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Performance Archives - Garrett's Change Management Blog

Leaders and Change Agents

Heather Stagl over at Enclaria has a nice succinct post listing, “Four Reasons Leaders Need Change Agents”.

Good stuff.

She didn’t mention external or internal although did say, “When there are people in your organization who are dedicated change agents…”. That still does not indicate internal or external. I will save that discussion for my next post.

For now:

The Four Reasons:

  • Feedback
  • Neutrality
  • Communication
  • Capability

Heather’s post stands on its own, but, of course, I see some add-ons and twists of thought that might be helpful in the interest of never-taking-things-at-face-value and always-digging-just-a-little-deeper, for knowledge and understanding.


Heather’s take was feedback as a form of crisis protection-recovering from the “cringe-worthy” were her words.

How about feedback as insurance?

Experience in 70 different cultures with four or five times as many leaders, for me, makes it pretty easy to predict what will happen when certain things are done and said. If this change agent to leader relationship is trusting and equal then discussion will reveal potential smart moves and not so smart moves.

Feedback requires something to have happened. Planning and strategy conversations always have an element of the past (can’t predict outcomes without comparison). Those past elements are a perfect time for change agent feedback. That kind is easy because the “crisis” has passed and the discussion may just prevent the next.


All change requires mediation.

This is a crucial role and competency for change agents.

My add here is that is can be very beneficial for the mediating change agent to “pretend” a perspective and then make an argument for it. If they are really good they can do it twice for both sides of the discussion. Complete neutrality isn’t always the most effective approach.

I personally have never liked the, “I hear what you are saying… blah, blah, blah” form of mediation. Sometimes the change agent needs to insert refined opinion into exchanges. (The added bonus is that others- leaders- get taught how to make arguments that can be heard).


Transparency because of lack of authority was Heather’s take.

Back to that trusted partner relationship between the leader and the change agent, my add- the addition of a conduit for information.

Stakeholders love and cling to anyone who represents the owner of the change. If a change agent can walk the fine line of representing the owner without jeopardizing that leader or the change, information can fly back and forth.

In terms of communication adept change agents can quickly flatten the organization. (I have always thought that is the element that drives project managers crazy- we are able to make things happen quickly because we step right past political obstacles).

We understand informal communication which can be the underlying foundation of change or the liquid soil that is a sink hole waiting to happen.


Change agent ability and competency transfers through the organization is Heather’s take.

This is true and most applicable at the tactical level. I have always thought change agents at a tactical level are simply teaching, modeling and mentoring the learning of leadership skills (that we used to have and that companies used to pay to have). Capability when it comes to change is about competency and experience. Change agents bring the experience and can teach competency.

My add is that change agents (especially multi-organization externals) bring a capability that the organization does not, and arguably cannot, have internally. We often make it OK to temporarily go around internal politics and OK to call out organizational root causes. When a light is shone on politics and root causes, capability increases geometrically (pretty darn fast).

The chance for: feedback, neutrality, communication and capability follow a change agent everywhere they go.

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Time to Topple the Bogus 70% Statistic


Huge Kudos go out to Jennifer Frahm for her post, “70% of change projects fail: Bollocks![1]”.

The time has come to topple this change management sacred cow.

I won’t steal her thunder. Go read the post, see how she even has the guts to tackle Kotter converting-observation-into-assumed-fact.

Here is why that “statistic” has been used (use this to weed out poor consultants clients):

  1. Fear
    You are already fearful of your change. If I REALLY scare you do death maybe you will pick me as your savior (and pay me lots and begin to depend on me to salve your fear…maybe for years and years!).
  2. Competition
    If I bring up the dreaded number you will automatically think I am in the 30% category. Always go with a winner, right?
  3. A little Erudite mixed in
    If I whip out that 70 number with no hesitation it must mean I have really studied this change thing. No way would I drop a number that has absolutely no scientific basis.
  4. Science based Change
    If I can show you there is a way to approach this change thing step by step in a scientific way with “numbers” to show how well we are doing (we not you or I- no practitioner actually wants to OWN a number like that) then I am a shoo-in for the role.
  5. Distraction
    That number has been a crutch and lever for practitioners and “Thought Leaders” for years. No one dares touch it. It is- was thank you Jennifer- a sacred cow. The perfect thing to keep going back to if it turns out you as a practitioner are in the 70 area. (Hint we all are AND we are in the 30 area because the number is bogus).
  6. Tool Setup
    This is a post on its own. If I knock off those first five things then I can introduce you to my set of tools. ‘Cause we all know not every hammer or saw is the same or works for building a house…Change without just the right tool is what has caused those many “failures”. (I have had a couple of huge initiatives that, if the power went off permanently, I could have accomplished with pen and paper).

Don’t buy the snake oil clients.

If ANYONE quotes the 70% statistic either walk away or have fun and toy with them- ask them to cite the study with reliability and validity (just mentioning those last two words will likely make a 70% ’ers head swim).

Clients-topple the 70% change statistic now and stop its use for fear, competition, false knowledge, false science, distraction and a set up for emptying your budget. Change Practitioners don’t embarrass yourself (or set yourself up) by talking about failure that can’t really be measured.

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Change Management One Trick Ponies


My list from the first ACMP speaking engagement post:

  1. As a profession we suffer from groupthink.
  2. 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.

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Internal Change Management Consultants- ACMP Speaking Engagement


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):

  1. Documentation
  2. Communication
  3. Training
  4. Business Process
  5. Logistics


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.

Business Process

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.

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Faking Your Job

Fast Company, “Why Faking Enthusiasm is the Latest Job Requirement” will get your blood boiling- especially if you read the comment section. Thinking about it makes me snicker. How many times have I heard the word, “engagement” in organizations? “What can we do to get them engaged?”. From a senior leader, “how are you going to engage this particular stakeholder group?”. (OK maybe that snicker is a sneer with the inside-my-head response, “I would ask YOU the same question”).

It is almost refreshing to meet those employees who are NOT faking it. You are supposed to go full bore with no qualms. You are certainly not supposed to complain. It is those who toe the line right in the middle that amaze me. They just kind of HANG IN THERE.

Let’s put a change spin on this

No one should have to fake anything that has to do with their job or change. They, equally, should not be expected to cheerlead their way through life and their role. Both sides of this equation have to be looked at. What do those happy-go-lucky-love-my-job people get for their energy?

As some of the comments suggest money is not everything, but seems to be pretty important. There is a level that the money has to be at. That is different for everyone, different for roles and levels, but there is always that level for every role that is the bottom. A post like the Fast Company one comes along when that level has been broached in a downward direction.

Productivity is up, wages are down.

There seems to be a factor there that might engage people.

Nothing is going to change (although take heart CM practitioners rates have definitely gone up this year) soon in the wage arena.

My suggestion then is that things make sense at some level. For change it is because work fits into something bigger than the individual stakeholder. For a job it might be that ones skill is being used/leveraged. For a role it might be that this can be a stepping stone to the hop-and-skip-to-work roles.

If we are truly to get engagement there needs to be more opportunity, more reward (or at least fair reward) and, yes maybe a little better attitude. This applies to jobs and change.

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Using Change for Changes

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:

  1. Tweak performance measures. Make them future and goal oriented. Make them REAL.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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Permission to Leave That Meeting

Feldthoughts brings us a great list for meetings, repurposed from an Urban Airship employee wall posting:ChangeMeetingList

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.

My take

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.

In general

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).

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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Resources for Change- Strategy & Prioritization

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.

Or not.

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.

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External Consultant as Mentor

I remember, it seems only a few short years back, organizations that had clear career paths. They had official training (in person, can you believe that?) programs, succession plans and mentoring. True that still exists, but it is more informal and most organizations are missing one piece of the training/mentoring/succession triad.

External consultants can provide two of them (officially in the contract or as a value add within their work process), training and mentoring.

Mentoring often has training (and coaching for that matter) elements built in. So let’s look at Mentoring (it gets a capital because of its importance and effect).

Consultant Mentor


After a few years of experience we, as consultants, make a lot of assumptions about how much leadership is understood. Take away those experiences (which is where most leaders in organizations are coming from- one or just a few place where they have watched and practiced) to compare and leadership suddenly gets complicated and confusing. When externals understand that, and internal leaders value that externals insight, it becomes easy to guide with a little correction here, a risky move there, a new relationship built over there.


  1. Good leaders understand motivation. As a mentor help your mentee to see things from the perspective of those they lead.
  2. Great leaders are aware of themselves and their presence. Help leaders to see their value as a leader of others and as a role model. Teach them to be connected to their leadership and those they lead (no walls for safety).
  3. Fantastic leaders acknowledge. Mentors should be constantly calling out the positive in both the leader and those led. The more we all appreciate what we are good at the more we offer up that talent to others.

Change Management

In my case this is a component since it is my specialty. It never hurts to have this category part of any mentoring arrangement. You will create a prodigy if you focus on end states, expertise and broader views.


  1. Awesome leaders can see the end state, define objectives turn them into goals and create the right tasks for the right people (and so not have to beg for participation).
  2. Savvy leaders define change in terms of talent and skill. Teach to see what needs to be done, what skill or competency is required for that and who would be the best fit.
  3. Smart leaders always frame effort around the future. This is HUGE. Teach to stop looking at the present compared to the future. Future first defines possibility and strength. Future first reveals inadequacy in a solution oriented way.

Strategy and Tactics

One of the things I see missing with leaders is an ability to see the biggest picture and then zoom in. Everyone seems to be able to zoom in. In fact just about everyone (including high level leaders which seems strange) STARTS at zoomed in. Without the ability to see a broader picture nothing can be put into context.

But always looking at some big, likely unattainable picture, also does not work on it own. Learning to turn big into small, idea into task, is a valuable leadership competency.


  1. Do mini exercises together describing end state of things going on in the organization. Repeat with different perspectives.
  2. Do the same thing from the other direction. Look at a set of tasks the leader or someone else is responsible and see if a connection can be made to a bigger picture.
  3. Focus on how the organization organizes strategy (pillars, stated objectives etc.) and make a list of things the leader can influence to make that organization better, visible and accessible to stakeholders.


Leadership is about business first right? Or not.

Business translated to people is a little like the present converted to the future. It is backwards.

Or think of it this way: Look at a business model and figure out the competencies you will need and look at a group of talented people and see what you can accomplish (that someone will pay for). I think a talented group of people can make money faster than a business can gather talent.

So, with the assumption that business requires talent, learning about people, looking at things from a people perspective, will make a strong leader. The business part you can sometimes pick up just by being there, the people part takes attention.


  1. List out the leaders reports, then list their competencies broken down to skills. Ah ha- you were going to make a list of the things those people needed to improve on weren’t you? Know what you have that is working before you get into the weeds of fixes and improvements.
  2. As an external mentor reach out to someone that will help your mentee somehow. It is so much easier for externals to make the right connection horizontally than it is for internals (I sense some pushback as I write that- there is a blog post there). Build that connection and then draw in your internal leader in the right way. Maybe carry information back and forth that helps both and then slowly make the connection just the two of them. Your leader will see your process and use it the next time they need to reach out.
  3. Teach the leader to say thank you, to acknowledge, to put things in a positive light. (And, yes, use that perspective to more easily shine a light on the opposite).

If you are an external looking to make more of a difference, and increase your value, spend more time mentoring. If you are a client working with an external consultant ask, or contract for, this arrangement. Mentoring is missing in a lot of organizations, externals can fill that gap.

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Change Management Resolutions

These things I already do, but I am resolving to get better:

  1. Be patient.
    Client time is different from mine. It is usually slower, but sometimes has a wild false urgency. Patience for change management means going slower at times and faster when it is not really necessary.
  2. Fill in the cells.
    Whether or not it makes sense everyone seems to need cells filled in. Rather than constantly question all these spreadsheets I am going to take some time to fill them up so I can get to the REAL change management.
  3. Stand my ground.
    It is easy as a consultant to not say some things either because you know there is little chance your comments will turn into the right action or because you are afraid you will push buttons which can make your position precarious. This is exactly what consultant used to get PAID for- willingness to question and eloquently present alternatives. I have worked to hard to discard this talent.
  4. Spend more time dishing out Kudos.
    There is not enough specific acknowledgement in organizations. Perhaps coming from outsiders compliments that call out expertise might carry some extra weight? Perhaps spending a little extra time on this helps others to follow suit? You do not know until you try.

Four resolutions that might help both consultant and client, and vice versa: Be patient, fill in the cells, stand your ground and hand out extra Kudos. Use them yourself if you like.

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