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History Archives - Garrett's Change Management Blog

Garrett’s Top Ten Posts

It has been suggested that I use my name more often, that I am at a place where people can recognize me, that it is time to put a face to the feistiness. For 13 years (four of them blogging heavily) I have made a point of NOT using my name. Today’s title is my first baby step to making this name usage thing OK. My own end state back change description and process has this as a step. Change is hard. This makes sense now (and always did in my own personal march to end states). So I am trying something new.

I wrote these, some people seem to like them, so we tack my name onto them.

As of mid 2013 these are the most popular of my …oops…Garrett’s posts:

  1. Change Management End State Focus
  2. Change Management Career Paths- Secrets Revealed
  3. Explaining Change Management
  4. 5 Factual Stages of Happiness-Kubler-Ross Life-giving Replacements
  5. Trusted Partner
  6. The Hard Side of Change Management- Reflections on How Change Has Changed
  7. Why I Think Buy-in is Another Term to Put on my Rarely Use List
  8. Rates, Fees, Time and Value-The Consultant Client Contract
  9. Time and Change
  10. We Do Not Need Change Management

Number one has stayed there permanently, which is great because that perspective is the core of my approach, style and writing.

Number two flew up to the top in popularity in the last couple of months. Could it be the economy is taking off again?

Number three is usable. The simplest explanation for CM is work to strategy/strategy to talent.

Number four was my first tongue in cheek post. I even used my full name facetiously.

Number five is one of my favorites because it lists out the qualities of a great client. A Trusted Adviser post goes with it.

Number six was my first “review” of something out there in the cloud. It may be popular simply because that article has long, long legs.

Number seven was my first go at word play. I still can’t stand that term (buy-in not word play).

Number eight has inched its way up the list and continues to hang in there. Most of the post is still true. What has happened in the last year is independent rates for senior consultants have jumped to that $180 US rate (third party $120-140). (Consultants if you are taking those 70 and $80 an hour rates you are selling yourself WAY short- I would also seriously question whether those are the place you want to practice change management). And, I knew this would happen and waited patiently, senior leaders are beginning to reach out on their own to very high level independents. When things aren’t quite going right two things happen: organizations put a TON of effort into trying to do everything themselves or (sometimes “and” at the same time) executives line up a way to get things right quickly.

Number nine is my favorite. Change Management is all about time manipulation. As practitioners we have to get people to see time differently than they currently do. This was my shot at explaining.

Number ten was tongue in cheek. It was also a title test. Fun titles do not usually show up for searches. Unless you can get that short set of words to hit home. This post has always been in the top ten. One title that works I guess.

Still one of my favorites (far down the reader list though) because it was fun to think through is C Level Change Management Primer. I suppose I am cheating to make a link for it.

Garrett’s top ten posts as of May 2013- an interesting mix of choices by readers from career tips to perspective to word-smithing and snark.

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Change Management Consistency

This isn’t a post about replicable change. That is certainly possible (not to the extent the templates approaches believe) and maybe worth a post of its own. This post is about those things that you see when you have been doing this change thing for a while that appear to be the same from one organization to the next. It turns out, “people are people” and in many ways, “organizations are organizations” (probably because of that Human Nature thing).

Deny this all you want. Puff up the exceptionalism of your organization and your people.Then go to another place and you may say, “oh no, not again!”. (Hopefully you say, “well this is refreshing”).

A list then:

  1. Leaders will avoid ownership.
    Some people say change is scary. I say responsibility and accountability is. Or apparently it is since so few are willing to accept those two things.
  2. People will point fingers.
    This is accountability down to the individual level. It is refreshing to hear someone say, “we are going to have to do something about this” when “we” means that person with some help.
  3. Technology to support change will be years behind.
    I just automatically take my own laptop to client sites now. It has the graphics software I need (no requisition forms there). It has the project and process tools I need. It has links to the outside world that are sometimes against the rules inside the walls (no not what you are thinking- I mean like discussion forums where I can get peers to weigh in on something I am about to do- maybe my own form of committee review). It makes sense that companies do not want to spend any extra money. But lately I am noticing how much externals are providing even tools to help in the change effort (for billion dollar organizations that’s just strange).
  4. Permission structures will be many layers deep.
    The number of “reviews” in organizations is comical to an outsider (and just as comical to an insider that goes inside somewhere else). The only method I have seen that seems to work to “get everyone involved with the slightest connection to this work” is to have a presentation open for a period of time for people to comment on and edit. If those contributors are the ones who would sign off on the final edition it can be a “smooth” process (in quotes because not much that has to do with people is really smooth).
  5. Strategy will be lacking.
    Who has time to plan? Wait long enough, or get buried in austerity mode (like the last 5 years), and you will lose the competencies for planning (at least high level strategic planning). I spend a lot of time teaching clients to put work in context with something bigger, so the things people value make sense. Without strategy there is not much context. And no, mission statements and “vision” do not count. End state descriptions converted to high level plans does.
  6. People are ready for change.
    Caught you off guard ha? I don’t care when you are reading this, the people in your organization are ready for change. They ALWAYS are. Those who say otherwise are almost ALWAYS the ones who actually are NOT ready for any kind of change. (Look at the models that assume the opposite, that people resist, they have templates, steps to follow, eight things that always have to be in order- line it all up, force parameters and then people might go slowly into the change). People are likely ready for change, but the organization is not, because, organizations are organizations.
  7. The organization is not ready to change.
    And it is not because people are people. People change all the time. Not so for organizations. (Yes change is ubiquitous and there is always SOMETHING changing within every organization, but is often a little like moving deck chairs on the Titanic). Changing an organization is tough work. The more change, the broader the change, the more transformational (I am thinking organizations here not necessarily people transforming) the tougher.

There are some things that are consistent from one organization to another: structure, antiquated or missing tools, lack of strategy, finger pointing and leadership-non-ownership. If you, or you client, is hiding behind uniqueness, this list of seven might help you see a bigger picture.

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Thanksgiving- A Change List



The turkey is waiting in a bed of brine.

The table is set from one end of the dining room to the next (with some extra seats for the “Thanksgiving Orphans” who have no family close for the holiday [US I realize, use your own country equivalent holiday for comparison]).

Since I am the turkey cooker alone I sit at  5 AM.

This holiday is about giving thanks to all those great things we have and have available- people, skills, possibility.

If you looked at change this way every day could be Thanksgiving!

Five things I am thankful for in relation to change:

  1. Possibility. I really appreciate the beginning of change when end states are first being described. “You could do this, you could do that, you could even TRY this…”.  Possibility is a blessing.
  2. Expertise. Change leverages, highlight and improves the people involved. Good change makes individuals more useful, talented and marketable (scary for retention…or a tool for loyalty). Expertise is blessing.
  3. Energy. There is nothing better than the electricity of people interacting, being pulled toward a goal and accomplishing things. Energy is my favorite change blessing.
  4. Newness. Everyone likes new stuff. New stuff, material and otherwise, feels good to hold, own and use. Newness also creates a great contrast to or comparison with stuff that has been around awhile. Newness is a blessing.
  5. Tradition. Thanksgiving as a holiday is steeped in tradition. Each family has their own added elements. Just like organizational change. Each organization has a history. Some of those historic events and processes are important to hold on to, revisit and layer over the new. Tradition is a blessing.

The US Thanksgiving holiday is a chance to settle in with family in front of a fire, at the table with lots of good food, drink, conversation and togetherness. It is a holiday of thanks, for the past and as pre-thanks for possibilities. Taking that tradition of thanks for blessings and applying it to change might help you see the good of change. This list is five things to start with-possibility, expertise, energy, newness and tradition.

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How to Build Change Management Competencies Organizational

My competency light list gave you 10 capabilities for a good change practitioner or leader.

How to Build Change Management Competencies gave some suggestions for addressing these at an individual level

Time for an organizational level version.

The ability to:

  1. Listen.
  2. Curious.
  3. Inquisitive.
  4. Analytic.
  5. Empathetic.
  6. Big Picture viewers.
  7. See tangibles.
  8. Understand time- past, present and future.
  9. See patterns.
  10. Compare, contrast, differentiate and relate.

How Can an Organization Help Develop These?


My first suggestion would be to put a time-framed ban on PowerPoint and see what happens.

Without a skilled facilitator (notice I DID NOT say “presenter”) PP is a one way tool for dissemination.

Start recording answers and responses to things. Having to write it down or type it is a first step in paying attention to it.

Make sure your senior leaders model ACTUAL listening. I would define actual listening as the kind of listening that produces something tangible as a result. That would show you really were listening and even went to the next step.

If your leaders are not doing this don’t bother moving to the second thing in our list.


Because they are not very curious.

Listeners usually want to know (or are painfully trained into the whole process of them being equal to those they interact with). Maybe they only want to know about the world in relation to themselves. That is a start.

To develop curiosity in your organization you have to create an environment where questions are the norm and listening to answers (maybe acting on them) is expected.


Do that and you will have an organization with people who dig even deeper and use the answers to create more questions.

Provide opportunities for them to them test out what they received.

Your employees need the chance to poke, prod, test and re-question.

Analytical Ability

So they can learn to analyze numbers, “fact”, good guesses and perspective.

During my time at Deloitte I had access to some business and white paper databases (Harvard Business Review, Forbes etc.). Get something like that and then teach your employees how to put outside information in the context of your organization. (Did I mention executives modeling things?).


So you got people asking questions. You got people paying attention to answers. You threw in the addition of analysis.

Does anyone care about anything?

Does anyone care about someone else’s perspective (other than their bosses which they hope to emulate for compensation)?

We are not digging into some touchy feely interpersonal HR thing here (although that might help some). There are many times, with change especially, that understanding why someone does something or why they feel a certain way can make a big difference for forward movement and results.

Think of any situation where you have agreed to disagree. If you can get to the mutual agreement part some empathy has been exchanged.

Set up ways in your organization where people can agree to disagree. Teach them to compromise and move in each others directions once in a while.

My immediate family is four distinct viewpoints. It is almost impossible to agree on things. A little like the organizations I work with. In our family we compromise and we take turns making decisions. We are just a little organization. Honestly it can scale.

The Big Picture

Unless your leaders emulate this ability you are going to have a tough time building it within your organization.

You could bring in someone at a high level who can craft big picture scenarios and is very good at seeing them, but lots of things will have to change around them for that ability to transfer. (Believe me I have lived the role).

My plug for a high level trusted adviser gets inserted here. I could teach a CEO and a their implementary leader how to be better at this. It would then be their job to pay it forward.

Seeing Tangibles

EVERYONE sees tangibles.

Usually too quickly in a change timeline.

It is seeing the right tangibles at the right time (accomplished by the right people) that is the competency.

Anything you can do in your organization to get away from project management and timelines and dates and deadlines will help you see a bigger picture and get better at putting tangibles in context with people and process.

Train your organization to reward and acknowledge when the right work is done at the right time with the right people.

Time Awareness

Look for balance here.

Are you all about your history, your past, all the fantastic people and accomplishments you have had?

That is, sometimes, a great way to welcome in new people and to “brand” your culture.

It is also a good way to have your firm slowly slip into insignificance.

Be careful of a past focus.

Are you all about fostering innovation, coming up with ideas, giving your employees free reign to create the next killer thing?

Do operations suffer?

Be careful with a daydream culture.

Does everyone in your organization put in a solid hard day of work, pat themselves on the back, go home for a little shut eye and start again?

Or is there constant worry that the next bad thing is about to happen?

Being “in the moment” and just accepting the passage of time is not always a good thing.

Teach your leaders and employees to understand that the past is a foundation, the future has possibility (if you can get good at defining end states) and the present is where things actually happen. It is nice to have something to shoot for; it is nice to have the work to get there matter; it helps to have achievements and history to feel good about. Foster all that.

Pattern Awareness

Yes you are different, but not THAT different.

Find ways to call out HOW you are different and why that is good (I don’t mean cheerleading cultural mission statement stuff).

Also find ways to show that you aren’t naïve enough to think that the wheel has not yet been invented.


Make sure you provide opportunities for your organization and its people to put things together when that make sense. Take them apart when it doesn’t. Test. Prod. Analyze. And do those things with both shared and opposite perspectives.

It is hard for an organization, as opposed to an individual, to build this list of competencies. It is hard because it will require change. (Which comically takes these competencies).

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How to Build Change Management Competencies

My competency light list gave you 10 capabilities for a good change practitioner or leader.

The ability to:

  1. Listen.
  2. Curious.
  3. Inquisitive.
  4. Analytic.
  5. Empathetic.
  6. Big Picture viewers.
  7. See tangibles.
  8. Understand time- past, present and future.
  9. See patterns.
  10. Compare, contrast, differentiate and relate.

These are not things that you go to a class for (although I can see a class design in my head that would help you address them…). These are not things you will automatically learn in a Masters program. These absolutely are not things you will acquire with “certification”. Having watched different types of people practice the career of change management, at times I wonder, if these are not actually character traits that get developed over time.

Let’s address these from a personal perspective (I will tackle the list from an organizational perspective in a later post).

How can you develop these?


Learn to focus on the reception of information rather than the dissemination.

It is not about what is said as much as what is heard.

To develop this ability you must learn to pay attention to non verbal clues, to responses, to interaction with information (was there conversation? was there paraphrasing? was there silence? are you hearing the information repeated in other places?), to energy levels, to the amount of silence (listening works in both directions), to a host of things that give you a framework for how information is received (and interpreted).


These traits/characteristics/competencies build on each other and support each other.

Curiosity gets reinforced with listening skills.

Curious breaks through when you ask questions because of the way information was received.

So to develop this trait look to understand people, the exchange of information and the things that motivate.

Make a list of reasons why your stakeholders would participate. Then ask questions to see if you were correct in your assumptions. Learning to look for where you are wrong (from someone else’s perspective) is a curious attribute when it comes to change management.


This might be curiosity on steroids.

To be inquisitive is to always look for a little bit more information, understanding and knowledge. To get that you have to ask good questions, want to know the answers, even if you do not agree, and be good at going to a level of filtering that puts everything in some kind of perspective.

To get better at this start asking more questions. And then ask yourself why you asked those questions. Be inquisitive about yourself and your own motives and you will get better at understanding the same of others. Remember motivation is a crucial element of change.


Slow down once in a while with all that childlike energy and questioning to bring in numbers, facts, examples, outside opinions- anything that can bring empirical information into the information exchange. (Yes I realize opinions are not empirical- with CM there is a fine line).

On your next change initiative put the numbers and facts (even the guesses are good input- they may end up being facts) and decide if they hold water, decide if you are using the right measurement, decide if that information is the right information. Analyze.

Go out and practice on some empirical data that you have little connection to . Analysis sounds so scientific. But numbers are easy to make up and fudge. And anyone can create a survey or study that gives them what they want. Look for those situations where numbers are fudged. It will hone your analysis.


This is listening on steroids.

You can listen (and you have to listen to be empathetic) but do you care?

Can you understand from a different angle? From someone else’s eyes and vantage point?

If listening and curiosity and inquisitiveness are skills then empathy is the competency that requires all of them.

My suggestion for those who are not so good at the empathy thing (very common these days with certain types of people) is to start by doing a few things that help others and make you feel good at the same time. Think about it. Those who are not very empathetic are pretty selfish. So why not use selfishness to teach yourself empathy? (Note to change practitioners and leaders this is an excellent example of one way to direct behavior change).

Tell everyone you are going to volunteer for something that everyone agrees makes you a better person- Habitat for Humanity, a soup kitchen, etc. Soak up the praise and then PAY ATTENTION to the people who will benefit from your help. Watch, listen, interact, use those skills empathy is built on. While you are at it stop being so selfish.

Big Picture

This seems to be a trait.

Fully possessing it from birth I can tell you it is a gift and a curse.

If you are looking to develop yourself into a high level enterprise change consultant get used to that.

My favorite exercise is to start from the biggest picture possible for some change and work back to the smallest. Say a client has an idea that has a chance to turn into something (maybe it is some nascent iPhone thing), but it will require new culture, new approach and big transformational change.

The HUGE picture is exactly what that iPhone created. People interacting differently. People reacting to things differently. Evangelical attachment to the change. Big stuff.

The other end of the spectrum is  an idea that needs a place to go. Think that way and you will start to make lists of resources, to do’s and task/phase/stage timelines.

If you are not good at starting with the huge then try from the the other direction to get bigger and bigger with the idea, how the idea touches things and what that idea might mean to others (and the world, if you can teach yourself to get THAT big a picture).

See Tangibles

Change can’t be all big ideas and everyone listening and understanding each other.

Change is about motivation and accomplishment.

Change has to have goals and end states.

Those goals and end states are supported by tangible things- creation of something, visible examples of process change, clear cases of change of behavior, etc.

Seeing tangibles is an easy competency to learn. In fact it may be automatic for everyone. Seeing the RIGHT tangibles, happening at the right time is a stepped up version.

As a change practitioner or leader you have to learn to see the most important tangibles and focus on them.

Initially they are small (quick wins if you like that term). Later they are bigger (and probably built with previous tangibles).

Take something you are doing in your own life- career building, home remodeling, a hobby you are trying to improve on like playing an instrument- and make a list of small and big tangibles. In your path to the end state of that thing those tangibles will be important milestones, places to pat yourself on the back, times for mini celebrations.

Time Awareness

Change is the past having created a need for something new, the new being something that might be hard to see and figure out and right now either getting in the way or being the chance to change.

If you can’t see and feel the way future, present and past connect and relate you will not be very good at change management.

If you think change is about the present to the future you will have problems. If you think change is about correcting the past then different problems. If you think change is about just making things different then they are now- problems (and a lot of wasted time and effort). To be fair if you think change is just about seeing a goal and then working backwards to the present (while considering the effects of the past) you will also have problems (because most people do not think that way, it has to be taught and some change does not wait around for the lecture to finish).

Take the smallest of change in  your role and you life and make a list that illustrates times connection. How does history come into play? What does this look like later? What is happening right now that helps or hinders? Get better at seeing these kinds of lists almost automatically.

Change and CM absolutely rely on this ability.

Pattern Awareness

I am constantly told by clients that they are different.


But not always as true as they think.

Because there is that thing called Human Nature.

We tend to want to put things together in ways that make sense. We tend to line things up, put things on timelines, make lists, create ways to differentiate- basically life is one grand pre school sorting scheme. At some point a lot of those schemes and approaches start to look the same.

A good change agent can just SEE those patterns. One who has had multiple chances to look begins to see a lot of the same things.

People like pattern. People fall into patterns.

Go outside, go for a walk and look for patterns. There is a tree outside my window. I bet I could take a picture of about 5 leaves throw those images into Fireworks (Photoshop has always been too confusing, I am a Fireworks fanatic) and make a tree. I bet I could do that multiple times and get trees that each look just a little different (note to those “I am different” clients- they will STILL be trees).

Now do the same thing at work with something less tangible like people, ideas and process.

Putting Together, Separating and Taking Apart

If you can do that then you can learn to stick stuff together, pull it apart and break it into pieces.

You can see from my list that the competencies behind CM are all about big and small, black/white and grey, short and long, narrow and wide, people and task, individual and organization.

Anything that helps you zoom out and zoom in on the things about change will make you a better change leader/practitioner/change agent.

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I waited a while for this post. ‘Kept putting it off. Something about it made me nervous…

Maybe it was a confidence thing?

Maybe I did not feel like I had enough information?

Maybe it was just not knowing how things would turn out?

Maybe it was some left over feeling from a previous failed post?

Maybe it felt like others should be involved?

Maybe I did not trust that?

Maybe I am just naturally hesitant and nervous?

Worry. Could it be even more change stopping than “resistance”?

Is it a form of resistance?

A few thoughts to help tone down that worry:

  1. Pace Change. Not too slow (lots of time to worry) not too fast (not enough thought to balance the worry).
  2. Find  Quick Wins. Get a few things going right away. Maybe it is just dialogue that creates a message to deliver. Maybe it is a distinct task(s) that does not rely on end state descriptions. Do something. Accomplish something. Confidence is based on accomplishment. Confidence trounces worry every time.
  3. Gather Information. With free time gather. Gather any background that can help the change. Always get more information than you need (the closer to real numbers and facts the better).
  4. The Future is not Inevitable. If it was we would never have individual and group accomplishments. Taking a little time to imagine what the future could be is a great worry killer. Moving toward that (see #2), even better.
  5. The Past does not predict the Future. While history often repeats itself that is because no time was given to understanding the past and then relating that to this new future. Mistakes are the foundation for a new success.
  6. Community is good. Put down your Atlas Shrugged view of the world and grab someone with expertise to help you with your change.
  7. It is going it alone you should TRULY worry about.
  8. It is OK to hesitate. It is even OK to be nervous, if there is some genuine basis for that discomfort. Look at your feet. Are you standing still? Then you are making the hesitancy and nervousness WORSE.

Be in the present while moving toward the future with an understanding of the past. Revel in your successes, especially when accomplished with others. Look just long enough at failures to figure out how to move forward from the mistake. Do this and you will squish worry.

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Beware Centers of Expertise

Yes a strange thing to tackle in a post since the core of my work is designing what will likely become a center of expertise.

Centers of Expertise for change management are cropping up all over the place from my work, work of my peers and organically from the inside of organizations. I like to use the term Change Entity to differentiate and facilitate dialogue. Maybe the lower case version “center of expertise” is the compromise.

The Beware comes from having seen the results of straight to the capitalized version or the eventually-becomes-capitalized process. Best laid plans and best placed energy when it comes to change management often ends up as a status quo that looks a lot like the pre-change version.

Beware of:

  • The Executive Moat
  • Best Practices
  • Theory
  • Ego
  • Outside Influence

The Executive Moat

Because it is next to impossible to spread resources evenly, let alone fairly, there will always be a pull toward resource hoarding, protection and secrecy. Society works that way. Politics works that way. Organizations work that way. How resources are spread is a status quo measure. Because of this every organization except the brand new start up (and not there for long) has an invisible moat between the senior leaders and everyone else.

Sometimes the alligators are left in a pen somewhere and you can swim across- to ask questions, to get help or to proffer your latest proposal. Other times, in fact most of the time, you would not dare get in that water.

Change Management, especially the creation of Centers of Expertise (COE) is a direct reaction to this invisible separation between leadership and the work.

If you are trying to broach this roadblock to change good luck with an organic approach. Don’t expect the creation of the COE to magically drain the swamp.

Every “beware” has a potential dilution approach. For this one using change management practices to bring leaders in (in the way you do in regular initiatives to get participation- sitting in on meetings does not count for either version) makes a big difference. Using a single external consultant (admittedly selfish on my part but a suggestion based on experience) is the best way to make this leader to changework connection.

Beware the moat your COE may just make it bigger, deeper and wider to the thrill of the leaders on the other side.

Best Practices

There are two patterns for unassisted (by an external, but sadly sometimes because of the external) COE creation. One is that all of the “best practices” around change currently and previously practiced within the organization are corralled into a method and approach. Two is that the writings, perspective, approach or marketing of external influences is taken as the gospel to seed the COE.

Always beware “best practices” in any situation. When it comes to change management it seems the more a best practice gets used the less best it becomes. Anything repeated enough times becomes a status quo on its own. There are some things that make sense for CM but they are broader than “project one did this thing and it seemed to work pretty well”.

Gurus don’t seem to have the clout they used to. That is good (I will eat my words if in some magical world I become a guru). There are still organizations that have adopted the approach of a single guru (and maybe fluffed it up with some of those best practices- not changing the core assumptions of the guru which are often detrimental). Those companies tend to have faster project management and more complicated and deep seated structural problems as a result of the guru injection.

Beware best practices that simply reinforce status quo, or worse, hide it.


This is a little like our previous paragraph.

Theory though tends to be an approach that gets “tested” to then be marketed. Change theories are often modeled on some very interesting scientific studies. They often include theorems and propositions from various specialties. As a package they usually look pretty good and seem like they would probably work. In practice they tend to have one or two assumptions that override their potential. Resistance as an assumed stage in change is a great example.

Most theories can be tested away with experimentation. Most theories can be created with creative pre-testing. Some “theories” are pure snake oil. Just beware.


I have always thought change management should be practiced without ego. Often change (COE’s fall into that category) happens because of ego. In the case of COE’s for change sometimes it is ego against ego. OK most of the time.

Ego in our case is trying to make something happen because you want it first and foremost. That could be great if your reason for wanting is big, broad and would help as many as possible and make lots of money for everyone approach. Selfish can often have excellent results (for more than just the self).

The ego of an internal person trying their best to be the creator of the COE (with all the rewards that go with that) is a beware of. The ego of 25 different individuals all trying to do the same thing (one organization I know of) is a nightmare (the guru won there).

Cherish the individuals expertise, but beware the single person in a crowd.

Outside Influence

The gurus certainly fall in this category.

The big consulting firms you should always beware of.

There are lots of consultants that want to turn key your change COE. They are walking examples of all of our beware bullets put into one package. If they bring a perspective that has to do with people, business, expertise and an understanding of status quo (when to tackle it and when to include it) then your beware is diminished.

Every change, and especially the creation of an internal change entity, should be customized.Human nature can be very consistent, but somehow every organization still ends up with its own unique culture (status quo?).

Beware the outside influence that wants to commoditize your culture. Beware the outside influence that wants to drastically change your culture without bringing along some of your history.

Creating a Change Management Center of Expertise is a noble pursuit. Setting that up as a Change Entity turns that noble pursuit into a workable way to approach your current and future change.

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Is Change Management Just a Way of Cost Cutting?

This was an actual search that landed here that has me puzzled.

Puzzlement is good because it freezes you in the moment. I wonder if we could use that as a Change Technique?

To the search:

If it is

Then it means the change practitioner is probably doing the work of multiple specialties. That could be a cost cutting move, but you will need a really good CM and you should be paying them for the multiple positions.

Maybe it means there is not much trust from leadership in the change and there is hope the practitioner will be able to spin the message or clear the path (that resistance fighting thing).

Maybe it means there is not much trust in leadership for the people within the organization- especially the middle managers. Perhaps that CM resource (in this case it almost HAS to be external) will provide the leadership and competency to move the change forward.

If it is, then the perspective is either completely misplaced, “we will use CM to stop problems” or is it very well placed and justified, “we will add CM to avoid the people costs that always occur with change”.

On the “is” side CM should be able to save what would have been spent without them. (I can usually find that out of the change in the organization, let alone the savings to be garnered within the change). Or they should be able to even out the equation.

It is not likely the number crunchers measure those factors that are immeasurable like mentoring, teaching the practice of change management, creation of collateral for future efforts, the energy a good practitioner can bring, the interaction as a result of an external influence, the list is long.

So yes CM is a cost saver (and not “just”).

If it isn’t

Then there is a lot to address well beyond the change.

Without CM, nothing in your organization, operationally, is likely to change. You may rearrange the deck chairs on your Titanic, but not change behaviors or prepare for the inevitable (let alone the possible).

On the isn’t side- maybe the CM is not being done right? Is it layered over an existing project process? Is it buried deep within the organization where change moves at the speed of a snail? Is it placed in the hands of those who do not value change? Are those the very same people who do not spend much time listening to or valuing others? Are those same people being measured on something very different than the end state you are looking for?

Sounds expensive.

If CM is just a cost saver it seems you are off to a good start. If it is a wash look deeper- that practitioner is probably bringing in hidden value. If it is not a cost saver, thanks to that hidden value, it may not matter. Do avoid, though, the kind of CM that is both expensive and damaging to your organization.

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Obama Needs to Illustrate Some End States


I don’t dare get into politics.

But this is just too obvious.

Maybe I can even it out by saying, “the CANDIDATES need to illustrate some end states”.

And apologies to readers from outside the US. This is a good example for change though.

You can ask, ‘”are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?”. But we all know change does not work that way. In the context of politics 4 years may very well be the planning stage. (I am better off now than 4 years ago- 12 no, but that does not apply to many others).

The downward spiral of availability of jobs, wages and therefore demand is a cycle that started long before Obama came on the scene (and will likely last well past the next elected president). Everyone but the rich is hurting. It has even moved down into the 99.8% below the rich and the same kind of income inequality is repeating itself at a smaller scale.

This is a PERFECT time for some change.

Not change that goes back to the past (so far Mitt Romney’s platform- repeat what others have done during the bad timeframe). And not change that promises to plod along with the measurement of a little bit better each day (what Obama’s current platform feels like).

This is a perfect time for change that provides SOLUTIONS.

The solutions would create many, many end states that are measurably better than now (and the past) with some small gains along the way. Obama would need to change his approach for this, Romney his perspective.

Politics, especially the current US version, relies heavily on the past (and some very strange interpretations of the past). It blah, blah, blahs about the present. It does not dare venture into the future (other than vague platitudes) because in politics that typically gets turned into promises. Promises unmet (which is common with the median effects of democracy) are not good politics.

We don’t just need a change. We need THE change (whatever that is).

Both candidates need to picture that, imagine that for themselves, do the same for many versions of stakeholders and then articulate those spots. End State Change Management for politics!

Then they need to themselves, and through surrogates, illustrate what that path would look like and will need to be for success. Since this is government the measure of success can be that things got better, hopefully for many and in a way that is noticeable and not detrimental to something (or someone) else.

With this approach, and that measure of success, Romney has a long haul. Since his policies are the same ones that got us here in the first place, he would have to change and model his own behavior. Obama has an equally long haul in that the other side will do everything they can to box the past into only the time Obama has been president. This sounds so much like the atmosphere of corporate change!

It would just be nice if, for once, a politician would take an end state back perspective. If that same politician, and their staff, could envision and describe end states that could/will come about as a result of specific change and be positive for a large group of people (if not everyone) we might be able to crawl our way out of this. If anyone ever does this the nature of politics could change.

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Change- Show Them its Possible

There is a strange dichotomy in organizations between urban myth (an insidious form of status quo) and willingness to change.

Urban myths are those things that people assume are rules when they are not.

(And just because it’s a rule…).

Urban myths are unquestioned status quo.

They are an extreme form of, “that’s not the way we do it here”.

It is a shame they exist. Because it seems the more there are in a company the more people are anonymously interested in change.

Show Them Change is Possible

  1. Leadership Connection
  2. Crucial stakeholders stretching the envelope
  3. Energy and fast effort
  4. End State Descriptions

Leadership Connection

No matter how much protestation you get, because of course things must filter up (urban myth alert- no organization has this written down anywhere), connect with leadership early for change (really early is best). If you ARE the leader getting ready for change work around the politics of organic change, filtering up or hierarchical structure (That one is sometimes the worst since those leaders only get to speak when they are barking orders- forget awareness communication) make a connection different than anything done in the past- early.

I preach ownership of change by leaders, but in a show them it is possible scenario you only have to make a noticeable effort in a new way. If you are high enough in the organization a simple timely appearance at an important part of the change process, unannounced, can begin to move culture toward change. You will follow up on that push I assume…

Stretch the Envelope

This is true for everyone.

It is especially true for: Corporate Communications, the PMO, Leaders, HR, the number crunchers and the local curmudgeon.

Of this group of noteworthy myth followers Corporate Communications is the one that can really give change a push. Design, layout and presentation of information, when done differently, stands out (maybe like a sore thumb to them, for employees it quickly becomes something to brag about on the playground). Change practitioners do not be afraid to find your CC champion. You will be surprised how willing they are to (finally?!) upgrade their approach.


The refrain I hear in every organization is, “we are worked to the bone, we have absolutely no time, we are all worn out”.

Which is entirely true.

And that would be because of the endless, irrelevant meetings (or at least half the interaction within). Because of the maze of connections and permission that must be had for the smallest of things. Because nothing ever changes and, let’s face it, that’s EXHAUSTING!

Thanks to our above list, things that when I plan them out take a certain amount of time, take at least three times longer in the client real world.

Consulting teams can come in and slam down a stack of deliverables for a solution with amazing speed. They, too, work themselves to the bone, but because they are charging for time efficiency is key. They have no time for politics. And they plow right through them.

There is an interesting thing I see on engagements. Independent consultants and the ones from small firms bring vibrancy and possibility to organizations. (I leave out the Big whatever-we-are-now because they always seem tired and distracted and disconnected from potential- probably because they REALLY get worked to the bone with little control or connection- I know been there).

If you have change where that external help can provide an energy boost use them. On one strategic engagement I worked with three different vendors for three different parts of an initiative (short of internal leadership I was the one person roving and weaving the three together). Tons of energy there. When matched with smart change (the kind everyone is quietly asking for) you have a winning equation.

End State Understanding

You can’t do something smart, add something new that makes sense, improve stakeholders environment and not call it out. To make change possible you have to show that something happened. And you have to plan for that process- figure it out, make a small  thing happen and then SHOUT it out (over the urban myth din)!

That “figure it out” part is pretty important. This is the reason, IMHO, that change possible becomes change unlikely. No one seems to be able to describe what this change is. No one has an end state description (let alone the multiple forms needed). Take the time to figure out, know and then be able to explain this change- at least the small part you are using to show change is possible. I don’t mean the boring deletable market speak that most change efforts throw out.

Forget the dumb 70% failure fake stat. Forget all those times something was tried before and failed. Forget change lethargy. Find something that works for stakeholders, figure it out, explain it well and most of all insert the energy and connection needed to make it work. THEN change is possible.

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