Lots of talk, again and evermore, about CM as science or art.
(My take is that we need scientific artists and artistic scientists).
Both sides have some great arguments and excellent explanations about what science is and what it tries to accomplish vs. (it is usually versus) it is hard to crunch human behavior into one or few variables. Without control of variables science doesn’t work so well.
What I find interesting is that LOTS of the academically oriented (along with the groupthink group) practitioners are hob-knobbing about this science thing and no one is doing any real studies (no, Prosci and neuroscience do not count- one could be duplicated in Survey Monkey and the other is legitimate science twisted for gain).
If, just if, someone did some science that REALLY applied to CM what would they study?
(Please chime in with comments. I am using stream of conscious for this…too busy with client work to be able to think :-)
- Positive vs. Negative
- Seeing the Future and Seeing the Present
- Root Causes
Positive vs. Negative
I would like to see an experiment around change and attitude.
One version would be whether a positive vs. negative attitude in stakeholders matters. The other would measure the approach of the change team/group.
Starting with a positive approach to everything before layering over the negative makes change possible. I am guessing the study would show that reversing the order makes change VERY difficult.
We have our comparison too. Take a change that had a resistance fighting approach vs. one that used the end state as a focus point.
Seeing the Future and Seeing the Present
I have done my own mini experiments with this just by adding a future focus lens.Those who do not understand this viewpoint have a really hard time with ANY change. When they do change their perspective the change begins to get questioned, and spun around and looked at.
That intense look at the future and the change (and THEN the present) works. I know it does. Having real science (that I didn’t pay for) to support my assertion would be fantastic.
We have many, many studies out there about motivation.
The problem is it all gets crunched into a layman’s triangle that illustrates survival (do we have to couch everything in fear and instinct?). It all leaves me wondering if food is more important or a hot shower under a roof (actually showers are way more fun outside so the roof thing must not be that important).
Show me a study that proves common sense is the best motivator and I will use it in my own practice of CM as science. Show me a study that shows taking risks has some hidden benefit and I will use that too (I can think of lots of benefits for taking risks).
I used to be in the camp of “leadership charisma guides change”. Now I am not so sure. I have seen many leaders with zero charisma that had lots of followers.
I am guessing the study that could show charisma as a positive attitude, “let’s try this” thing would be valuable for the change arena. Not that egotistic, I am the king kind of charisma though.
This one would worry me a little.
Practicality can sometimes kill change. It is easy to come up with “practical” arguments against taking risk. ‘Cause let’s face it every change is a risk.
If somehow this study showed that looking at things realistically in order to develop a change journey was the right thing to do I would quote the study.
This one I would PAY for. And then I would shamelessly market the results. I promise I would avoid marketing at a third-grade-stuff-into-a-shape level.
Do a study that shows the reason change management FAILS is because it chases symptoms rather than root causes. PLEASE!
Shoot the heck out of that bogus 70% stat. and show that actually 97.3785436% of initiatives fail. Because they pretty much do.
The reason they do is because the methods layer the same-ol’ over what is already there while spending a lot of time on the symptoms all over the organization. No one wants to touch the elephants that are the root causes.
Science could easily prove that.
Want science for change management? Maybe test: attitude, time perspective, motivation, charisma, practicality and root causes.
Up high on the things that get in the way of change is decisions. Or more refined: Lack thereof and difficulty getting them.
When I am really disillusioned I want to scream, “just decide already!” or “just make someone responsible for this!” (then go back to the first scream).
It really isn’t that simple this decision-making thing (and for that I am wonderfully disillusioned).
Decision Making Options
Command and Control
This is the easiest right?
The highest person on the ladder for this particular thing makes the decision. They always make the decision (that is why we call them decision makers). They decide, everyone else follows (or obeys depending on your perspective). It is simple. LOTS of decisions get made.
For anyone who has followed (or been commanded to follow) a bad decision you know why this category can make you disillusioned. In many ways the status quo of command and control makes it very hard to address, call out or reverse bad choices. Theoretically those decision makers can be easily fired. After all the trail is clear.
That rarely happens. When it does that person takes their resume to a new place where there is no track record. Rinse and repeat.
The wonderful part here though is that it is easy to find and go to the person who HAS to make the decision.
Which is why some organizations slide into empowerment mode.
That clear trail to someone to blame gets mixed up if you start empowering people and sharing responsibility. Empowerment is wonderful, but it can also be a mask for ineffectual leadership.
For change, empowerment decision-making is wonderful, but empowerment must come with clear responsibility and rewards for success. Adding the opportunity to be mentored past mistakes is nice too (and reinforces the organizational ability to empower).
Put a representative from different functions, specialties or areas of your organization (the mix depends on what the steering committee was SUPPOSED to be for) together with a regularly scheduled meeting and let them decide. It is the perfect cross functional decision-making structure, right?
Or it is a place where decisions go to die.
Without mediation these kind of competing interests do not do a good job of making decisions (if they are the results are usually watered down and ineffective- think government).
Organizations quickly realized that so a status quo set up started. Let other people gather information, maybe even basically make the decision for you (those are usually called options and you only have go to one to decide), present to you and then you decide. Actually not you. You and all the others on the committee. For the committee sitter this is a wonderful spread of responsibility. For a CM this is disillussionary. (Although we do sometimes pull in revenue for that previously mentioned mediation).
Or you can just make sure everyone agrees.
The only time consensus makes sense is when you have a small group that knows they share responsibility for something. A project team is the perfect example. You probably still have competing interests but end state views are usually fairly close (it is the path and the lists that vary). These groups can decide. They may bargain a little- you get your choice this time I get mine later.
Small groups are willing to be bold. If consensus makes for a solid, rather than watered down choice then it is wonderful for everyone to agree (said with a little disillusioned snark).
Organic decision-making just happens.
I think organic decision-making is a response to no decisions being made. It is the “I will do it myself, then” approach. The wonderful part is that it often works. Agreement can have a powerful momentum. If an organization develops a pattern of individually being on board when they really do not care which way the decision goes then any decision automatically has a group of adherents. It is like built in consensus for boldness. That is wonderful.
When the whole thing plays out willy-nilly and decisions (a lot of them bad) are like presents on Christmas gone wild it gets not so wonderful. It can be comical when everyone wants to be on the decision-making band wagon. I get disillusioned when the good decisions don’t get their fair credit. Organic organizations still have a gossamer thread of command and control- just enough to often render the power of organic powerless.
Whether by command and control; empowerment; committees; consensus or organic, good decisions are fantastic. Bad decisions or no deciding at all can make you a little disillusioned. Figuring out how to get things done through the right decisions is wonderful (and often the forte of change management).
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.
Continuing with some background for my participation on the panel: Perks & Perils: Optimizing Internal and External Change Management, April 16th at 4 pm PST for the Los Angeles ACMP conference:
For the panel discussion we have some definitive competencies and talents to discuss that match mostly internal practitioners, mostly external consultants and those that fit both (yes, it could be argued that all are needed for any practice of change). As a first step here I thought it might help to impart some of what I have seen on multiple engagements at different client sites (names withheld, of course).
As a reminder I called this list out in my first post:
- We, as a profession, suffer from groupthink.
- Many practitioners are inexperienced (internal and external) or at least one company practitioners.
- Organizations are not structured for change.
- The models and methodology being used are old, tired and misguided.
- A new level of what I would consider heavily tactical change management from internal change practitioners.
A few client partners I can think of are an imperfect/perfect form of project manager. They get that change at its base level is about getting things done (and getting things to happen) that pull toward end states. So they call meetings with a specific decision as the end point (even though those meetings should be called by the leader[s] responsible for the decision). They craft role descriptions as the change process moves forward to make sure that those kids of decisions will be made later AND that someone will be held accountable. They basically play cop and parent at the same time (or maybe it is parent and boss).
- External consultants (OK maybe most were really contractors) becoming internal practitioners.
This is positive for two reasons: one is that it keeps the difference between consultant and contractor/employee clear and two that internal resources now have a little more of that external boldness. Those client partners I mentioned came from external roles.
- More awareness of the components of change.
Yes people may hesitate to change. How many people blindly move to a new thing? Yes the people component IS a risk. And yes people cannot be managed (for any length of time). At the point CM practitioners begin to manage individuals problems start (no, that is NOT resistance, stop fighting it as if it is). This awareness also translates into a genuine appreciation of external influences down to the individual. It is nice to get to a place where we are welcomed and, breath, respected.
- By trying to make everything internal and letting that structure build organically and internally organizations are setting themselves up for scenarios worse than the status quo they are trying to break. I have seen 25 competing change entities at one organization. Nothing like an internal fight to the finish, while still tying to create and sell products! This organic surge is also making it much easier for executives to not be responsible for decisions and to scapegoat (although for an external I guess this is a positive now the internal practitioners have become the scapegoats).
- All this work and all this effort and lots of giddy excitement from all the people interaction are moving organizations forward about one step. Because none of the entities for change that I have seen are really addressing root causes. Performance management is never even mentioned. Cross functional interaction is only happening at an organic level (which requires a high level of relationship something people barely have time for WITHIN their functions).
- All too often the wolf is guarding the hen-house. Change can move slow because of politics, extra requests, too many deliverables, too much desire for measurement, too much control. Many (no not all but most that I have seen so far) internal practitioners like to be in charge of data and information. They like to manage the interactions of people (guide works much better and requires a level of disconnect that someone who is controlling does not have the competency for). In short they often reinforce those things which slow change.
The environment is getting better. I, personally, am moving from disillusionment toward the commoditization and cost cutting of internal change management to a willingness to partner when the competencies of years of external consulting are respected, rewarded and leveraged. There is a new focus on people, individual and talent, not just with practitioners- that’s wonderful. I fully expect to feel bad (and proven mostly wrong) regarding my current honesty about internal practitioners. That would be the full circle of being Wonderfully Disillusioned.
Here is something to think about for your organization: How about using change for changes?
I have found most change initiatives now have people running to participate, IF, they know changes will be made to the way they do their work. Yes I know you thought change was the other way around- big effect on what people are used to. This willingness to participate seems to stem from this wave of organic decision making that has occurred in the last couple of years. Stakeholders (for change) and employees (for operational activities) know that the only way decisions are made that can help tweak structure is to have many (if not everyone) on board.
Organizations are becoming a little like politics- it takes massive pressure to make the slightest of tweaks.
Might there be a way to speed this up?
Use your change for changes
As you look at your path to end states keep in mind operations of the future and the present. Are there tweaks you can make to process, performance, culture, interaction that will facilitate efficiency, or participation or the use of expertise? You, of course, need to look at the tweaks needed for your operational end state, but what about now? What about making things better as you travel to that future? Maybe push a few small buttons before you tackle the big ones? (This approach is my own version of quick wins- quick wins that work now AND later).
The Change “Excuse”
Even in the most entrenched organizations (entrenched being either dictatorial or organic) change becomes a great time to do things a little differently. It is not that hard to strip away a few of those mandatory reviews. It is not that hard to open up stakeholders lists so more emails can be sent at once, or together. It is not hard to designate someone as the leader (owner or sponsor) so that ONE person becomes responsible for decisions. (And to think we used to push back against that kind of leadership- the pendulum swings).
Take advantage of the change excuse to:
- Tweak performance measures. Make them future and goal oriented. Make them REAL.
- Create new rules. Maybe you make some new meeting rules, say 40 minute meetings instead of one hour. Maybe you put time limits on interaction, forced deadlines yes, but parameters that make sense. Maybe you pull in HR to help you create new rules thereby possibly changing the rules for making rules. In this case think of a rule as a chance to guide behavior rather than the opportunity to control something (or someone).
- Do things differently. Do you always, quickly, put dates on things? Are you deadline driven? How about padding those times for once? Or maybe put that padding in front of the announcement of a date/deadline- you might find yourself making some smart decisions with less pressure. Do things seem to last forever and never get accomplished in your organization? Maybe yours is the one that needs to start fencing things in with dates. If hard dates are too hard then drop things into time frames say a quarter, or month or week.
- Do the same things better. Use change to look at the things you already do (especially if they will be similar at the end state) and make them better. How often are your lists of 10 things really only seven or eight? How well do you organize work so that it makes sense? Is the smallest of tasks connected to a bigger whole (hint the answer is ALWAYS yes)? Do you communicate that? Do you organize work around that? Change is a great time to do that.
- Do something new. You are already changing. Why not try some new things at the same time? (Hint: those new things will be much less overwhelming than the actual big change, and doing them feeds the comfort level needed for the bigger stuff). Sometimes change is an attitude. Encourage that.
Use big change for small change. Tweak, create, do things differently, do the same things better, do something new. The small changes will feed the big changes if you use the big change as an opportunity.
Feldthoughts brings us a great list for meetings, repurposed from an Urban Airship employee wall posting:
0. Do we really need to meet?
1. Schedule a start, not an end to your meeting – it’s over when it’s over, even if that’s just 5 minutes.
2. Be on time!
3. No multi-tasking … no device usage unless necessary for meeting
4. If you’re not getting anything out of the meeting, leave
5. Meetings are not for information sharing – that should be done before the meeting via email and/or agenda
6. Who really needs to be at this meeting?
7. Agree to action items, if any, at the conclusion of the meeting
8. Don’t feel bad about calling people out on any of the above; it’s the right thing to do.
Go to the Feldthoughts link and read the comments. This post produced an animated thoughtful and helpful stream of tips and perspectives.
Leveraging a list like this would be fantastic for change management. It would also be a great tool to experiment with under the cover of change work.
I preach a rule (that rarely gets followed, but is always worth proselytizing): reports as deliverable, decisions/dialogue as meeting.
Using a meeting as a report-out is HUGE waste of time. For some reason it is a favorite pattern with project managers (I think that is because they are rewarded by task completed so any chance they have to show how much they checked off they take- it must have worked along the way because now it is an engrained pattern). An argument can be made that people do not look at those attached reports when sent. Fair (since there are also too many report-outs, another blog post). If they do not look at the report then maybe the report is not that important… to them.
0. Deciding whether to meet should be automatic, but is not an easy choice (mostly because the organizer is usually intensely focused on the world from their perspective).
- I like the start time only… but do people just make sure all meetings start on the hour? I could see either lots of tardy attendees (from meetings that go forever) to lots of 5 minute meetings on the hour. A compromise is to make meetings shorter- between 20 and 45 minutes instead of an automatic hour.
- Good luck getting that one to work in certain countries. I say schedule all meetings less than an hour and be a little early. I learn lots with the questions I ask before meetings (and knowing that gets me there early).
- Lots of studies have shown that multi tasking just does not work. End of that discussion. Except… if you are multi tasking then the meeting is not important so move to number 4.
- Yes! Except that we would have to leave a LOT of meetings. As a change management practitioner pretty much every meeting will provide something valuable (we need background information to fulfill our roles). The only way the “leave the meeting” rule works is if everyone understands and the number of meetings gets reduced as a result. The more reduction the easier it is to follow the rule.
- Have agreed to this for a long time. You do have to create a structure where people read reports voluntarily or are punished if they do not. Don’t punish the reader before you go after the producers though.
- The CAN OF WORMS. It is much, much easier (especially with change that screams inclusive) to justify having someone at a meeting than not. The cost of these meetings is phenomenal though. I listened in on a report meeting (little dialogue, lots of things that needed to be tabled…hey there’s a word, tabled, as in “in person meetings over stuff on the table”) with 125 (!!!!) participants, almost all call in. Let’s err on the chintzy side and say each of those people made the equivalent of $60 hr… that report-of-the-report cost $7500 US. Did I mention these are usually weekly? $30,000 a month to cover tracks.
- Not every meeting HAS to have action items. Remember meetings should be for dialogue. Marching orders work perfect in bullet point lists with names on them sent separate from meetings. Meetings, remember, can also be for decisions though. That is when the action items will appear. Decide, create marching orders. A good use of a meeting.
- If you do not make it OK to use and question these rules (and question those who do not follow them) then it is just a set of rules that will never work. Change has to make sense. It has to make sense at the individual and functional level. This list could be a great pilot exercise for bigger behavior change.
One thing I would add is to question agendas.
They are a little “oxymoronic”. On the surface it makes sense to let people know what will happen and what is coming up. Dig deeper though and you realize agendas invite the multi tasking of #3, illustrate #6, invite #4 and fit better with #5. Plus, meetings that are TOO structured (or always structured exactly the same way with a templated approach) reduce dialogue, which then effects decision making (as in making it almost impossible).
Eight rules for meetings, care of the Urban Airship, with some horizontalchange twists and suggestions when dealing with change.
Organic organizations create this chain of events:
Committees “decide”, creating lots of meetings (and meetings within meetings), causing lots of one on one behind the scenes conversations, including sending the meeting “deck” before the one on one, so everyone is spoken to before they are spoken to… together.
Exactly the way you do things in your organization?
I said nothing about change. This is the operational structure. It does convert to change though, just double everything, in effect talking twice before you talk the third time.
It doesn’t take a statistician to figure out this means that anyone important asked to a meeting will have at least one meeting to add. This is PERSON by PERSON!
Don’t think your organization is special in doing this. I can quickly count 5 Fortune 100 firms that I know do this. That likely means there are many more.
Chinese Whispers or Telephone
This is the game where one person whispers something in someone else’s ear which then gets “repeated” to the next person. You only get one chance to be heard. Inevitably the message is very different by the time it gets to the last person.
Telephone shows us this organic pattern corrodes messages and possibly creates alternate competing messages with “translation”.
In my own work (assuming this organic pattern is not so severely controlled that I can’t talk to someone without permission) I have a separate informal plan. There are always power people in the organization, there are always discerning stakeholders who are worth having individual time with, there is always the informal-stay-ahead-of-the-work connections to make. So at one level I get this hand holding pattern.
When I do this it is part of a broader plan to have the message NOT get diluted when it goes to the next person. Rather I look to have the message translated into that persons own words and perspective. (They typically represent a group that will understand that language).
Planning keeps us from doing things automatically… that make little sense.
What is the Reason for This?
I think the reason is that those individuals who are being “reached-out” to are responsible for things to a group of people. Because of this, and other, organic patterns, they never really feel comfortable about the information. They can just see stepping up to represent something that was represented to them incorrectly and then taking a leadership hit for the effort. So no one steps up and everyone expects to be in the Telephone line. Rinse and repeat. Over and over and over.
My Change Management Tweak
Patterns and behaviors sometimes have to be pushed and tweaked in small steps.
For this set of patterns and behaviors:
- Lose the deck-for-the-meeting approach just once and meet IN PERSON to talk about the information.
- This is comical, but not entirely impossible if you can get people to see the pattern- have a meeting WITH THE GROUP (in person or virtual) before the “official” meeting. And call them informal and formal. Basically make a little fun (self deprecating with everyone self deprecating) of this silliness.
- Send the deck out for review and lose the “talk to everyone ahead approach” (you might want to double the length of the meeting- you are spending the same amount of money and time doing it individually- the results will likely be similar… and you start changing the pattern).
- Just a thought… get leadership to start owning, prioritizing and deciding (not in groups)… just a thought.
Five tips for addressing the meeting-before-the-meeting-to-protect-everyone-at-the-meeting organic pattern in organizations. Take away some one on one to make the one with many efforts work a little better. (Little tweaks to address a big problem).
The organization decides to start some big change. Enough people agree on it and it gets far enough into their process that an initiative begins. At the point that it has a name (or could have a name that is another issue) spending has been allocated, the right people have participated and “agreed” and they are good to go.
This is something that I see over and over, and it seems to be getting worse: big process for deciding whether something falls into that initiative title; LOTS of effort to make sure everything is quantified and figured out from a money and business perspective; and spreadsheet lists of needed resources. All well and good. Should work. Makes sense.
Except: most of the expertise, the competencies needed, are not available. They are either not there or are locked in as full FTE’s for other stuff and or operational work.
What does this actually look like?
It looks like those in the project team begging, pleading, bargaining for and coercing to get the resources they need (which comically are in those proposals to leadership).
I honestly do not get this.
(I get how it happens, I get what has to be done as a result, I get that this seems to be a common result of built up Human Nature).
How can you embark on a major, multi- million dollar effort and not MAKE SURE you have the people you need and that they know they will be doing what you are expecting?
An aside: many, if not most, of the models out there are created to facilitate the begging and pleading- all cloaked up in “research” and “best practices”.
This discussion falls squarely in the Prioritization layer for change management (see Change Management Layers for the others).
Most, ok in a way all, organizations have strategy. The same for a project, review and allocation process. All organizations have someone who can “sign” for initiatives. You would assume those signers, or better THAT signer, has the power and influence to illustrate who will be needed where. It seems pretty straight forward: see the need, define the need, place the needs in the proper order and sequence. Simple.
Or it would be if there was not a gap in the whole change process (which is because most organizations do not have a true change process- they have high level project processes).
The gap is the inability to interconnect change initiatives with operations and allocation. The secondary gap is the lack of decision making- call it prioritization like I do (to avoid scapegoating executives for a much bigger problem).
I see solutions. It would be exciting to be in a position to actually address this problem in one organization. It would be its own change initiative though. A big one FULL of needed behavior and structural change, not to mention a whole lot of reflection by senior executives (and likely the board). We can dream though.
My first pick for the reason any change “fails”? Prioritization and Strategy.
Change Management practitioners can easily think of and craft picture perfect end states for clients. They can just as easily convert those end states into phases, tasks and activities it will take to get there. Those perfect end states carry assumptions (like ownership, the right avenues for communication, effective organizational prioritization, etc.). Without those assumptive parts perfection will never be reached. When you have been doing this a while you realize that perfect engagement, that either has or creates the parts and then has a chance to get to that particular end state, will not happen.
Change Management, when done well and smart, is about compromise.
It is about doing as much as possible within the constraints of the organization (or looked at a different way- stretching organizational constraints).
What can you do then after you think you have done all you can do?
Informal Change Management
Step away from the model.
Step away from the template.
Get out of that spreadsheet (that no one really uses but you) and look for the informal connections in the web of the organization.
A typical current organization is a committee structure at different levels for different functional reviews spread throughout the company. This is a set up for “collaborative decision making”, “empowerment”, “checks and balances”. Or it was supposed to be those things…
This is what happens: no one makes an effort to have dialogue over decisions any farther than one vertical away (Director to Senior Director, VP to Senior Director, etc.). Think about that. The only dialogue that occurs is between reports and bosses and the other way around. Not very dialogic. Not very conducive to good decision-making. (my own push to tweak performance management measures is an approach to this from a different direction).
I have begun, in my own practice, a pattern of asking stakeholders where their tentacles of influence have spread through the organization (try to put all those answers in a spreadsheet!). I often find people who were asked to help out far away from our current work. Those previous connections and work effort almost always link right back to expertise (which is the foundation of my own approach to change). Because those stakeholders were reached out to in the context of what they could provide and help out with, a deposit has occurred that can potentially be cashed in.
Call it politics, but in these fully organic (I would say “leaderless” on a bad day- and only be partially pessimistic) organizations it is second and third level connections that help you get things done.
If you can’t get leaders to prioritize and make decisions maybe you can do end-arounds to influence outcome. Every one of those threads of the informal spider web has a quick connection to someone on a committee. The committee, or group, is just the formal version of the informal politics. Which is comical i f you think about it…create a group to ease the need for internal politics, which effectively INCREASES the need to politic.
In this group scenario I find the discussions about how to influence really valuable (albeit frustrating for an external- see perfect end states above). It is our chance as externals to both move this change forward and tweak the structure of the organization. This connection competency is valuable for future change and for some of the little decisions that become big with “too many people in the kitchen”. There is, of course, no organization that has a formal process for doing this because that would force change…
A few caveats: as with most of the practice of change management the later the practitioner is brought in the harder things like this will be to do, even these reach-outs tend to only skip one level (limiting their effectiveness for any structural change) and, finally, even the most evangelical change agent will think twice (or three or four times) about cashing in any of their deposits. Carry tact and compromise with you at all times.
Because many organizations have lost (given up?) their ability to make quick decisions and to effectively prioritize informal activities are necessary for change. Informal change management requires a different set of skills and competency (not to mention calmness and patience).
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.