Gail Severini’s post today, “the Enlightened Program Manager-Partnering with Change Management” got me thinking.
She says (correctly by my experience):
“The reality in most organizations is that strategy is parsed into Strategic Business Units and/or Divisions and the leader assigns it to a program manager to organize.”.
What if all strategy in organizations was not treated the same?
We have to start with those situations where this really makes sense-transformation.
True transformation- not something that just picked up the label because it is big and/or Enterprise wide. If the organization is really going to be different after this change- process, approach,technology and people (yes it is probably all of the above)- then a different kind of strategy is called for.
This would be a strategy that is orchestrated at the highest levels- CEO and Board of Directors. Everything would connect (and would be communicated as connecting) across the organization. If this is a picture it would be one map as a whole with parts and pieces within. And it would not be the map (I have seen many of these) that is drawn AFTER the parts and pieces have been parsed.
As an aside this parsing process is similar to a present to future perspective for change. It almost eliminates any view of the whole. Contrast that to strategy that is whole focused and high in the organization and an end state focus for change. Both give the whole, provide context and effectively put the “parsing” into perspective.
If all strategy were not treated the same there would always be an element that raises work (which carries lots of internal political baggage with it) to a level that is shared by all.
What if the “Program Manager” was above the units and divisions?
One way to do that would be to elevate those Program Managers Gail mentioned to this higher level-if only for the transformation.
This is done frequently in organizations by naming an SVP as the leader (In my taxonomy this would be the Implementary Leader) of the transformation. The inherent problem with this is that now you have a peer leading a horizontal (the one with the “S” ego’s and reputations). In my pie in the sky vision this Program Manager would be a role that stays after the transformation. In fact it might have been a role that was created early on in the organizations history in preparation for the big change every company goes through eventually.
I see this role as the business version of a very high level change management consultant. (In fact they would partner as right and left/left and right, in a perfect world).
The CEO would still need to be the owner and own the change, but this set up would signal to the organization that there is also an important leader to implement (and in this case the support of a senior change person who will focus on the whole, the context and the people).
What if unit and division tactical strategy scaled up?
You could edge toward this structure by creating more scale up from inside the organization to a holistic strategy.
Most companies would argue they already do this with some version of committees, executive summits, golf games etc. I have been in 70+ companies as a consultant and have yet to see any of these arrangements do anything more than quickly parse work. They all basically scale stuff up and then get parse stuff back in (maybe it is more of a grand permission process than strategy).
All strategy is not the same. Approaching transformation as if it is a program of Divisional/Business Unit work streams is status quo. Change and status quo do not blend well.
Take one day at the office and turn your listening dial to “Compliments”.
‘Bet you don’t hear many.
Maybe those “fake” Kudos (fake because they are not well thought out, but admittedly anything positive is helpful) given out by supervisors to rally the troops. While I get where they are coming from the insincerity in their tone disillusions me.
You might hear perfect praise, obviously well thought out, roll off a tongue with beautiful sincere pitch… until… the word “but” is inserted. I hate to disillusion anyone, but, anything after that word negates the previous statement. In other words, if you use the word “but” you mean to say what you just said, not what you are about to say.
When I hear no compliments with my dial turned to attune, not even the sloppy ones, I am VERY disillusioned.
I personally happen to be one of those that thrives on real, genuine compliments (gotten AND given). My attuned change-management-people-focus has revealed hundreds of others who feel the same.
To not have that need satisfied is disillusionary.
Not to fret though, I have the wonderful example. True not from an organizational setting (tune that dial at Starbuck’s and your results will be closer to wonderful than our opposite), but still human nature gone good.
Yesterday I gave you Piece by Piece, a slice of life post about change one thing at a time.
Today the view in the other direction.
Yes I have lots of work to do.
Yes the back yard (bigger) has even more.
Yes that tree did die with replanting. Oops.
And yes that is my dog (picked up from a family members’ divorce proceedings… how does THAT work?).
And yes Oreo is NOT happy we have no lawn. He is however a stakeholder who will not resist this change. HA!
Yesterday’s example shows one of the walls I am building (more will appear later for today’s view).
Today show’s the blank canvas (with the first splashes of “paint”). I see the end state. In fact while I am working it hovers in front of my eyes to keep me going (if only I could teach that talent to others- floating end state creation). Passersby see a lot of dirt (and a lot of work).
The WONDERFUL: 40 people have now stopped to talk, ask questions and compliment. I live in a Zillow registered “walker’s paradise” so LOTS of people walk by our house.
The truly wonderful (after the compliment is absorbed) are the questions.
“What are you going to do here or there?”
“What is your overall feeling for the yard as a whole?”
“Will there be height changes?”
“Will there be rocks?”
“A water feature?”
“You are going to be the healthiest guy in town!” (Not a question and not a compliment, necessarily, but one of the best statements I have heard- a personal motivator, always crucial for change).
The wonderful, truly, is that some asked about detail, some asked about the end state, some asked about relationships, some wanted to know how I was personally connecting to this work.
If only this was an organizational example. Wonderfully Disillusioned I am.
During a little consultant “beach” time I am doing work on my house.
It is turning out to be revealing and an interesting exercise about change.
A local author stopped by on her daily walk as I was on my knees wiggling in a 40 pound piece of a wall next to my driveway. After a “few” of those lifts I was ready for a break and conversation. This was the third day into that part of the project so she had seen progress. What followed was a discussion about end states, process and all the little pieces that go into finishing change.
Like her book I am working piece by piece to put together a whole. For me, with this project (as part of the program of changes to our house which is then part of the remodel initiative) it is literally block-by-block.
She was fascinated with the piece by piece nature of this wall building. It’s like a giant puzzle, we both said. Or a big adult LEGO set.
“Did you know what you wanted when you started?”, she asked. Yes was of course the answer.
“Do the blocks fit that plan?”
Not so much there. The space had to be bigger to get the blocks to fit. I knew what height I wanted, but even a 3D plan does not give you the same visceral feedback as the real thing. So the wall got an extra layer of blocks.
In the grand scheme of this remodel that layer just changed the end state ever so slightly.
A higher wall might now mean a lower balancing plant. Or a bigger rock to balance the extra visual weight (these are big heavy-looking blocks, lots of balancing and softening will take place as I move forward).
While I have in mind the overall feel, while I have addressed form and function,while I know there will be a mix of this and that type of plant, I do not know EXACTLY how that will play out. Adjusting and adapting, piece by piece, will happen.
So back down to my knees for a bigger 60 pound block I lifted, grunted and thought about how organizational change works. Big plans, lots of process and many, many pieces that may have to be rearranged.
Organizational change is like building a block wall, best accomplished with an overall vision, lots of effort and adjustments piece by piece.
“Things Come Apart” is work by Todd McLellan.
There are so many things about this art I like, because of the tie I see to my end state focus for change.
For this particular example (go to the link and see the others, fascinating) imagine a tool powerful enough to cut down large trees. Or start higher and imagine clearing an area within a grove of trees for some other purpose). What could that tool do? How would it benefit you or others? Would it provide function? Purpose? Be something you could show off to others? Function, Form and Emotion.
Now work backwards. You have the task of designing this tool down to the last part. You may also have the task of describing the environment it will be used in and why.
I can imagine you would think this has to have a blade (the bigger the tree the longer the blade- see in our first step we have already added flexibility. If you just started to design this tool without working backwards you might have to redesign many of the individual parts). It has to have a motor. It has to have some safety components (yikes- if it can cut a tree…well). Maybe it will need a splash of color for emotional appeal or attachment.
Your walk backwards might just create the parts and pieces we have in our picture.
In this case, if you are mechanically inclined or just imaginative, you can probably put the parts together in your mind. You can go from the whole (end state) of cutting down a tree or clearing a spot, to the gear in the bottom right corner that obviously turns something- likely the chain that makes this cutting all happen.
Maybe it is a change management thing, but I can look at all of Todd McClellan’s artwork and in my mind put together and take apart. Just like I do on client initiatives for tools, process and behaviors.
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.
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?”.
Another round of debate about “Readiness Assessments” going on in discussion forums.
Disclosure: I think those assessments were made up to justify some of the work companies wanted to be able to sell.
Having said that, there is a place for pre-work that lines things up so that change can move along smoothly.
I still believe it is entirely possible for people to move along those change paths.
If the road is unlit, full of curves and barely navigable then, of course, they will not be “ready”.
If you complain about the path and act as if 18 wheelers will constantly veer into your lane, participation may become a little weak with your initiative (and if you are a change firm lots of time will need to be spent getting people “ready”). How do we know if we are ready for anything around the corner anyway? It seems a silly question to me…
So a short list of things that DO make sense to get ready for:
- The Work
Change always requires a little work- in our personal lives and for organizations. Being ready might mean gathering a little expertise, or paying to add something to your capability. It might mean setting other things aside to make sure there is space and time to get work done. It might mean acknowledging that for some time there may be more work than normal.
- The Motivation
This may have been the reason for those assessments. Are people motivated to participate? Don’t force yourself, or anyone else (those New Year’s Resolutions to exercise are premeditated change that never really works right- you should have asked yourself if you were ready) to jump into change before there is any information. Readiness Assessments happen before anything else. See the circle?
- The Structure
If the “ready or not” list includes all those things that might be missing or need to be tweaked for these new end states then asking for the list makes sense. Separate from my own kind of Get Ready list (which is made up of questions to get the answers for what is missing not to gauge individual comfort level) I have not seen this. Get ready by creating a supporting structure for the new environment- who reports to who, how people will be rewarded, what part of the status quo will work and be acceptable, etc.
- The Activity
You will have a beehive of some kind of activity. It helps to imagine how crazy (maybe in a fun way?) that will be and prepare yourself. When those stakeholders were asked if they were ready did they get this explanation about the energy and activity level? And did they have a chance to catch their breath before the bees swarmed in?
Perhaps I will give you a list of things that are assumed to be on a “readiness” list that make little sense…
Be discerning in your quest to see how “ready” your stakeholders might be. And maybe start on the readiness of the organization itself, sans people, before you make the change path look like some scary trail through a dark forest?
What is new, what is changing and what refuses to change for the change management profession?
This is, of course, IMHO, take everything CM with a grain of salt.
Awareness down to the individual stakeholder is new.
There are a lot of things written, pushed, manipulated out there when it comes to change management. The world of CM thought is one search away. It appears a lot of people are making those searches. I have been surprised at the level of questioning that comes as a result of those search journeys. People are surprisingly astute, open to thought and willing to question when it comes to change.
Change Management thought used for operational work.
On many, if not most, projects (not always with much real change) there is a CM resource. Not only is this assumed to be an important role, but people push back when it is not. Personally I used to have to work hard to build trust, now I am received with open arms- a change management consultant on board means there actually MIGHT be some change!
Internal change practitioners.
They were always there, now they have the label. One reason is that they have vocally stepped up (CM is about people so everyone wants to try it at some point). They have created Communities of Practice, they have volunteered for extra work in order to build an internal CM resume and they have pushed senior (but usually mid level) leaders to include CM in some way. This category of new will be next years “changing” as they gain leverage and create successes.
End State and Goal Focus
There is much more talk about the future and the real reasons for change. The more that happens the more transparency needs to exist. Honesty and clarity are core components of successful change.
The original gurus have lost sway.
Change Management as a practice is finally beginning to mature. There are enough senior practitioners out there now who have been through big engagements that the original approaches can be questioned. “Why is it we focus so much on resistance?” questions tend to change the way CM is approached. Not much questioning of approach has happened in the last 10 years- that is changing.
Collaboration and virtual environments are producing results.
It could be argued this virtual thing has gotten out of hand (everyone calls in even though their offices are right next to each other). With the global nature of almost all business, virtual was inevitable. Now that the tools are better and organizations are doing more change around social media and different ways to interact and share information, successes are starting to show up. It is easy to use collaboration to create wins within CM (Yammer for dialogue to build FAQ’s is my favorite so far). Turning that into operational interaction that gets information sharing and saving to the right level might be another “changing” for next year.
Levels of CM.
Not only are CM resources almost assumed for projects, but multiple specialties are often included. Partially gone are the days when the change management consultant did all the training, made all the videos, created all the communications and then somehow (by giving up sleep) actually PRACTICED change management. We have junior, mid and senior level consultants now. Sometimes there are all three on the same large transformation.
Some things are slow to change.
My list of CM status quo:
- Heavy reliance on templates (why? for documentation? for planning? to cover your “you know what”?)
- Urgency. Not going away, not necessary to get rid of. The perspective that there HAS to be a sense of urgency is status quo guru stuff and is all about push change. People are onto this.
- The list of deliverables- Readiness Assessment, the survey, individual readiness yellow/red/green chart, the plans. Versions of these do make sense (as does some status quo all of the time). Again, it is the way they are approached and the reasoning behind including them that is status quo. One decision by a senior leader throws all those deliverables completely out of whack (so what was the reason to create them again?).
- We should do whatever we can internally with internal resources. ‘Never gonna go away. This may make sense for operational work where competency can be trained and developed. It rarely makes sense when competency needed requires experience OUT of the organization. The ONLY way you get that is with externals. CM is one area where I would venture to say external influence is essential to success.
Stakeholders are open to this change management thing. Approaches (and so successes) are following that openness. Change Management is changing. Now if we could stop with the templates, false urgency, spreadsheets and “we can do this ourselves” attitude we will be closer to a mature approach to change.
To some extent all change is impossible.
Call me disillusioned, but there are just too many things that have to change before you can accomplish the real change. Each one of those little things requires multiple people looking at things in a different way (and looking far off and imagining ,which we seem to have lost the ability to do) and then making decisions together. Change takes time. Time costs in some way. Organizations build up structural elements that make it OK to resist change. Some performance measures actually reward for NOT changing.
There is a wonderful element to all this.
If there is a chance to talk about change early on without actually feeling like it needs to happen in any way- the “what if” conversations- possibility abounds. Even the gloomiest of stakeholders can talk about things being better- so what if their version is bemoaning the present and wanting things to be better is some way. Honest, possibility is possible.
I am thinking of this as an external coming into a new engagement. There can easily be the same version internally when starting a new change. Starts have this window of opportunity to imagine, to create, to consider, to pretend. Even if you never get anywhere (the disillusioned part) you take yourself away from task and deadline (that is nothing BUT wonderful… for a little while).
Take advantage of starts. Heck just PRETEND you are starting something to open up your mind to differences.
Don’t waste starts.
All good things do come to an end (and some bad things seem to last forever… they also end though).
As an external consultant leaving is really not an ending. If we have done well to transfer some of our knowledge and expertise then we will have left something at the client site, into the fabric of the organization.
Disillusion: that place we leave has NEVER gotten to where WE wish it would. End states are like that. They morph and change themselves to become something different than the original description.
Wonderful: and isn’t that cool? Isn’t that just how we are as people, how human nature operates? There is a lot to be said for adaptation, adjustment, mid track corrections and acknowledgment that the first thing picked may not be the best when given more information.
We all like starts. And we all dread some starts. We all like to finish things. And we all are bittersweet about endings (and goodbyes). Starting and Ending can be uncomfortable and fantastic at the same time. They make me wonderfully disillusioned.
We have a running joke/tradition in our family:
Our pancake recipe is memorized by all (family and friends). It makes seriously fluffy, light, to-die-for pancakes (and waffles with a little tweaking).
For years the joke was, “this is Great Grandma’s recipe that she stole from Betty Crocker”. Then the Internet came along and it became easier to look things up. It turns out there is NO Betty Crocker. It is a made up marketing name. AND it happened in 1921. Do you realize what that means?
Betty Crocker STOLE my Great Grandmothers pancake recipe!
NOW the joke is just that. “This mornings breakfast is pancakes that Betty stole”.
You are about to get a post that shows you can’t believe everything out there- this is really devastating to find out Betty Crocker is no different than the Tooth Fairy. OR this is going to be a post about, “no new ideas”.
There are No New Ideas
(Do remember you can’t believe everything out there though).
There may be nothing new in the idea column, but there are twists and tweaks (with copyright law that is usually considered “new”).
When it comes to change many out there think they have come up with a new idea. Check out my change model list (#93 to 134). If you count the arrows and squares I guess they are all a little different.
This Idea is Not New
Add mine to the list (and use your own symbols if you want): approaching change with an End State Focus.
There is nothing new about setting, having and trying to accomplish goals.
‘Nothing new about looking to the future for inspiration.
Having a vision or a mission or a journey to take is as old as thought.
Looking to be better, faster, stronger, smarter for something- that is old.
If this End State thing is so old and so far from a new idea then how come it is not used and practiced?
Why is it so hard for people to grasp and use?
- End State Descriptions
You are changing (your organization or maybe you personally) or are at least looking to change. Would you not want to have a sense of what that change is before you do anything? Would you not want to be able to describe it to others (change is lonely enough on its own, it helps to garner support and encouragement)? If there is not an end state, if there is not something clear to strive for, then how is change even possible? Putting yourself into the future and looking back, it turns out, is not an easy thing to do.
- Present Focus
We are the most guilty of this in the US. Foreign (I use that word in the most positive sense) readers please tell me you have 2,3,4 and 5 year viewpoints. Organizations focus on quarters and fiscal years (which are always cut down a month or so by performance management processes). Politics goes from one election right into the next, even though it might be four years away. People focus on themselves and what will satisfy them right now. While it is true that seeing and living the present is part of the definition of joy; joy never changed anything on its own. It turns out getting out of the present is not an easy thing to do.
- The Thrill of Task
Even big picture people like me love task. It feels good to check things off. It is nice to know you are going somewhere. Kudos (legit or falsely directed) come with task. We all love Kudos! Tasks are the smallest piece of an end state view and journey. You figure those out at the end of a long planning process. It is the groups of tasks that satisfy goals where the kudos should come from. It turns out task is the quickest way to feel good. Everyone wants to feel good. So we have task focus.
- Beginnings and Endings
The bigger the change the tougher it is to set the parameters of start and finish. Will you really know when you get to this end state? Why all the planning, and discussion and dialoguing and envisioning? Can’t we just start doing stuff? Who says this “End State Focus” idea is a good one? (Let alone new, snicker). It turns out we like to feel we have started something, and most people, also enjoy finishing.
No idea is a new one, maybe. Sometimes a past idea has to be re framed though. Sometimes we have to revisit good…old…ideas. An End State approach is one of those. Let’s bring back the future, goals, phases and longer time frames- especially when it comes to change management.