. They separate change messaging. They give new ways to organize information without the constraints from the internal communication functions’ style sheet.
That kind of specificity, and freedom, is wonderful.
Templates, and templated approaches, are not going away. I am disillusioned that so many of them are blindly created and religiously followed. There are a few people smart enough to see around this who are making templates simpler and change specific. That’s wonderful. Both together make me Wonderfully Disillusioned.
It seems every month or so a discussion crops up in a Forum somewhere about change vs. project roles. Are they the same? Are they different? Can one person do both? Could one person switch from role to role? What are the competencies for each (or one if you think they are the same)? I have found a time when they are very much the same. It might still take two people though (or four hands).
Major Date Changes
Change a hard and fast date that everyone has been pivoting and ricocheting off of and things explode.
Explosions create a lot of small pieces that spread everywhere.
There is probably a complicated mathematical formula to figure out exactly where each piece goes, how far and what kind of damage it might cause.
Formula or not picking up the pieces is a tactical exercise. And yes I have converted our metaphor to change management.
Tactics are the realm of junior change management consultants and project managers.
Change a date and the two become almost the same. One may have an eye on effect of one thing on another. The other may be looking for increased risk (from the always risky date change and all the previous documented danger areas). Still they are both tactically focused at this point.
I have seen this dance on every engagement I have been on. My friends, who should know better by now, always think my current engagement is going to be THE ONE that does not have a major date adjustment. And they are ALWAYS wrong.
Let’s see if these lists end up being the same:
- Adjusts training schedules
- Instantly crafts those apology communications
- Tries to remain visibly calm while calming others
- Somewhere in the back of their minds re-sorts the stakeholder list
(P.S. on #4- date changes makes readiness assessments look like a colossal waste of time… and there is always a date change… so…)
- Pushes dates forward, sideways and out of the way on the project template
- Schedules a new ridiculous amount of extra meetings
- Spend even more time on the phone pushing decisions
- Somewhere in the back of their minds does a new risk calculation
Except for number four in each list they look the same with different task lists.
Odds are pretty good that a senior change practitioner is thinking of the PM and what is going through their mind-risk.
Odds are pretty good that a senior project manager is thinking of the CM and what is going on in their mind-people having to mini-change in the middle of big change.
When a major date for a change initiative changes, project managers and change practitioners quickly become much the same. Tactics cross specialties.