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.
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?”.
May Day, may day.
If you dropped by yesterday you now know how to do the consultant Sneak-away. This topic deserves a little unpacking.
The fact that clients can so easily drop someone on a moments notice, even when they had a CONTRACT, just amazes me. The disillusionment gets cranked up with their explanation. It is ALWAYS justification for the drop. None of the justification ever has anything to do with the consultant. Nothing wonderful about that (especially when consultants give their heart and soul to the client during the engagement).
The fact that it is hard to have direct contracts where there is both a written and a verbal agreement (guilt is far more powerful than law) is the highest level of disillusionment. It just does not make sense.
I’ll give some wonderful though.
There is nothing more exciting than starting to think about the next big thing. I am blessed to get to a point in my own career where the next thing is always better (if only because I keep raising my rates for the next client to make up for the loss with the last).
New stuff is WONDERFUL. Carrying a little bit of a sour taste from the old makes you wonderfully disillusioned (in a good way if you correct a little the next time around).
I am thinking I do not dish out enough hints and tips to consultants so for this scenario here are a few:
- Lay out your work parameters at the beginning.
One of mine is that Friday has to be virtual or bargained for. It might be that I work Fridays in order to take a vacation in the middle of the engagement. My billing, or a flexible arrangement with the client, accounts for that.
- Let the client know you consider most deliverables unnecessary.
If you are lucky enough to be direct charge them extra for the ones you think make no sense. But also make sure you offer up deliverables that DO make sense when the client hasn’t thought of it.
- Don’t work by the hour work by the project.
If the client insists on hourly charge them for every one- even if you are just there to wait for a meeting. They will quickly learn that flexibility with a verbal contract is REALLY helpful (and keeps the budget neutral).
- Assume every engagement will end a month or so early (or a year).
Either always be looking for the next engagement (clients hate that, but have no hesitation in getting rid of you) or start about 6 weeks before the end of the “contract”.
- Don’t ever feel like you have to “do this for the team”.
That is an internal thing. You will rarely benefit from the extra time and effort. If you are helping them get to solutions and don’t rock the boat too much they will recommend you (or at least not flame you- I have had a few of those clients too).
- Always be nice, gracious and accommodating (within reason-your reasoning not the clients).
Surprise endings from clients can be unnerving. They can also be exciting because that means the next new thing is around the corner. The combination makes me Wonderfully Disillusioned every time.
Consultants, you must learn the change sneak away. Contractors you must perfect this.
Here is how this works:
- Client and consultant contract (or there is an endless stream of contracts depending on how many middle men the client adds to, you know, SAVE money-huh?) for an agreed upon period of time.
- Consultant assumes anything that is a contract is enforceable (don’t make that mistake).
- Client makes mistakes chasing symptoms (because they do not want to touch root causes or because they can’t see them) change gets pushed further out.
- Client realizes that gets very expensive fast.
- Client likely begins to fear for their role with budget overage.
- Client hacks (one engagement I was on canned 100 people on the same unannounced day).
- Consultant reacts.
Don’t do number 7 consultants.
And clients, which part about the word “contract” do you not understand? I don’t have enough appendages to count the number of times this has happened (it is almost guaranteed when you go through a third-party).
Do the Sneak-away
Consultant/Contractors, as much as you want to send out that blanket email to say goodbye, don’t. Copy all the email addresses that would have been in that note and take them home for an after the fact thank you.
A reactive thank you is not that at all. It is an in-your-face-I-want-everyone-to-know-you-did-this mistake. Of course you do, just don’t.
The right way to do the sneak-away:
Graciously thank the client for the opportunity you just enjoyed.
Pretend your phone is ringing off the hook for new opportunities (that will give you a nice smile).
Walk away calmly (like a shoplifter does or people trying to not get noticed at airport security).
When you get home take a breath, rest for a second and then frantically start the networking (or calmly begin if you saw this coming- it is amazing how easy it is to see this coming after four or five rounds).
I know this is a little nasty, but I would love to see consultants start leaving a little early for better and higher paying roles so we can get back to real contracting and real consulting (and maybe even real rates).
In the mean time:
Consultants and contractors perfect your sneak-away. Calm, gracious, covert departures.
It is Wednesday. So I am Wonderfully Disillusioned.
I spent the earlier part of the week at the ACMP conference. This is the spot to go for change management thought, exchange and knowledge. Or it is supposed to be. This week makes me feel like CM is in some sort of arrested development-or reverting back to some previous state.
One session talked about change management silo’s. No not client and internal silos that get in the way of change-silos within change approaches, specifically “OCM” work. Practitioners (at least the internal ones) have copied the things they are supposed to be addressing.
Many of the sessions talked about internal change entities with lots of fanciful ways to “report”. At a panel presentation, when I whispered, after someone else’s question, “who would this change group report to”, “THE CEO”, there was elephant-in-the room-laughter and then an uncomfortable pause while the panelists re-crafted their answers. They all knew they did not report to the CEO and should.
There was lots of talk about gaining sponsorship of executives and building capacity and influence internally. You know like the conference 5 years ago. I had too many deja-vu moments and not because solid change management approaches were being reiterated with fresh faces.
The keynote talked of brain research (without ever really showing the actual studies) that emphasized fear and reward as if we are all out hunting Mastodons… much like five years ago when the conference had another name. Research with assumptions is research with the intended result- not necessarily something that is usable (sellable yes). Clients beware any company created in tangent with “research”.
I write this before our panel. We are hoping to spark some creative (and possibly inward looking) thought. Maybe some wonderful comes out of that exchange.
Where is the wonderful now you ask?
- The conversations at the tables. One attendee, after an animated discussion about things that are not being presented at the conference, said to me, “this is what I came for, where do I get this?” The Change Management profession suffers from a debilitating (soon if they do not change themselves) groupthink. Comments like this show some questioning is going on behind the scenes. That is WONDERFUL.
- The interest in internal capacity/capability and external voices. I am, of course, thrilled that to a person there is agreement that externals bring a voice. When those voices are future facing, empathetic to the current environment and with status quo breaking tones things are wonderful.
- Change Management is growing. Growing influence. Growing acceptance. Growing in general. That is wonderful. (I purposely left out growing capability- see the first paragraph).
This years change management conference has shown me that much of the CM space has become a mirror image of the things practitioners are supposed to change. That sells. Judging from aside conversations and interactions away from the formal presentations this will change. That will be wonderful. I will be back next year, hopefully to be a part of that.
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.
My list from the first ACMP speaking engagement post:
- As a profession we suffer from groupthink.
Many practitioners are inexperienced (internal and external) or at least one company practitioners.
3. Organizations are not structured for change.
4. The models and methodology being used are old, tired and misguided.
one that is skilled in only one area; also : one that has success only once
Change management, except at the lowest smallest level (and probably even then) requires the ability to compare, envision, interact and check things off the to-to list. It is more art than science. It necessitates interaction at multiple levels (and sideways and diagonally) with many different kinds of people. It calls for an understanding of status quo and people. It cries out for the kind of person who can put things in context while pulling in explanations of possibility. It also requires someone who can teach and mentor some of these capabilities.
One Trick Ponies
Internal One Company
The ultimate one trick pony (they are really project managers with a little layered CM) is the internal practitioner within a function.
They will likely be practicing push change management. They are tasked with getting people to do things, even when those people are unwilling (and maybe especially when).
They do well with eight step processes that force urgency and play nice with project management.
Even if they did want to use the flair, outreach and sensitivity that a senior consultant would bring to the work they can’t. One because the system at that level gives them little flexibility and two because they haven’t had to deal with the range of interactions that reaching out requires.
In fairness this ultimate one trick pony role is fantastic to have early in your career- as long as you are mature enough to have very open eyes (and ears). It is here where you will be able to see what does not work for CM. You will spend endless hours with dictated deliverables (if your CM is heavy internal then this is demands from the promoted one trick pony). You will always have to ask permission for any kind of interchange outside the small walls of control invisibly set up for you. (When you do get that permission you will have a “CC”list a mile long which completely defeats the reach out). In this career you have to be able to see and know why change does NOT work so you can do better.
Internal/External One Consulting Firm
This is the glorified ultimate one trick pony.
These are the big firm consultants who list all the clients they have worked with. Don’t be fooled. It is a long list of a barely external version of our previous pony. They are constrained by their organizations approach (again just a fancy version of the same bad steps from above). They are on a constant mission to increase revenue- up or out without bringing in the cash. The ones who stay are locked in to the most extreme version of CM status quo I can think of- rote, deliverable based approaches that have more to do with staying power than solutions.
The partners in these organizations have been in their roles for at least ten years (most many more). This is the top of the hill one trick pony. They are working with senior executives who have a lot of status quo to protect (illustrated by the fact they brought in the big firm). The consulting firms work in a distinct hierarchy so their approach will too. Operate that way for ten plus years and you have very little flexibility.
At that high level with C leaders and boards a good CM (with a lot of “tricks” available) is like a Gumby doll.
Just out of School
You aren’t even a one trick pony yet (although you do have the degree).
But, if you are lucky enough to get in a scenario where a good “pony trainer” can guide you, there is a chance you can scoot right past the one trick stage. IF you move on. Regardless of where you start in CM that should not be the place you are two years later. Stay longer and you go native with all its intendant status quo, hesitancy and to-do’s.
I sometimes think success with CM is about trying it all. Because your real role is to help people to see trying things makes sense.
One type of Engagement
There are consultants who are strictly IT. Say the SAP CM. Or the Workday CM. OR the HR CM.
Do the same thing over and over in this arena and you become a project manager. Nothing wrong with that role (we would not exist without it). If you are a CM you chose not to be a project manager. We need to keep our labels straight.
At a certain point in my career, right in the middle, I was asked, “have you done a FULL engagement?”. Or “have you done a full engagement for blank (usually SAP)?”. Or “have you done a full engagement, with blank, in this industry?” I would respond (even if the answer was yes) with, “are you looking for a change practitioner or a subject matter expert, because they are two different things”.
Yes it helps to have a full (whatever that means with CM) engagement. Yes it helps to have done more than one engagement within an industry. You could just as easily cobble together those requirements with multiple clients. The first part here, the middle there, another first part, the rare sustainability engagement. I would argue you are much more talented than the glorified one trick ponies who stay on engagements for more than two years. (By the way that would probably be a contractor not a consultant- that differentiation will come up at the ACMP panel discussion).
Anything mid-level or above that crosses at least one vertical and loops in more than a couple senior leaders requires a change management practitioner with varied experience. CM is about tweaking status quo. To have practitioners who have thrived on something one baby step ahead of status quo makes no sense. Practitioner, leader, one trick pony, get out of your box. Try a different trick. Make sure your successes are TRULY different. Then you can call yourself a change leader.
Perks & Perils: Optimizing Internal and External Change Management, April 16th at 4 pm PST, for the Los Angeles ACMP conference. We have a chart we will use to show the strengths of external and internal along with the overlaps. I gave you some outside the panel insights for External Change Management Consultants last week. This week let’s look at “Internals”.
You see above I have highlighted our panelist “representing” the internal perspective- Ania Spzakowski. She has made a clear distinction, and opened my eyes while doing so, for our two roles. I am not going to steal any thunder other than to say I now see clearly how the two roles can work together and potentially be stronger than one plus one. That’s good because I have been sour on internal roles and the reasons for creating them (more to do with cost and control than successful outcomes). Another tidbit: Ania has had a chance to do a similar version of change in a different part of a huge organization and operated like an external. Interesting. Not a recipe for replacing externals with internals though. No organization is THAT big.
Here are things that internal change management consultants can do (sometimes solely, sometimes better than externals):
- Business Process
Internals get measured with the documentation trail they leave. They have a reason to be good at this (and the organization trains their behavior accordingly).
This alternately astounds, intrigues, puzzles and confuses me.
It seems with internals every change action they take is one to be looked back on and measured against. I often hear the refrain, “someone in the organization will probably do this again, we want to leave best practices and tools for them”. Fair on the surface, but no organization goes through the same change twice. And approaches that model change as the same process each time end up templated and simplistic.
I have had a few engagements where the client insisted on the approach they had been sold (either by a salesperson or through internal organic influence). “Sold” approaches are often very templated and documentation heavy. Practicing change in those scenarios is as simple as filling out the forms, right?
The smart internals have created a base level of templates and tools to make change communications and interaction recognizable and different from normal. They use that documentation to get things done.
If I am a representation of external it is easy to say internals are better at this paper trail.
This paper trail, as I mentioned, is “important”. Internals know how to make it more important. For this I personally love working with an internal resource. (Because I get the internal organizational connection).
Communication is a little like documentation. Knowing the avenues and having a quick form to fill out crosses off some of those things that are essential for change, but time-consuming (and arguably not that effective). Certain kinds of regular communication fall into this category. While an external may want to go out and connect to get things to happen and internal wants to make sure everyone knows what’s going on.
So they communicate that information.
They are usually good at communicating just above the radar of rules. They are making tiny pushes to the big ship of change with each of those individual communications.
Honestly externals rarely have that kind of patience. (Patience should be a category for internal positives).
This is where internals shine.
They often have come from a training (rather than a consulting) background so this was, and is, one of their strongest competencies. They also are often subject matter experts for something which makes them perfect to train that thing.
And they know the organizations guts and how to maneuver through the logistics of getting people to create training, getting the training to happen and getting the right people to show up. Every change has training as a component. Every change initiative should have an internal connected to this piece.
At a tactical level (swim lanes and Visio diagrams) internals are great at diagnosing business processes and then figuring out how to tweak them.
This category is a squishy one because externals are good at going in and out of business process to see bigger pictures. Most business processes are connected to others. Remove or tweak a piece here and something collapses there.
It is not that internals can’t see that big picture; it is that the organization does not like to let them do so.
There are a lot of power levers in that larger view. (Hint for the panel discussion: there appears to be agreement on externals ability to leverage power).
Is high level tactics.
My generic distinction between internal and external is that internals are best at tactics, externals at strategy (yes that is a very broad stroke).
Some of the internals I have worked with that are exceedingly impressive, are so because of their ability to manage the logistics of the whole change equation. They are almost like project managers. And, in fact, many organizations seem to think it is somehow good to be project and change management certified in the same person. (Outside those organizations that is considered a little schizophrenic).
Internals are most impressive when change initiatives get to the inevitable extension of the end state date. For IT that might be a Go-Live, for a cultural initiative it might be the period where the project team will roll off or the money spigot is set up to end. Get the steering committee together, agree to the new date and internals are scrambling to rebuild the fallen house of cards. The externals? Are scratching their heads confused at the inevitability of these situations. (They wait a little before helping to set the cards back up knowing that the whole change environment has now gotten MUCH more difficult). (Think waiting a bit while catching your breath climbing a sand dune. Wait long enough and a dust storm may just build that mound up bigger than it was when you started).
Documentation, Communication, Training, Business Process and Logistics. That is my list of things internal change management consultants might just do better than externals.
Perks & Perils: Optimizing Internal and External Change Management, April 16th at 4 pm PST, for the Los Angeles ACMP conference. We have a chart we will use to show the strengths of external and internal along with the overlaps. Judging from discussion comments in a variety of forums there is a lot of consistency in the understanding of the value of each role. There is a point where the internal perspective and the external perspective finds similarities. We will get deeper into that discussion during and after the event.
For now I would like to separate things out a little and add some, “from the trenches”, background and color (and, of course my perspective).
Here are things that external change management consultants can do (sometimes solely, sometimes better than internals):
- Get decisions made
- Get end states described
- Get control of confusion
- Get anyone’s ear
Externals can’t (and shouldn’t) make the actual decisions.
What we can do is figure out the right person to decide and create a scenario where they do.
We might call a meeting with the action item the decision (yes you can do this internally, but it rarely works).
We might grab that person for a cup of coffee with no one else around. Often it is the mix of people that makes the decision impossible. Separating the elements (“elements” might be individuals) can help clarify anything that is holding up the decision. Externals are very good at this process and the translations it requires.
If we need to, getting a little louder and calling out the elephant’s in the room can get things to the next step. “Getting a little louder” can be a killer for internals. The same is true with externals, but we carry a padding that gives us more room to call more out.
It shocks me how little time is spent in engagements and with most change models on defining the spot this change is heading to. Getting anyone to imagine being at that spot, an end state, is like pulling teeth.
We externals happen to be the metaphorical dentists. Pull teeth we will, if that is what is needed to move forward along the correct path.
This might be something internals can do (but see above about amount of leeway for pushing buttons). Externals have a knack for tying in these “call outs” to change, to the future, to something better and away from the constant focus on everything that is wrong today. I have about 70 different client environments that I can call on as a comparison. Comparisons pull people away from their in-the-present stress and get them to think bigger and think differently. Think big and think different and you can imagine end states. Imagine end states and you can get to that change you want.
We are blessed with a perception of calm, confidence and ability.
Externals have a huge head start when it comes to change management.
We are intensely focused on clearing up confusion. Confusion always gets in the way of change. (It gets in the way of operations too). Confusion can cause fear. (Bad change models misinterpret this as fear of the change=resistance).
We can ask questions and get answers. We can reframe and re-ask those questions in the organization that are not getting answers. We can run those errands to leaders that no one else wants to tackle.
Get Someone’s Ear
Because we know how to get the ear of the right person.
We know how to (if we don’t know how we fail miserably in this career) quickly build just the right level of trust so that people confide the right information. With that information we can figure out why something is not happening. We can gauge the confusion. We can see the patterns that are making something not happen and/or that will get (or are getting) in the way of change.
This is, I think, our biggest strength- the ability to move throughout the organization to talk to the right people, regardless of position, power or title.
You put all these categories together and you see externals can simplify.
(And to think you thought change management consultants made things more confusing…[which consultants have you been using?]).
The best way to simplify anything is to look out broad and wide from the thing needing simplifying. Stretch out as far as you need to go to pull in things that are getting in the way of simplification. Then go back to preschool (I mean that in a nice way) and start sorting and organizing the blocks. Find the colors. Find the shapes. Find the things that defy categorization. Make this thing make sense and make it easier. Make it easier to see and make it easier to do.
(Making it fun helps too).
With an external change management consultant you can get decisions made, end states described, confusion controlled, the input and perspective of the right people to simplify things that may seem overwhelming.