Tomorrow is Thursday.
Today is Wednesday.
There, see how easy that was?
The future back to the present.
When asked what my “approach” is (in interviews, at client meetings, by peers and stakeholders) I always say, “End State back”. Which confuses. And always brings me back to Repetitive Disillusionment (yes redundant).
Why is it so hard to take a breath and imagine a future?
Is it the consciousness of breath or the imagining part that is difficult?
So in order to induce a little wonderful into their day I say something like:
“None of the many motivations to take action are triggered unless the action (change being multiple actions) makes sense. A picture is worth a thousand words, even if conjured up inside someone’s head. Visualizing, describing and, possibly, defining an end state, the future, is the most important part of change management. And the FIRST part.
Working on the End State Description starts the change process. It requires empathy, looking at the roles needed in that future, thinking of the talent needed at that spot, possibly going through some emotions just imagining what that end state could be like. If that process is long enough a very important thing happens. All involved begin to think of change in terms of the future and a destination.
With that the the present can be looked at first with a cursory glance and then with a fine toothed comb. The combing should be for the things existing that work and/or belong in that future. The parts and pieces that do not line up are the things that will have to be addressed soon, in the present, to reinforce “make sense”.
When the future and the present can align, with a look ahead perspective, then the journey can start and change can happen.”
The explanation seems to morph and adapt depending on who I talk to, but, you get the point.
Wait, you DO get the point don’t you?
I am convinced that a part of any change “failure” is a present perspective.
The wonderful comes with the reactions I get from my different explanations. First strange looks, then a lean in to my explanation, followed by specific questions that show they have lived the opposite. My wonderful comes when they give me the inevitable, “if only”, story. As in “if only” you had been here to talk us through the last change.
To be clear I think it is fantastic to LIVE in the present, to notice things, to be in the moment. When it comes to change that is often impossible without being clear about the destination and having a sense of the journey ahead.
The difficulty everyone seems to have seeing and constructing a future in order to facilitate change disillusions me. The fact that an explanation and lots of future perspective repetition makes for fast learning of an End State Back approach is wonderful. Together the process makes me Wonderfully Disillusioned.
This is a Monday morning, “Really?”, post.
Read this McKinsey article, “Managing the People Side of Risk”.
Tip: never start with or ignore assumptions. That is how change fails.
The title itself reveals the underlying assumption.
First who am I to take on the bulk and spread that is McKinsey?
Far enough into my career with enough real experience (that partners in those big firms often DO not have what with their percentage time spent hustling business) to have the credibility to be discerning? I hope that is the case…
Having read quite a few of these McKinsey posts I see it is obvious they have created a huge business around mostly catering to clients wants (vs. the kind of needs independent consultants see) and hopped up versions of status quo. This seems strange for a firm that is known for strategy. They tend to reinforce the very things that are getting in the way of their clients change.
To me, from their posts and the trail they have left at a few of my clients, they seem like a TACTICAL firm rather than strategic.
Could it be big firms and big organizations have lost the meaning of strategy?
Start with the title (which was meant to draw people in by catering to their perspective of change). So people are a risk? We are going to automatically assume that? Really?
Not the underlying structure?
Not processes within?
Not the way people are rewarded?
Not how work gets done?
Not how reporting works (both hierarchy and keeping track of things)?
I snicker. They assume two sides to risk. What is the other side? Business? If business gets a side why not structure for the other? Both happen through people.
As I speed read these things (it bugs me too much to slowly read the group think) notes pop into my head. Here is the list from this article:
- Governance is a prevention for this “people risk” thing. Really? And nothing ever gets through prison walls…
- Risks must move UP (?) the chain of command. Oh come on really? Which makes yet another wall that protects senior leaders from accountability.
- The risk culture must be determined and then change is built around that? Really? Create it and they will follow? No mention of understanding what that culture would be so that they can then determine controls, just discussion of what the risk approach should be. See… TACTICS.
I could go on with the discernment (it is always easy when change approaches start with big, false assumptions), but let’s spin to positive.
“The best cultures actively seek information about and insight into risk by making it everyone’s responsibility to flag potential issues.”
quote from the McKinsey article that I am willing to back fully
This quote makes sense. Yes monitoring risk is smart. The more that monitor it the better. We are assuming “everyone” includes the highest leaders, right? (See what I mean? Go with that assumption and your change may be in serious trouble- best to monitor a little).
The authors do acknowledge there can be too much and too little risk management. And they do insert some good examples. Their final paragraph would have been a great start- with a different title.
This McKinsey article while containing some good examples and overall suggestions is itself a good example of how change management can start off on the wrong foot . It is a mirror for the thinking behind some change approaches. Start with an assumption and then mold your model around that. What if the assumption is wrong?
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.
Part of our discussion for the panel presentation: Perks and Perils: Optimizing Internal and External Change Management at the 2013 ACMP conference will focus on combinations and placement of internal and external resources and specialties to facilitate change. The panel, putting a smile on my face, has adopted the term, “Change Entity” to put this all in perspective.
Using this languaging has helped the panel (and has helped my own clients) to separate conversation around change management from status quo patterns. The fast, formal version opposite of the creation of a change entity is to drop a change management function into your organization somewhere. In my opinion, do so and you will have more that can slow down change, placed in the laps of a group that probably will have little leverage or influence. What you will get (I have seen this, by my count five times so far) is some change things layered over your current structure that look and feel like project management.
It is my hope that spread of the term Change Entity will help organizations create a group that does have leverage, influence (and I will add) and exposure.
****I will be posting my version of a Change Entity (also to appear in the panel discussion) as a sneak preview on Sunday April 14th the first day of the conference.***
For now as promised in yesterday’s post, Slow Change- People or Structure? here are a few things you might want to consider when designing a Change Entity:
You have to ask this question.
Ask it this way, “ Can we have this entity operate at the level of owner for every initiative?” The owner is the person who pays for this change. Even if you have a committee or organic structure there is ALWAYS as single person who pays for the change. Ideally they also have ownership responsibility (and interest).
Each change big or small, project or transformation has an owner that sits at a certain spot, formally, in the organization.
You want your change entity to be able to operate at that level.
If you can’t then you really should stop this change entity process now and first do a change initiative that addresses this problem. For change management lack of access and visibility with the owner is a PROBLEM.
Initial Make Up
Owners are at different places in the organization depending on the size of the change.
Thinking in terms of ownership connection is a good way to determine the make up of your Change Entity.
If you are a Fortune 100 firm owners will be up and down the hierarchy (scattered might have been a better authority reducing word). So YOUR entity will have to have access to at least the SVP level, better the C-level. You will also need to be able to have CM guide small projects.
So your resource list must include both senior and junior resources.
Not sure where to start?
My answers to some of our panel questions, admittedly party selfish also though from experience, insist that most Change Entities require an outside independent consultant. By independent I do mean one single individual. If this individual can be a trusted partner to that highest level owner you are many steps ahead of other forms of Change Entity.
That resource can help you decide how many in this entity will be dedicated to roles (careful this is the part where status quo ramrods the wrong things). They can also help you construct a structure that gets the best resources (best being value measured) at the different levels of change. Most important they can push for flexibility and malleability in the make up of the Change Entity. The next change will be different. You need to be able to adapt to that.
In general your resources will be able to train, communicate, be subject matter experts, practice change at different tactical/strategic balance points and be trusted partners to owners with different levels of experience.
Honestly, is not important.
Don’t let anyone with a pet method tell you otherwise.
Anything that requires steps that have to be in order does not have the flexibility change needs.
Anything that uses the word resistance in explanations (without quotes around it) is questionable.
If a consultant does not ask you questions right away in the contracting process about your structure (performance management system, leadership communication, make up of the org. chart) you are not going to get much change- or at least not any BIG change.
An approach that helps you define end states, “where you are going and will be, hopefully” and tailors activities to pull people to that spot is a good start. If you find yourself constantly talking about the present at what point in the methodology will you address the future?
A suggestion: Choose your method after you create structure to support it.
Change for big organizations can be sped up and more effective with the addition of a Change Entity. Ask yourself who will help you start this process. How high will this entity be placed? What is the initial make up of resources? How important is methodology?
Some more background for the ACMP 2013 Conference panel discussion: Perks and Perils: Optimizing Internal and External Change Management.
While thinking through my responses to our panel questions these four areas stood out as reasons for my answers:
- As a profession we 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.
Take a broad look at the practice of change management. Where do the most commonly used models focus all of their steps (time)? On people. “Readiness Assessments” are people focused (practitioners of those models pretend like they are looking at areas in the organization, but their spread sheets scream- resistor, red, mark for effort…). Communication is targeted to individuals and groups. Rolling out the change is based on champions and power specialists.
Yes people make the organization. You can’t have an organization or organization in general without people.
That doesn’t mean people is the thing you should focus on to pull change.
What you should focus on, especially if you plan to do more than one big change in your organization’s history (which is every organization) is Structure.
If change is not facilitated through performance systems, hierarchy, communications processes and tools it is not going to happen. In the not-going-to-happen world “change” has end states looking a lot like the state the initiative started with. Maybe different labels, maybe different names, maybe a few changed reporting pairs, but basically status quo fluffed up.
At our panel discussion we will pursue this further in the form of sample change entities.
I was happy our panel moved to the use of the word “entity” to describe structuring change within organizations.
Adopting this languaging freed up the panelists to think of and create examples that represent formal, informal, organic and simple/malleable.
Change Entity has always been my term to help clients separate the thought processes around “how to get our organization comfortable and willing to change”. Not the people, the organization. Tweaking performance systems, working with the way you communicate, testing programs that have leaders genuinely working together cross functionally will cause (or invite?) PEOPLE to change. Doing so with Change Management as a function or some other status quo permanent group will reinforce what people already do (and likely lock in root causes for the inability to change).
Informal Change Structure
An initial question we had practicing for the conference was something like “how do you formalize change management within an organization”. My answer? “You don’t”. Formally pursuing an informal entity will keep status quo at bay. You do not want to recreate what you already have.
What you do want to do (if you are looking for the ability to change and maybe change faster) is to formally add things to your organizational structure that facilitate change. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I dig into a few specifics.
Is your change management approach focusing heavily on people before assessing the structure of your organization? Are you creating an environment that facilitates change? Have you asked if your organizational structure is ready for this change? Slow change- people or structure?
Change Management (CM) bulleted to date:
- Organizations operating as they always had (environments did not change as rapidly back then)
- OD (Organizational Development) people became assets to be developed
- The rapid change of the dot com
- The reaction to that change, especially with the implementation of software and systems
- A templated, heavily marketed “empirically based” change approach
- Change management title, visibility and inclusion in projects/programs/initiatives (the good-part results of the previous bullet)
- Lots of huge change in organizations, constant technology updates and the insertion of CM into project work
- The reaction to this project focus (which brought in some OD, began to balance business and people and started the slow push against the guru’s and methodical fill-in-the-blank certificated approaches)
- The creation (and consulting for) of change entities, communities of practice and (shudder) change functions
- Today- all of this mixed together in a myriad of forms
By tomorrow I mean 2014.
There will be Change Management AFTER end states. (Before too we hope) This might be cheating to “predict” this since I have had two roles that fill this definition (one started right before end states), but no one ever really predicts things without some clear signals (they just see them first and jump on it).
The clear signals:
- The push back to the original approaches.
As soon as you have push back against founders, gurus, and old sages analysis begins. Did any of that stuff really work? Has anyone checked? Or is the group think so powerful everyone new to the thing just keeps doing it the way it has always been done. (What kind of formula for change is THAT?). This was preempted a little with the creation of the 70% “failure” statistic. Use deflection to get people to blame elsewhere for the exact thing you would be measured on without that distraction.
- Big, monster transformational change.
Sometimes this is because that is exactly what the change is, transformational (just about everything will be different and it is hard to compare end states to now). Other times it is because organizations themselves are huge, global and involve thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of stakeholders. The process needs to be transformational in those situations (a little like the differences between project, program and enterprise). Big change tends to blend from one thing to the next. The end of one big change is the start of the next. Change entities help to address this, but will not be successful without the addition of change sustainability practices.
- Outside influence.
Things are buzzing in the change management peer world against tired approaches and for change approaches that REALLY make sense (yes on many levels). Practitioners are getting a little tired of being the scapegoats for “failed” change when they know full well the structure of many organizations makes real change very difficult, especially at the individual level. And let’s face it- change sustainability will be marketable.
- Still looking for ROI.
Business minds insist on ROI. The practice of change management has struggled with this for a long time. How do I quantify the number of employees I helped keep in the organization? How do I measure the savings I created by connecting things from multiple functions to create new processes that sped things up? How do I get credit, in numbers, for all the achievements some executive I coached/consulted will make later? And how would I ever prove it was because of me (I might get the leader to mention me, but only numbers count)? And, really, why would I want to use a whole bunch of time creating these numbers (that might be hard to prove)? Now think of sustainability efforts where those original metrics that the practitioners fought so hard to create get quantified? Change sustainability might turn out to be the fix for one of our huge difficulties as practitioners.
Change Management has come a long way from the curves, troughs and approaches based on death phases; through templated approaches; to entities within organizations that leverage talent inside and out; to a change sustainability set up for tomorrow. The signs are there internally in organizations and from the external voices. The change process runs from idea well PAST end states. 2014 and beyond will show us that.
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?
For Change, and for strategy, horizontals exist within the organization.
Each level has a role, obviously for operations, but additionally for translation, communication and leadership in connection to change. This is often misunderstood, misrepresented and rarely tackled by change practitioners. If change management fails (which is a dubious statement considering all the things in the way) it is because horizontals are not understood and do not fulfill their potential role for change. (Read that again if your organization also has weak operational strategy).
You can look at this from the “top” and think cascade. You can look at this from the “bottom” and see the expectation chain. You can start anywhere in the middle to figure out your own roles, responsibility and possibility. We will start at the top since big change (as in transformational, truly, my favorite) must begin with the owner and disseminate through the organization (note I did not say cascade).
The Chief Executive
Typically this is the CEO.
The larger the organization the more this person has an external focus. I use the term figurehead which I am told can seem derogatory. A figurehead can have charisma, be good at representation and smooth things out (nothing bad about that). In a smaller organization (or a founder based-still company) the CEO is half inside and half outside the organization.
For change this person is both the dad (or mom these days) who comes home and must dole out the discipline AND the guy (or woman) who takes you over to the school to play ball and laugh. They can be leveraged for either, play one role strongly or play both at the right time. I like to think of them as the “no” you never really use (once you start using no and doling out punishment each successive occasion gets a little weaker). They are also the holder of the compliment that is oh so rare.
They translate out to the external environment.
They communicate the connection of the change to the future of the organization (both in and out of the company). They are usually too disconnected to have leadership ability for change (this is less true in smaller organizations).
High Level Leader
This is the owner of the change.
They set the vision for the organization operationally. For change they must learn to describe end states, especially their own, in multiple ways. They are the ones who can turn that place, that spot that will exist at the end of the change, into a picture and a feeling that people can grab on to. They set the tone, they start leadership trust and they are the lever for all the other horizontals. A present and engaged owner is a godsend for change.
Translation for the high level leader is turning the idea into something that seems and feels tangible (note it is not actually tangible until we get to the other horizontals). Communication is visibility for the end state, for acknowledgement along the way and for high level leadership of the change process. Leadership has some cheerleading to it, and at times, some hard truth leading.
The Implementary Leader is the one who makes the most important translation- vision to objective.
That great idea is all well and good, but what does that mean? What will pull people to that spot? If a stakeholder were to stand at that end state and look back what will they say was the grand accomplishment? This person must be able to make that translation- the first step toward tangible change.
Their role in the change process is the translation to purpose.
They must communicate their own interpretation of the end state from a position of expertise. If they can articulate how they fit in for end states then they can make the translation for others. Communication, for them, is often connected to some division of the organizations strategy- pillars is the most used term. “They” for this horizontal may mean multiple people. Co-implementary leaders is very common. It works well if they can disconnect a bit from their operational, functional roles and lead their cohorts stakeholders as well as their own (which reciprocates back and forth and, you hope, smoothes out silos).
Program level leads manage goals and goal setting.
They are the first level senior leadership in the organization with the role of making things happen. (Yes sometimes the role of translating orders into instant harried work). They must understand how the idea turned into a vision, what made that become objectives and what the goals will be to both make that happen and tie people to the end state and change.
Multiple streams of goals must be managed at this level. This leader may even have responsibility for multiple initiatives (which then have multi-program/multi-project components). They are the sponsors (there WILL be more than one at this horizontal). A sponsor contributes, participates and encourages others.
They make the translation to something people can put their hands, hearts and heads too.
Communication here is to make clear end states and what that might mean, in general, for expertise, work, people and organizational changes. They are the ones who show how to put the blue blocks together, the yellow in a stack and the white side by side. They help organize at a high level view- that is their leadership role and strength when done well.
Translation to Work/Time
At the project level all that vision, a few objectives and a stack of goals must become work.
The project level Facilitator gets all the ducks lined up in a row. They make sure that the right people are ready, know who comes before them and who they hand off to and what the time on the watch says. Translation here is to tangible. It does not get any more tangible than people working hard together on task.
They translate grand schemes into what people value- their own skill and sweat.
This person, assuming the leaders previous did a good job, can make change worth it. Communication here has a chance to compliment, to build trust, to make connections to other horizontals, to wield more power and influence than the organization officially gives them. If that is used wisely the best kind of leadership happens to support change- leading by example right next to the people you are modeling for.
Translation to Specifics
The biggest widest horizontal, the one that is less siloed than all the others and the place where the ultimate translation happens- idea to task- is here.
This horizontal is what my kids call the “worker bees”. They mean that in a complimentary way. They mean people are doing stuff that produces results you can see. A worker bee moves the leaves out of the way. A worker bee writes the code that supports the ultimate function of the software. Those bees tap keys that save the data for decisions, corrections and revenue.
The sad part is that most initiatives force all these people (stop for a second and think that this horizontal, in many ways, is actually EVERY stakeholder, at every level) to make their own translations.
Because while they are silently screaming communication out not much is coming in, or down, that helps place work/people in context with idea/end state. They often lead themselves. They can be very good at organically directing needs and ideas through and up the organization. They get really frustrated at the slowness, the silos and status quo when they can see easy solutions. (And to think, you have been calling that “resistance”).
There you have it. The six horizontals and their role as translators, communicators and leaders of change.
A review of yet another change model reveals:
Lewin reworked (marketed?) by Kotter and re-purposed with new synonyms for a new model.
It is not 1946 nor is it 2001 and the stuff from 2007 is looking a little stale too.
I am happy to be the black sheep that insists it is time to break away from change management group think and an endless regurgitation of the “gurus” and “change leaders” of the past. Yes, at least for one, tons of books have sold and awards have been given. Which to me, proves my point.
So if you, as a leader or client or consultant or practitioner, are at all interested in opening your mind to something new, and I would argue better…
Here are some tips:
- Go out and look back
Approach everything you do with change from a future back perspective. Use goals. Use end state descriptions. Use your imagination. Just stop starting from now (or “as-is” or “current state” or “present state” or name your own project and operational buzzword).
- Make Sense
Something is always the trigger for behavior change- want, need, necessity or force. At some level change has to make sense. Yes that may be at the, “You do not want to lose your job role, do you?” level. Even at that level change can make sense in a way. But not if your perspective is that resistance is automatic. Take that perspective and you will get what you are creating.
- Lose the “Readiness” thing
This whole idea of “getting people ready for change” is just a cover for pushed change (rather than pull like you would have with make sense and an end state focus). It works for the guru evangelists and SELLS because it fits the slow organizational process for change. Any model that “fits” is going to have even slower change than normal and some nasty lack of sustainability on the end of the timeline. Yes there are lots of things you can do to prepare your people and organization for change- addressing structure, changing performance measures, speeding up approvals, developing executives (and connecting them to the hands on work in some way). If that is what you are doing when practicing “readiness” fantastic (from what I have seen as a follow-up change agent I doubt it though). Just come up with a different word.
This is 2000+. Anyone interested in change has read the gurus (along with a gazillion other books that still preach the same focus). Move past the basics of herding people to your desired future state. All those “we could never do that at this organization” things will be what helps you change- try actually doing them. Frosting one of the many models over status quo just covers the stale cake. Start thinking of change differently and maybe begin to look people in the eye and have dialogue (therein lies another problem with change virtuality, a different obstacle). You will likely find there are things that can change before, and to help, people behavior change.
Four quick tips for change management: look back to now rather than out into the black, change must make sense (does your approach address that?), readiness is a made up term that has lost its luster and mature in your approach to change (maybe read less and look more). A fifth tip for you- listen to the words you use. Are they push words or pull words?
Templated change approaches, usually a stirred bowl of Kotter and Lewin with new synonyms (it’s not unfreezing in our model it is “dissolving” or “thawing”- Kotters’ round two even uses an iceberg analogy… and we have 7 steps instead of 8) are popping up everywhere.
Changing the words does not change the effects of the approach. Not changing the approach keeps the results the same.
The echo chamber that is Change Management, thanks to a lot of guru marketing and the ease and safety of this kind of CM practice, keeps these models and model versions multiplying. (the results keep me busy).
What is a practitioner to do when dropped into these environments?
- Call Out Negativity
Change approaches are almost always based on a present to future perspective. That is negative. Period. Is that the way you want your change to start from the first word spoken? Call this out practitioners. And if you have no idea what I am talking about, slow down and think. Asking someone to change by illustrating all the things they are doing wrong is a losing battle (and it is a battle, I know I do homework with a middleschool-er… feels the same as my real work sometimes).Replace that negative approach with one that figures out where you are going with this change, works backward and ALWAYS sees the change in relation to end states and goals. You will spend some time getting people to understand this subtle, but powerful difference. It is WELL worth the effort. This you CAN do.
- Explain the Change Process
No not the one, templated, stepped models are based on.The REAL change process that involves people, structure, leadership and communication. That is the one that fails when root causes within each of one of these categories are not addressed. Even the smallest change likely has a root cause component that MUST be addressed if you are ever to call this a success.This change process addresses each of these areas. In a perfect order of assessing and addressing you would have: leadership, structure, people with communication as a constant bow around the package. You will usually be forced to start with people, do lots of communication that has no real connection, try to address structure and run the obstacle course to get to leadership. What you CAN do is to try to get your change process explanation to top leaders as quick as possible. On the way you may be able to have coffee with those in between, to give a slightly tweaked version of the explanation. This you CAN do.
- Develop Ownership
If you can connect with the person who is paying for this- the owner- early on, you will be well ahead of the change game (and right on target for the correct change process). Now the key is to get them to understand this change and its end state from their own eyes (and emotions, and energy and motivation). Once that is accomplished and you have a good short message have them do the same turned in a different direction explaining from someone else’s shoes.The owner should understand and be able to communicate genuinely the vision and what that means in terms of a person and work (so people and lots of work). This isn’t easy to get to and it takes some humble confidence, but it is entirely possible. This, may not be easy, but you CAN do it.
- Map out Connection
Get out of the spreadsheets!
Some goofy progression through awareness, willingness and resignation (or whatever your completely subjective synonyms for a made up transition are) wastes the little time you have as a practitioner. MAP this out. In a picture. As a chart. On a white board. Anywhere as long as it is pictorial. If you are doing change from a spreadsheet you are likely missing everything that is important for change. And you are really a project manager.Once you have that map make the necessary connections (this might be a list so you have permission to go into the spreadsheet or any other list storing software). Be on the lookout for the connections needed to address our categories above (especially leadership and structure). There is a reason people do what they do and it is NOT because they “naturally” resist change. That map will help you find out why people do what they do in this organization. Use the map to help them “do”different tied to end states, goals and the change.THAT you CAN do. And if you do that you can call yourself a change consultant (or practitioner or agent or your favorite label).
Four steps, big ones yes, that you CAN DO for change.