In the process of organizing my 900+ posts to be more readily accessible I realize there might be some Change Management Lessons Learned to be culled. So Tuesdays will now be a quick lesson learned post. My guess is these will be about consulting, change management specifically, approach, perspective and hidden tidbits of insight.
My Pace is not Yours
This took me a long time to learn.
Because I can often see how things could turn out, can envision a clients possible end state, I tend to get focused on the big picture, the planning and even a little visioning about the journey all at once (and pretty quickly). For that long time to learn I told myself this is about business and business needs to be quick to be profitable so my pace is the right pace. I have learned to stop telling myself that.
How many things out there in the big world, business included, move at the correct pace?
Isn’t EVERYTHING too fast?
Smack dab in the middle of my consulting career I ran a couple of marathons. It was then that I realized some things just can’t be rushed. Training, learning, development all take time. Most end states, in sports and business and life, take a form of all three to be successful.
An organizations pace, a leaders speed, a stakeholders change of perspective will ALWAYS be slower than mine. This I have learned. So patience, empathy and the ability to mediate people and pace have become competencies in my toolbox.
With this realization that I will be more amped up and ready than my clients and their stakeholders I am working to develop the ability to change pace depending on who I am working with.
Change practitioners take note- regulating your own pace is a competency. Clients and leaders take note- you might have to pick up your pace OR use your change practitioner to develop your change pace. Somewhere in the middle is a sweet spot.
As with any career there are lots of hidden things that degree, that “intro to _” class and those templated CM “certifications” will not tell you or show you.
- Leave your ego at the door.
This is not a career to run into with your feathers fluffed looking to be seen.
The best of us do our work behind the scenes. When we take the limelight it is with strategic (and tactical) intent. Our egos are best transferred to others. Asserting your ego (especially if you are an external) can be a fast way to the door. There is no food on the table on the other side of that door. Asserting your ego as an internal does not make for good change management.
- Think about your own end state.
What will you be and what will your environment look like close to retirement?
Will you be a thought leader, transformational or huge engagement consultant? Or will you have perfected the tactics and tactical implementation of small to medium-sized projects/programs. The first means you should be external the second internal.
- Never get locked in to one environment.
Move, either to different companies, different places or at least different jobs within a company.
I snicker (and, yes, cringe) when I look at profiles on LinkedIn of people who call themselves change management consultants (or some similar term) who have only worked at one or two places. As a comparison I personally have worked inside 70+ companies (add some numbers for different environments since some of those were Fortune 100). Any chance I might understand a ton of things about change and corporate change compared to a one trick pony “CM”?
- Don’t stay too long.
Politics and protecting your own interest will sand down your change capability and motivation. Two years will make you an employee- legally and figuratively. This tip is different from the last one, because this one says at two years leave, “no matter what”(I can smell the smoke from potential blogging flames…).
Not so much the latest fad (“brain research” will run its course as did all the other OD and CM fads).
Learn the things and learn to use the tools that facilitate this role. Become a wiz at the full Adobe Suite, brush up on Excel (please do not become a wiz unless you plan on switching to the PM role), grab a grammar book, start a blog to practice, volunteer somewhere and do change management in a safer environment, grab a mentor (before the un-“certified” ones retire), learn about business structure/org design, find an executive or two to have coffee with and field CM questions and do the same with sample stakeholders for the full length of your career.
Thinking about Change Management as a career or just getting started? Leave that ego at the door, start seeing the future- including your own, don’t get locked in or stay too long and learn. Oh and take a big breath this career is much more difficult than it sounds- you have to be made of armor.
First day of school for kids has to be the best example of instant energy.
The roads are busier (really busy that day with all the parents rearranging their schedules to get in late), the schools themselves are buzzing and, at least here, where there are countless places to walk to and hang out, the first half day makes our main street a landing-place for amped up activity.
You hear lots of voices laughing, talking, sharing experiences and switching gears from relaxed to excited to (tomorrow) intensity.
The Change Segue
Translate all that into the scenario that leaders, practitioners, consultants that think change is a marketing exercise and the adult cheerleaders in organizations try (emphasis on try here) to create. They look to big town hall announcements, splashy videos and talking heads “shorts” of executives working on their happy faces to get the same kind of thing we see on the first day of school every year.
And let’s face it every school year is a transformation for a child.
Why are these two environments so different?
Look at what the first day of school has to offer and see if you can think of ways to have, get or create that for corporate change.
Or maybe look at why corporate change does not have these things…
- A new beginning
- A promise of the next step
- An acknowledgment of success
- A traditional social event
- A little mystery and a little of the unknown
While sometimes scary and always a huge challenge, each grade in school is a new beginning.
But that is not really true.
Each grade is part of a ladder and a process to get to an end state. Every grade builds on the next.
Why does it seem like a new beginning?
Kids get new friends. Yes but they also have some of last years friends in their classes.
Kids get to do some things their older siblings got to do.
Kids get to be older, better, more mature at each new level.
Kids get to move up to the next step.
Kids get to leverage the things they learned from previous teachers with tougher, more challenging work.
Kids, after the school year moves on a little, get peeks and glimpses of what the next, next step is.
Kids know they will get to try new things with the yearly change.
Kids also know they will get new kinds of reinforcement, accolades and kudos (more like the kind adults get- with each passing grade).
Kids know they will be good at new things.
They also quickly see how much they DO know already. Previous success (from hard work) get revisited at the start of every year). My fourth grader blazed through flash cards at the speed of light last night, with a smile and a snicker on her face the whole time.
Success and acknowledgment of achievement (even if it is only internal to the individual) carries a TON of energy with it.
The first day of school puts millions of versions of that in the collocated environments.
That first day, every year, certainly is a social event.
It is for the kids. It is for the parents (judging by the number of combinations of supporting adults I saw today- parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, partners and neighbors). It is for the teachers too (we have one in our house- this day is always happy).
It is important to realize that the first day is a repeated event around the world that has happened since the first time learning was organized into a group. Imagine the millions of different versions of tradition that happen on this day.
Just stand in the halls of a school and listen to those supporting parents tell of….” I remember when I…”, “My dad used to… on the first day of school”, “My family on the first day always…”.
Each year, I bet, thousands more traditions are started. My seventh grader got up early (with a schedule in 15 minute increments) to be ready so that she could cook the family breakfast.
Bring on some more new traditions!
OK. So if the first day of school is so scary- you know CHANGE, new faces, new challenges, concern about teachers, lots of rules to have to follow, new processes and procedures, a distinct system of measurement for success- then how come it is so exciting and fun?
It almost feels like the kids are looking FORWARD to the unknown…
The first day of school is nothing like environments of corporate change. Not the new beginning, the chance to move to next steps, the acknowledgment of success, the social event component or the excitement of the unknown. Nope not the same at all…Right?
Huge, humongous, giant gap of silence on my blog.
I, after 3.5 years of pretty prolific blogging, have had 6.5 weeks of nothing. Nothing to write about, nothing inspiring, nothing.
Did 13 years of the constant “management” of change finally catch up to me?
Today is a shot at breaking the silence.
When nothing is changing and you wish something was what do you do?
Quite the leading question ha?
You change something.
What is the best thing to change when you are stuck?
The easiest change to make is improvement. Learn something that challenges you. Take on a task that involves people around you in a different way. Make yourself have to think, plan and develop for something that will make you better.
I have to admit I had not done this in a long time (the last version was a Lynda.com membership to learn a bunch of different software programs).
My choice was to apply for and hopefully (that part of the plan worked) get a chance to coach a youth competitive soccer team.
Never have I played soccer. Never have I watched a game of soccer. I have coached, but it was recreational with younger kids (a different environment than older U13G competitive).
Here is what I have learned:
- Sports mirrors life- and it all happens in a season or two.
- Talent can guide success.
- Heart can overwhelm even the best talent.
- It is really hard to change your own behaviors (spinning a don’t or a “you made a mistake” into “here is the next thing to do to get better approach” is REALLY hard).
- There are a lot of jerks out there (and some of them are coaching your kids about life-in a season).
- The short game, basically wins, is exciting, but the long game, a series of wins later maybe or developing relationships, is more satisfying.
- It is fun to teach and then watch your pupils do things even better than you thought they would.
- After the stress of parents, referees, kids, coaches, your own helpful assistants and logistics (or whatever new environment your change gives you) the corporate world starts to look like an easy place to be.
Go out there and do or try something new. Put that up in front of your own mirror on life and see if the reflection changes. You might just get unstuck. Change can do that.
Take one day at the office and turn your listening dial to “Compliments”.
‘Bet you don’t hear many.
Maybe those “fake” Kudos (fake because they are not well thought out, but admittedly anything positive is helpful) given out by supervisors to rally the troops. While I get where they are coming from the insincerity in their tone disillusions me.
You might hear perfect praise, obviously well thought out, roll off a tongue with beautiful sincere pitch… until… the word “but” is inserted. I hate to disillusion anyone, but, anything after that word negates the previous statement. In other words, if you use the word “but” you mean to say what you just said, not what you are about to say.
When I hear no compliments with my dial turned to attune, not even the sloppy ones, I am VERY disillusioned.
I personally happen to be one of those that thrives on real, genuine compliments (gotten AND given). My attuned change-management-people-focus has revealed hundreds of others who feel the same.
To not have that need satisfied is disillusionary.
Not to fret though, I have the wonderful example. True not from an organizational setting (tune that dial at Starbuck’s and your results will be closer to wonderful than our opposite), but still human nature gone good.
Yesterday I gave you Piece by Piece, a slice of life post about change one thing at a time.
Today the view in the other direction.
Yes I have lots of work to do.
Yes the back yard (bigger) has even more.
Yes that tree did die with replanting. Oops.
And yes that is my dog (picked up from a family members’ divorce proceedings… how does THAT work?).
And yes Oreo is NOT happy we have no lawn. He is however a stakeholder who will not resist this change. HA!
Yesterday’s example shows one of the walls I am building (more will appear later for today’s view).
Today show’s the blank canvas (with the first splashes of “paint”). I see the end state. In fact while I am working it hovers in front of my eyes to keep me going (if only I could teach that talent to others- floating end state creation). Passersby see a lot of dirt (and a lot of work).
The WONDERFUL: 40 people have now stopped to talk, ask questions and compliment. I live in a Zillow registered “walker’s paradise” so LOTS of people walk by our house.
The truly wonderful (after the compliment is absorbed) are the questions.
“What are you going to do here or there?”
“What is your overall feeling for the yard as a whole?”
“Will there be height changes?”
“Will there be rocks?”
“A water feature?”
“You are going to be the healthiest guy in town!” (Not a question and not a compliment, necessarily, but one of the best statements I have heard- a personal motivator, always crucial for change).
The wonderful, truly, is that some asked about detail, some asked about the end state, some asked about relationships, some wanted to know how I was personally connecting to this work.
If only this was an organizational example. Wonderfully Disillusioned I am.
May Day, may day.
If you dropped by yesterday you now know how to do the consultant Sneak-away. This topic deserves a little unpacking.
The fact that clients can so easily drop someone on a moments notice, even when they had a CONTRACT, just amazes me. The disillusionment gets cranked up with their explanation. It is ALWAYS justification for the drop. None of the justification ever has anything to do with the consultant. Nothing wonderful about that (especially when consultants give their heart and soul to the client during the engagement).
The fact that it is hard to have direct contracts where there is both a written and a verbal agreement (guilt is far more powerful than law) is the highest level of disillusionment. It just does not make sense.
I’ll give some wonderful though.
There is nothing more exciting than starting to think about the next big thing. I am blessed to get to a point in my own career where the next thing is always better (if only because I keep raising my rates for the next client to make up for the loss with the last).
New stuff is WONDERFUL. Carrying a little bit of a sour taste from the old makes you wonderfully disillusioned (in a good way if you correct a little the next time around).
I am thinking I do not dish out enough hints and tips to consultants so for this scenario here are a few:
- Lay out your work parameters at the beginning.
One of mine is that Friday has to be virtual or bargained for. It might be that I work Fridays in order to take a vacation in the middle of the engagement. My billing, or a flexible arrangement with the client, accounts for that.
- Let the client know you consider most deliverables unnecessary.
If you are lucky enough to be direct charge them extra for the ones you think make no sense. But also make sure you offer up deliverables that DO make sense when the client hasn’t thought of it.
- Don’t work by the hour work by the project.
If the client insists on hourly charge them for every one- even if you are just there to wait for a meeting. They will quickly learn that flexibility with a verbal contract is REALLY helpful (and keeps the budget neutral).
- Assume every engagement will end a month or so early (or a year).
Either always be looking for the next engagement (clients hate that, but have no hesitation in getting rid of you) or start about 6 weeks before the end of the “contract”.
- Don’t ever feel like you have to “do this for the team”.
That is an internal thing. You will rarely benefit from the extra time and effort. If you are helping them get to solutions and don’t rock the boat too much they will recommend you (or at least not flame you- I have had a few of those clients too).
- Always be nice, gracious and accommodating (within reason-your reasoning not the clients).
Surprise endings from clients can be unnerving. They can also be exciting because that means the next new thing is around the corner. The combination makes me Wonderfully Disillusioned every time.
Consultants, you must learn the change sneak away. Contractors you must perfect this.
Here is how this works:
- Client and consultant contract (or there is an endless stream of contracts depending on how many middle men the client adds to, you know, SAVE money-huh?) for an agreed upon period of time.
- Consultant assumes anything that is a contract is enforceable (don’t make that mistake).
- Client makes mistakes chasing symptoms (because they do not want to touch root causes or because they can’t see them) change gets pushed further out.
- Client realizes that gets very expensive fast.
- Client likely begins to fear for their role with budget overage.
- Client hacks (one engagement I was on canned 100 people on the same unannounced day).
- Consultant reacts.
Don’t do number 7 consultants.
And clients, which part about the word “contract” do you not understand? I don’t have enough appendages to count the number of times this has happened (it is almost guaranteed when you go through a third-party).
Do the Sneak-away
Consultant/Contractors, as much as you want to send out that blanket email to say goodbye, don’t. Copy all the email addresses that would have been in that note and take them home for an after the fact thank you.
A reactive thank you is not that at all. It is an in-your-face-I-want-everyone-to-know-you-did-this mistake. Of course you do, just don’t.
The right way to do the sneak-away:
Graciously thank the client for the opportunity you just enjoyed.
Pretend your phone is ringing off the hook for new opportunities (that will give you a nice smile).
Walk away calmly (like a shoplifter does or people trying to not get noticed at airport security).
When you get home take a breath, rest for a second and then frantically start the networking (or calmly begin if you saw this coming- it is amazing how easy it is to see this coming after four or five rounds).
I know this is a little nasty, but I would love to see consultants start leaving a little early for better and higher paying roles so we can get back to real contracting and real consulting (and maybe even real rates).
In the mean time:
Consultants and contractors perfect your sneak-away. Calm, gracious, covert departures.
Another round of debate about “Readiness Assessments” going on in discussion forums.
Disclosure: I think those assessments were made up to justify some of the work companies wanted to be able to sell.
Having said that, there is a place for pre-work that lines things up so that change can move along smoothly.
I still believe it is entirely possible for people to move along those change paths.
If the road is unlit, full of curves and barely navigable then, of course, they will not be “ready”.
If you complain about the path and act as if 18 wheelers will constantly veer into your lane, participation may become a little weak with your initiative (and if you are a change firm lots of time will need to be spent getting people “ready”). How do we know if we are ready for anything around the corner anyway? It seems a silly question to me…
So a short list of things that DO make sense to get ready for:
- The Work
Change always requires a little work- in our personal lives and for organizations. Being ready might mean gathering a little expertise, or paying to add something to your capability. It might mean setting other things aside to make sure there is space and time to get work done. It might mean acknowledging that for some time there may be more work than normal.
- The Motivation
This may have been the reason for those assessments. Are people motivated to participate? Don’t force yourself, or anyone else (those New Year’s Resolutions to exercise are premeditated change that never really works right- you should have asked yourself if you were ready) to jump into change before there is any information. Readiness Assessments happen before anything else. See the circle?
- The Structure
If the “ready or not” list includes all those things that might be missing or need to be tweaked for these new end states then asking for the list makes sense. Separate from my own kind of Get Ready list (which is made up of questions to get the answers for what is missing not to gauge individual comfort level) I have not seen this. Get ready by creating a supporting structure for the new environment- who reports to who, how people will be rewarded, what part of the status quo will work and be acceptable, etc.
- The Activity
You will have a beehive of some kind of activity. It helps to imagine how crazy (maybe in a fun way?) that will be and prepare yourself. When those stakeholders were asked if they were ready did they get this explanation about the energy and activity level? And did they have a chance to catch their breath before the bees swarmed in?
Perhaps I will give you a list of things that are assumed to be on a “readiness” list that make little sense…
Be discerning in your quest to see how “ready” your stakeholders might be. And maybe start on the readiness of the organization itself, sans people, before you make the change path look like some scary trail through a dark forest?
Guess what lots of people around you now never use?
I know, right?
Surprised me too, the first time someone brought this up.
Then I started looking around. No watches.
(OK to be fair, no watches on anyone less than 40).
I keep looking and almost feel sorry for those people I find that do have watches. That is like being fully clothed at a nudist colony. Or finding yourself in a crowd unclothed.
What happened? What caused this Fast Change Around Us?
Screens. Screens all over the place have time on them. Phones certainly do. All of our fancy computers do. TV’s flash the time for certain things. We still have clocks everywhere (they will likely have some staying power).
Really, honestly, there is very little reason to have a watch anymore.
Except as a statement. Which brings us right to change and change management.
A watch will always be able to satisfy the function of time keeping- anywhere (even under water or in space). A watch will always be a fashion (whether it is fashionable or not is debatable). So, someone will ALWAYS wear a watch. And some people will ALWAYS wear watches.
Think about watches and then think about some things that become change initiatives. Is that new technology a quality functional replacement? Will the new function destroy previous form (is someone going to always want to wear a watch)? Does the new change have a form of its own? Can that become fashionable? Are you forcing everyone to “take off their watches” knowing that they will now have to carry a phone around (that is about 5 times bigger)? Can you justify adding things against that which is different?
If I don’t use all the stuff on my phone does it just make sense to have a watch?
Which, of course, is the drumroll for the Dick Tracy watch-that-is-a-phone. Cue Apple (of course).
Are you wearing a watch right now? If not you are part of the watch-less fast change around us movement.
Do you have a few people, or maybe just one, in your organization that cause(s) people to warn others of their presence?
“Watch out for ___ (s)he always does ___”
Every single initiative I have been on has one of those people. It is fun to count the number of stakeholders that come to warn me about certain individuals (the record so far is 6 people quietly warning me about the same person). Can you imagine being that person who has a forewarning wave that precedes their arrival to everything? If you ARE that person of course you can’t imagine (if you could you would not be that way).
Can you imagine going through life being the difficult one?
Again, I know, I am preaching to the choir. And you “resistors” are just saying, “la, la, la, la, la… I can’t hear you…..”. There are people in this world that are VERY difficult. There are people who carry expectations that no one can figure out (that is usually part of the forewarn warning). There are people who insist on making the world their way. And THAT makes me very disillusioned.
But just for a second, take a breath and think to yourself… “maybe Joe or Josephine resistor is onto something”. Maybe, just maybe, they have some valid points. Maybe the reason they are so obnoxious is because no one listens to them. Maybe they yell and scream because they do not take the time to articulate their points (raising your voice to someone who speaks a different language never works for understanding). Maybe we should cut them a little slack?
Enter the (effective) Change Management Practitioner
These people are the stakeholders you need to start talking to- rather than running away from.
Those people who warn you? What are the odds that they are also resisting in some way?
One of the strong points of good leaders/guiders of change is their ability to ask questions. Expertise in that area is the ability to re-ask in a different way to gain understanding. Yes, you may go through many rounds with these types of stakeholders. Yes, you may have to spend more time than you would like building a little trust. And yes, you may have to be very careful- there are a few resistors out there that are exactly that, saboteurs.
Take that time though. Ask the right questions. Find out why they are so passionate about the negative. Get to the root of their emotion. You will find a wealth of background information for this particular change (and for the politics of the organization). The results are, frankly, WONDERFUL. Do this and you may just be WONDERFULLY DISILLUSIONED.