Things have changed in the 16 years I have been consulting.
But they haven’t.
The version of consulting I practice has gone from the title of OD (Organizational Development) to Change Management to the latest fad name “Change Leadership” (and in between I even saw “Management of Change”). It has always been an effort to educate, train and develop people in order to move organizations in some direction.
My own role has never seemed necessary to me.
But it is.
(And judging by the name changes, likely to cloak the fact that organizations are not so good at that educate, train and develop thing, will continue).
So to get some writing going here (sorry for the gaps lately readers, 970 posts must have dried me up a bit) let’s do a list of some wonderful that has come our way recently:
- Change Entities
- Contingent Workers
This is my passion- the setting up and structuring of change groups within organizations.
They are wonderful because they can pull outside resources who, when set up correctly, mentor the organizations employees and serve as hand holders as process and interaction is created and learned. It is wonderful in many ways. The use of talent in the right place at the right time is my favorite wonderful.
When those groups are not guided and led by an external high level consultant (and no the external turned internal usually does not count) they comically end up looking worse than the organization itself when it comes to hierarchy, control and interaction. The participants mean well but, because they are human and will be measured, operate like those they are trying to help. That makes me disillusioned.
There are hundreds of approaches out there. And mine :
Most are distinguished by the symbols they use.
Many, and probably all in some way, are helpful to make sense of process, to illustrate things that happen when people and organizations try to change and to put structure around growth and development.
Giving people, practitioners and leaders frameworks and steps to follow is wonderful. Languaging is wonderful. A common way of interacting and seeing things is fantastic.
All, every single one- likely including my own, have fundamental weaknesses (some outright mistakes) that actually hinder change.
The most dangerous of those weaknesses is the insistence on some form of “as-is/to-be”. Approaching change from the present causes a multitude of problems and automatically creates roadblocks that are unnecessary. To watch practitioners strictly follow some methodology loaded with steps always comparing the future with the present is, well, hard to watch. And disillusionary.
If you want something done now and have the budget (which can be bigger than it used to with 10 years of frozen wages) you can find an expert to do it for you or help. And you do not have to keep them past that particular project. There must be thousands of firms to help you too (judging by the calls I get- still 13 firms for the same role is the current record, got one now that is up to 10 though…funny thing is I am already AT that client). This flexibility is wonderful (for clients and in some small ways for the “contingents”).
Knowledge now arrives, stays a while and then flies out the door. Those workers have little incentive to pass on their knowledge. They are hired to get something done, usually in distinct steps ridiculously defined by the organization, so that sharing is next to impossible.
The more this pattern continues (and it is bigger, wider and more invasive) the less those workers will be experienced, well honed practitioners and the more they will be cookie-cutter-list-reducers. This is not only disillusionary; it is sad. As much as consultants get picked on for assisting rather than doing we provide a valuable service (building the organizations capabilities through its people). I can see, in every organization I work with, the erosion of that positive effect. When my eyes see that I am disillusioned in multiple ways.
Is, let’s face it amazing!
The list is long of things we do at work now that we didn’t do before: text, email, watch training videos, trade screens easily when presenting, call across the globe like we are yelling across the street to borrow sugar.
We can collaborate, learn and interact now, compared to just the recent past, in fantastic magical exchanges. We can park information so that others can add, share, suggest. We can make beautiful templates that are consistent, call out the right message and reach as many people as we need to- instantly. Just wonderful this is!
Technology invites an endless list of things to “check off”, ridiculous stream of measurement and justification that is resource, time and budget wasting. I shudder, in a disillusioned way, watching this happen. And I don’t have to turn my head too far to the side to see it- EVERYWHERE. You do know all of your problems can be solved with technology right? (Let’s hope so for the money you just dished out…).
This change, get-better-within-organizations thing has improved. That is wonderful. There is something to be said (that is, yes, wonderful) about Change Entities, Methodology, Contingent Worker and Technology. What can be said (in both directions) has me Wonderfully Disillusioned.
Is that title a double positive?
(That would be a good thing, right?).
A recent New York Times Sunday Review, “A Formula for Happiness” looks at smiles or lack thereof.
It is an interesting piece, one of those you can sink some personal thinking into, but turned up the disillusionment dial for me a little (at first, of course). Without any studies or any extra information but my own experience and opinion I would say happiness is influenced in this order: family (especially partners although we have to be careful not to feel responsible for others happiness), friends, finances, work and hobbies (or maybe sense of expertise).
I know for myself bouncing my focus around on any of those can increase my happiness.
According to the numbers in the article culled from different studies all of those go into the same bucket with only a 12% influence on our happiness. Really?
Disillusion me more.
The article kind of did with the other numbers.
48% is genes. Well thanks Dad, every time I feel happy… or not. yes Mom too, but Mom’s, to their sons, don’t always seem happy (more like worried, although Mom’s do sometimes seem to enjoy that role).
Not to worry, because I found the Wonderful. AND I found a connection to change management.
A whopping 40% of that big ‘ol smile has to do with ONE TIME EVENTS.
You know CHANGE!
I can’t resist…
So if I am a leader, and/or the one with the original thought, I can envision and follow through with something more powerful than faith, family, friends and someone’s job/career satisfaction?
And look my 40% even grabs part of the 12% in that big (as in things, apparently no influence) category (that is basically our lives) the work part.
The influence and power of change turns out to be Wonderful!
The next time you launch some big “one time” change event keep these happiness numbers in mind: 12% is all those things that are your life; 48% is from Mom, Dad and those relatives around the table on the holidays and 40% is because of change. The fact that change might be more powerful than family for smiles has me Wonderfully Disillusioned.
These are the top three posts for Horizontal Change for the last week, month, quarter and, almost, year.
- Change Management Career Paths- Secrets revealed
- What is Behavioral Change Management?
- Change Management End State Focus
Trusted Partner sneaks in at number two for the year.
Should I be disillusioned that my favorite, C Level Change Management Primer (or here at HR.com), has never quite crept up to the top?
Should I be worried that in the last year a LOT of people seem to be interested in CM as a career? (Worry can quickly switch to disillusionment, we know).
Admittedly the threat of competition might be a first reaction.
Which gets to an overriding disillusionment I have when it comes to change.
Why is it we go straight to the bad, the worst and/or the scary when it comes to change?
Why don’t we instantly react with a feeling of possibility? No matter what. Before the scared-e-cat reaction. Wouldn’t THAT be wonderful?
Here is what that list says in a wonderful way, in a wonderful world (with little to no disillusionment):
- Change Management is everywhere. Change is, therefore, everywhere (or vice versa, of course). Because of that lots of people have become curious about CM as a career. Not just those who think they might want that career, but those who work next to that person, those who interact with people in that career and those just wondering how someone who has made that career choice got there (and how they might be helpful).
- Change is about people. People exhibit behaviors. Everyone knows that to change you have to DO something different. We are all fascinated with behavior, our own and others.
- Change is about End States. If this Garrett guy seems to know so much about change, what is his approach? This post is a special wonderful for me because of late, this year especially, I hear people talking about end states all over the place. Not future state, but end state. Hmm. Webster does not list this as a word/term. And:
neither does the urban dictionary. My first post describing an End State approach was End State- Change Management Simplified on 8/13/2009. I can’t believe I would have been the one to coin the term in relation to CM, but…
People, judging from statistics for Horizontal Change are curious about the CM career, people and how to approach change. If this is just competitors, or potential competitors trolling, then disillusion might be the word to use. If this is just the result of Change Management exposure and interest, wonderful. If it is both then I, for one, am content to be Wonderfully Disillusioned.
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.
Three times I have been asked by potential clients for “samples of my work”. As if CM practitioners have a Change Portfolio.
Perhaps the (only) three requests in my entire career are aberrations.
All three times they did not specify what they were asking for. Mind you this was not a side role for design or training or web work. These were change roles (one of them high level).
Sorry, but this makes me disillusioned.
First, two of the three were insulting.
At the point of the interview/conversation they had seen a resume, looked at my LinkedIn profile and, for one, even had a recommendation/referral.
Second, what kind of “samples” would a high level practitioner have? And what the heck would that tell the client? You have a style sense? You know how to use a certain software? You are totally willing to reveal proprietary information (come on-99% of any “sample” has to be scrubbed to gernericicity- I just made that word up…like you might have to do to honor a request like this).
The first two times it became obvious very quickly that they had no intention of bringing anyone in- they were stealing intellectual capital with a bogus carrot. After the second I swore if I ever had that happen again I would give them false information to mess them up (kidding. I would not fight ethical fire with more of the same, but it was fun to pretend).
I thought of all this today as I was cleaning up some folders. Right there in the “Vision to Work” client-work-folder were all the scrubbed and made up “samples”. On the second time around I thought this might turn into a bad trend so I created stuff to show on the fly.
Are we ever going to get to the wonderful for this Wednesday?
This time around I think it will be an enjoyable exercise.
As usual I have no idea what they are getting at.
Let’s feel wonderful and pretend we know:
- They are looking to understand the change process better. I have been invited to show them my somewhat contrarian approach.
- They are looking to understand my thought process. EVERYONE responds to my end state back perspective, so this is a fantastic invitation to spread that understanding.
- They are looking to see if I can handle some software. Fine. But if it turns out the samples don’t satisfy that (or the presentation doesn’t match their expectations) and I still get/take the role think of the happiness they will have when I learn to create things to match their expectations. We change practitioners do this on EVERY engagement. Sometimes we are lucky enough to figure it out before we start.
- They just want a higher comfort level. Change is scary. Something has to feel secure in the mix. I am guessing clients hope it is the presence of the consultant.
So there you go.
To react by being insulted might just be breaking one of my cardinal rules- do not automatically see the world from your own vantage point. Take a breath and look back at yourself. Your first impression is probably wrong.
Whether or not a change practitioner can have a “portfolio” is fodder for a different post. To be asked for samples might be insulting. Or in a wonderful world it might be an opportunity-for the change, for the practitioner and for the comfort of the client. The potential for good and bad when asked for “samples” makes me Wonderfully Disillusioned.
Yesterday’s post, “5 Things That Have Ruined Consulting” illustrated a little cynical disillusionment with the current state of “consulting”.
True consulting, an exchange of expertise with the assumptions of action on that advice (now THERE’s a big assumption) requires a level of trust, a relationship at a certain level and a leader who can act on the advice. This is my definition by the way- web versions are basically about giving advice, period.
What if any one individual or some group of individuals didn’t like the equation from the last paragraph?
What would they do to make consulting impossible?
Mess with the trust equation
First you would change the ability to have trust.
- You would do that by putting in a middleman (person).
- You would make sure all exchange of information goes through someone else in each (and every) direction.
- You would create contracts, measures and constraints that make creativity (the root of good senior consulting) difficult if not impossible.
- You would pay by the hour so that exchange only happens when the “time card” is punched.
- You would, in doing all these things, mess with the trust equation in BOTH directions.
Change the relationship
Mess with trust and you change relationships.
You can do both quickly by:
- Passing off work to others to implement.
- Always hiring someone with less experience, less exposure and less confidence.
- Explicitly state a contractor relationship (you can still ask questions to get all the expert advice a consultant gives right?).
- Push everything into the middle of the organization.
- Push everything out into functions (let HR have a hand in things, same with procurement, sub out recruiters, create committees for interaction with no decision making power, etc.).
Take the leader out of the mix
If you have followed this check box set of bullet points as the owner of anything, pat yourself on the back, your are now officially out-of-the-mix.
The structure of organizations and the way work gets done in the middle does not match well with consulting for anything less than leaders of change/projects/programs. If the owner gets taken out of the mix, or takes steps to remove themselves, consultants become contractors. A contractor is told what to do or does what they bring (contractors LOVE “tools”).
Owners rarely tell consultants what to do. They agree together or the consultant goes home (both parties have the option of making that happen).
It is Wednesday and that was ALL disillusion (however honest).
The wonderful part is that there is hope. From my own experience lately:
- Mid level implementers are seeing the difficulty of working with contractors- the advice they give is not at the level of a consultant. Those managers are looking to move up, consultants can be very helpful for those jumps.
- The more big firms cookie cut and revenue chase the more clients see their value as replacement employees (read Contractors with fancy bows and a price to match). I have had executives say, “there are some things I would never hire a big firm for. Certain things are made for independent consultants”.
- There is a big back lash for this current system of procurement, third parties and reliance on someone else to screen talent. Smart people in organizations are beginning to realize that structure ITSELF screens out the best. Third party work (even sub contracting when it is not a partnership) is taken by true consultants only when the fridge is bare (see yesterdays number 4- Hunger- and not the, “I can’t wait to accomplish something kind”).
- I never thought I would see this happen, but recruiters are starting to cater to the consultant. They are delivering messages to potential clients that their rates are unworkable for what they are asking for (even when the recruiting firm is not going to take a cut from that gain). This could be because the vacuum sucked in countless numbers of firms and the competition is getting stiff. Either way it makes the market more fair.
- People are still asking for advice from experts and acting on that information. One can only hope that will always be the case.
The real wonderful part is that there is probably no single individual who has followed our bullets on purpose. This scenario happened through multiple people, through a changing economy and through changing work arrangements. Human nature got a chance to mix with business and the people side got squished.
Consulting has turned into contracting and might be dead. But, Human Nature has a way of evening things out, over time. For that hope of correction I am Wonderfully Disillusioned.
I set up a search notification on Google for “change management”.
The results are strange.
The smallest little changes for organizations show up (likely because of press release SEO).
Big changes show up, but the links have nothing to do with how that change will be approached.
If I go straight to Google and type in “change management” I actually get some things that have to do with CM.
(And how cool is this, I make the first page… just):
Change management is appearing in just about every job description now.
My second most popular post is about CM career building. Five to ten people look at it a day, every day. This is, apparently, a career that interests a lot of people. As a senior practitioner I’m not sure if that is wonderful or the opposite. If the next clicks are posts that teach a future oriented perspective and show you must have empathy AND thick skin then the interest is wonderful. If they slide away and hit a few of those other links that show up with the CM search then I am very disillusioned.
Change management is everywhere which is wonderful. Because change management is everywhere often the wrong things and the wrong approaches are being signaled, that is disillusionary. In order to explain anything you have to get people’s attention. So the ubiquity of change management makes me Wonderfully Disillusioned.
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.
Over the years I have had countless times when I said to myself, “why isn’t there a tool to do this?”.
Once it became clear (ten years ago?) that computers and the internet were going to make it possible to do things that were impossible by hand (or at least unbelievably time consuming- how about a list of 90,000 stakeholders alphabetized?) I personally started to imagine all of the things tools might be able to do.
Seeing possibilities can make one a little disillusioned. Wishing and “alphabetizing” don’t go well together.
Eventually every one of my ideas seems to happen. My latest favorite is fluid websites that adjust to the device being used. I knew something like that would happen eventually.
The disillusioned part of the tools equation is that is takes too long for technology to develop.
The wonderful part is that some tool technology moves fast.
The even more wonderful part (for an independent external consultant at least) is that it is often hard for people to figure out what to do with these fancy tools. The vendor will tell you. (Oops more disillusioned here- countless times as a change agent my clients have had to reel back on promises the vendor swore they could keep). We can tell you from your perspective (with outside input and experience added).
When is comes to tools, question:
But all too often organizations, or an individual in that organization with buying power, buy tools based on the vendors idea of functionality. The decision should be YOUR idea of functionality. The simple way to define this category is through the next three.
Will this tool honestly facilitate ideas (if that is why you bought the tool- Adobe has an app. for Creative Cloud called “Ideas”)?
Will it help you see things you would not see without the tool? Creativity can feed risk management.
Will it, oh please yes, add some color and design to your tired organizational templates?
For a lot of tools when we think of function we think of efficiency. Think about the difference simple (as we see them now, not when they first appeared) calculators made. When you use this tool (after the learning curve) are you faster? My favorite disillusioned version of this is Excel. You would think that tool would make things faster. Most spreadsheets gets loaded with weird macros, arrows everywhere for column choices and seriously distracting every-other-row-is-a-different-color “design”.
In this tool questioning category you first have to ask yourself what is important. Data? Listing of information? Some process that relies on the tool? Then you can measure or determine efficiency. I say this because new tool choices often increase efficiency while adding “functionality” (the vendor form) that slows things down.
Organizations and the people within (but to be fair also externals trying to show effort) are fanatics for recording. We live in a Google glasses world (there’s a strange tool). Honestly, who cares?
Disillusion us with all of your data.
Are your really going to use that stuff? Now? Later?
If so then great. Get a tool that makes it easy to put that information down and easy to retrieve.
And then, for crying out loud, actually USE the data.
A tidbit for you: Lynda.com owns training for tools. They have some of the best training courses and modules I have ever seen. A client asked me what good training is/looks like…It shows the overall picture, it illustrates the process for using the tool and it puts individual components in context with the two. Lynda.com courses have overviews, a table of contents that is the process for using the tool and individual modules for specific tasks. That is well designed training. When a client asks if I can do something (say put together a SharePoint site- and fill all the roles) I can usually say yes because I have spent hundreds of hours on Lynda.com. I can always say, “with a little time, yes” thanks to this site.
Tools. They are either wonderful or they are the seeds of disillusionment. The things we can now do with tools are amazing. The amount of time wasted with the wrong tools is disillusionary. The combination makes me Wonderfully Disillusioned.
If you are a true consultant with the ability to see the impossible-possible, disillusionment can often overpower you.
There is nothing more frustrating than seeing obvious solutions (however gargantuan the effort to get to obvious might be) and knowing there is really no way to get there. Too much relies on others. Organizational structures are built to resist change. It is difficult to get the ear of the change owner and even more troublesome to try to get their voice. This can leave a consultant pretty disillusioned.
But then we sit down together as peers (as I did yesterday with a fresh new acquaintance with a resume very different, but much the same, as mine) and just talk it all out. We moan first, usually, about all of the things (and yes people) that have gotten in the way of solutions with our work. We talk about bad tools, poor governance, crazy overwhelming risk models. We basically throw all the disillusion on the table.
Which, yesterday is a good example, is a great way to get to wonderful!
When the conversation moves to the next step we realize, through hearing our own words and that of peers, that we make a difference. We make a lot of little differences for individuals. I heard myself talk about all the times I have helped junior leaders, informally (nothing in the contract, no extra compensation… maybe there should have been) build their leaderships skills. I use commute time to have conversations with these leaders. Those Bluetooth headset phone calls often turn into coaching programs. Those leaders could not afford to hire me on their own (obviously the organizations they work for choose not to as well). Being able to offer this up at an individual level is wonderful.
My new-found acquaintance talked about her path to building into her first engagement with hired support. Aside: independent consultants with their own firms dream of the day a senior executive contracts with them and asks us to build a team through our firm. She got to this spot by being available for clients, by sticking with one company to build a reputation, by building the kind of relationship I can tell she does well. Her dream of solutions will fall short too. Her story gave me hope that we make a difference at multiple levels.
So consultants on those days when you feel like you are being compensated to run on some treadmill that never really accomplishes anything look around you. Look past the disillusionment. There is probably an individual next to you that you made a difference for. There might be a client that you guided toward one of those solutions (guiding counts, remember they will never get to the end states we see). Some time off in the future something you said, something you created and left with the organization, some leader now promoted, will also make a difference because of you.
Consultants, especially change management consultants, often want to craft and guide clients to perfect end states. That is a quick way to be disillusioned. Look around at the effect your efforts have though. You will see individual wonderful. You might see wonderful on a bigger scale- because of you. We DO make a difference (just not as much as we wish) for that I am Wonderfully Disillusioned.