Saturday words are back!
…had a bit of a mid-career burnout and needed a break.
One particular word woke me up.
“to study (something) closely and carefully : to learn the nature and relationship of the parts of (something) by a close and careful examination.”
It woke me up because a poster in a forum inserted it into someone else’s sentence to illustrate a consultative approach.
Why are the lowest level roles in “consulting” called Analysts as in Change Analyst?
Why are the analysts the ones that get delegated to the basement chairs at client sites?
Where does analysis (the kind that quickly looks at parts with “close and careful examination”) fit into consulting?
My devil’s advocate response was that, of course, analysis is a key component of consulting. But anyone who brings its importance up in the first sentence or two with a client (or as an explanation in a discussion) is probably tactical. I am sure you can be a tactical consultant (I actually have to think about that because tactics can be transactional) but if you jump to tactics you are probably not very consultative. At least not at the relationship level.
“examine methodically and in detail the constitution or structure of (something, especially information), typically for purposes of explanation and interpretation.”
“1. to separate (a material or abstract entity) into constituent parts or elements; determine the elements or essential features of (opposed to synthesize ): to analyze an argument.
2. to examine critically, so as to bring out the essential elements or give the essence of: to analyze a poem.
3. to examine carefully and in detail so as to identify causes, key factors, possible results, etc.”
All about detail first.
Not “here is the big picture, let’s now look at the components”.
Yes, in consulting we need to analyze. But perhaps for the big engagements that is a separate role. Or a competency to be used later rather than earlier?
: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
Potential client, through third party, asks candidates to complete a business case scenario exercise about a made up change. The parameters are: look at the provided spreadsheet of risks, make a risk log and explain, review this organizations change methodology and create a PowerPoint presentation that can be used to explain to internal leaders. You have four days. (no you will not be paid for this and no it is not an RFP).
If this request effects a candidates “firm adherence to a code’” then it touches integrity and should not be requested.
We are not talking about someone applying for a full tie employment role. We are talking about someone who will be called (by them) a “consultant”. And even with a full time role for what they are asking (senior consultant with 10 years experience, advanced degree etc.) the resume would pretty clearly illustrate if this person is in the ballpark.
My own code (shared, I know, by other well practiced consultants): clients need me as much as I need them. If I am to be a contractor and the company is really only interested in contractors then I have to be a couple days short of missing my mortgage before I will sand away integrity.
Integrity, since I have shared this code with other practitioners and they too are feeling the incessant chipping away of this career, makes me want to say something about this- here certainly and, I wish, straight to the person who made up a request like this. In fact anytime strange requests get made by people within client organizations I want to get straight to the source. (Justice may tie closely with integrity).
There are so many things that clients and potential clients do that just reinforce their current problems. In this case do they really think their methodology is any different from the company next door (or for me the other 60+ approaches I have seen? You would see that experience on my resume…)? Is change management about strictly adhering to an approach? Is it even about consistency past making sure things aren’t complete-different-craziness?
A request like this says a lot about the change people, the organization and what the role would be like (I do still like these huge challenges though).
Integrity. Please don’t break our consultant codes. And please don’t ask us to break them on our own.
The question, “What are Change Management Consultants?” gets the answer, from me:
: a means of transmitting or distributing <a conduit of information>
: a natural or artificial channel through which something (as a fluid) is conveyed
What is the best way to control things within organizations? Stand in the middle of the exchange of information.
What causes status quo to build up over time? Layers and blockage and rules.
What gets in the way of change? Poor communication and interaction.
What would help move change forward? Something that unclogs these barriers. Or maybe a fat pipe with enough pressure to push past clogs? Maybe an actual person who can both dodge the clogs and clear the reason for the blockage?
We are conduits when we go back and forth with information refining the interpretation each time. I have many exchanges where I must explain one sides perspective while gathering information from the listener to feed back. That gets repeated in both directions. (This is interesting… a change practitioner could actually BE the stoppage if they do not handle this correctly. I have seen this happen with internal change agents).
We are conduits for good energy. We take the energy and carry it with us, around anything or person that may sap it.
We are conduits for interpretation of end states. We carry explanations of leadership perspective much more powerful than anything we can put in a newsletter or email.
We do the same thing when the flow needs to go in the other direction from stakeholder to leadership. We don’t hesitate after flowing through the invisible pipe to call things out (with perspective wrapped around the exchange).
At times we are also the valve that controls the flow back and forth. Those are the times when, I think, we push the boundaries. CM practitioners should guide rather than control. Sometimes we have to release a little pressure to do what we do well.
Change Management consultants are the conduit for information which creates clarity and exchange to speed up communication and effort.
For the first time I had to veer away from my favorite definition spot Merriam-Webster and take a Google definition. My blog, I get to cherry pick. :-):
Advocate or promote (a belief or course of action): “Davis wanted to proselytize his ideas”.
Top of the Google search (where do those come from?)
I cherry picked to avoid the definitions with religion in them. But let’s face it. Some practitioners follow certain templated approaches with a “religious” fervor. And just like with religion some eventually question and ask. In the case of the marketed-templated approaches it is, “does this look good on my resume”. Obviously with religion it is a heavier questioning statement.
It seems that if you are going to proselytize anything that might have to do with change management it better REALLY make sense. If someone can find flaws in your conviction you won’t be able to make the sale (yes pun intended). If you are proselytizing an approach rather than showing how your approach provides a solution you are either a poor salesperson or drinking some Kool-Aid.
To be fair: Odds are good my approach has a little proselytization mixed in to explanations. The one thing I know I am an evangelist for is figuring out and describing end states. You would be hard pressed to show me that does not make sense, so I satisfy my own rule.
If you proselytize the need for people to interact cross functionally to talk about end states and change paths then save us a spot at a pew.
If your proselytizing gets to honesty about status quo and its well built barriers for change then what time is the sermon?
If your proselytization shouts loud and strong to the congregation that change is about people doing what they do well (and probably learning to do more, well) then hallelujah!
If you learned your proselytization techniques during that certification program…I am guessing the basket is about to pass our way.
Proselytizing can be a great thing. Because it carries energy and conviction- two things that are valuable for big change. It can also be a bad thing if it is outward and self serving. Proselytize for good/success when it comes to change management.
Does it say something about age if you immediately hum tunes when you see this word?
Although… I have this theory that kids like the stuff their grandparents liked. (What kid would be caught dead, say, listening to their PARENTS music). Many of my friends waited to have children. Their children like the same music (and our kids music, the good stuff at least, sounds a lot like ours). So a 12 year old could be humming tunes with this word too.
My own kids lend credence to this theory.
a : mental acceptance as true or real <give credence to gossip>
b : credibility 1 <lends credence to the theory>
So “lending credence” to something means somehow reinforcing it.
An example supports a theory.
The words of an “expert” help make something seem true.
A model in charts, organized and marketed seems a good approach.
Someone says this is the best. You accept that.
See where I am going with this?
Credence to me (mostly because of that hard “d” right in the middle) is a word that should carry some significance. If you are adding credence to something there should be some accountability.
Credence feels like it should come with facts or opinion based on facts. In fact, I think, even the facts should be questioned. Digging into who created the number (oops- meant gathered or measured) lends credence to facts.
You can’t just say, “that’s a fact” without, well, some basis in fact.
I will leave it up to my readers to help me justify that statement. We could all use someone beside us to lend credence to the things we say and do.
Stay with me on this one…
This word surprised me and made me snicker. Our meaning for this:
to speak or express opinions in a pompous or dogmatic way
is right up there with the role of the Pope:
the state, office, or term of office of a pontiff
In fact it turns out you can be ELECTED to pontificate!
It is good to be the king (but maybe better to be the Pope).
I don’t need to get very far into this to make the connection to change management. When do we have pontification with CM?
I have a special pontification warning in my head (I hope).
Some other practitioners I have seen do not have that signal. So they go on and on and on. I suppose that might signal (or, to be fair, represent) empathy. Although it is a little hard to be empathetic if you are talking all the time (empathy is about LISTENING). I have never thought pontification to be a good thing. I think CM as a profession suffers from some seriously bad group think.
Pontification is the last thing we need.
When it comes to change, apologies leaders for this dig, it seems like leaders are out to one up everyone with their knowledge. This is actually worse than the practitioner group think in that the leaders tend to parrot what they have heard or read.
So you get pontification with no context. (…not that pontification EVER has much context).
- Anyone enamored with a favorite methodology
(for some, enamored is exactly the correct word).
On and on they go about how THIS particular approach can SPEED CHANGE, enable people, empower the organization and spread change fairy dust on the world!
Same as the last one except, for some reason, people actually stop to listen.
They often like to listen to their own voice. Actually maybe, anyone who pontificates, likes to listen to their own voice.
Trainers are the smart ones- they get paid for this.
The next time you feel like you somehow got elected to talk and you are right up there in significance with the pope, take a breath and question whether you are pontificating. Everyone around you knows you aren’t the pope (and shouldn’t be going on and on).
Is an architectural concept where structural stability comes from the tension among parts.
It results in beautiful designs that barely look able to hold their own weight (and can carry many times more).
Make your own with straws here.
Things that are.. tensigrous (?)…hold energy inside that tension. So a toy designed with tensegrity will rebound after you squish it. Push in the right place and you can re-squish it.
A beautiful, cool and fun concept.
Unless, of course, the object full of tensegrity (if there are levels of tensigrousness) happens to be a STAKEHOLDER.
This is the change concept that illustrates people who can go merrily along with change, apparently un-phased by fear or hesitation or pattern disruption and then revert right back to where they were when the tension is released. They play the game and when you turn your back (or leave in the case of externals- they know you will leave and they are patient) they skip right back to where they were.
It is stakeholder tensegrity that is partially responsible for the new trend toward change management AFTER the change and into the end state. They are patient, but usually can’t survive extended “pressure”. Change sustainability is often about outlasting the tensegrous ones.
Can you get ahead of this?
You can if it is possible to create a point of no return.
Is your change an IT initiative? That’s an easy one. At the crossover from one system or software to the next there is a point of no return. It is impossible for anyone to bounce back to where they were.
I am not one to advocate too much talk of transition, but this is a time when it might make sense. If you think your stakeholders would bounce back if they could, then create a point in the change process where that will be obviously impossible. Then be nice and communicate, hand hold and guide them past that spot.
Tensegrity is a beautiful concept, simple and complex at the same time- just like the stakeholders who want to go back to where they were. :-)
Cadence is a word used to describe sound in connection to rhythm.
Webster’s gives us:
1. a rhythmic sequence or flow of sounds in language
2. the beat, time, or measure of rhythmical motion or activity
along with two other definitions that still have to do with sound.
Change practitioners have a way of getting to the “human-ness” of things. Using the word cadence to describe the pace and frequency of communications within an initiative is a great example of this. And it works. Communications themselves do not have their own sound (although they may contain sound… and comically some sort of cadence), but they might in some way create a little buzz (or more buzz depending on “cadence”). So the word fits. I have added it to my repertoire.
Cadence, for change management (and by extension operations) is the frequency of communications.
Yearly, Quarterly, Monthly, Weekly and irregularly occurring meetings are listed in a table or spreadsheet or as a series of bullets in a document (or done really well some sort of visual with links to supporting documents). You can map those communications to stakeholders, check against project level comms., line up with operational interaction and tweak with change specifics events.
- You may just find the “pace” of the organization does not currently fit your defined end states.
- You may see that you have created change/communication saturation.
- You may notice, somehow, you missed people.
- You may realize you are very virtual in your communications when, perhaps, you need to get people together.
- You can put what you think works for CM next to the way the organization is interacting now to find paths to guide toward new behaviors.
With all these different ways to look at your communication, maybe feel… hear… (if you are using the true definition of cadence metaphorically), you can sense the “Cadence” of your organization and your change.
So we have a new word in our language bank, or at least a new meaning- Cadence to describe the pace and frequency of communication(s).
Is there a word that sounds any more like sticking you neck in the sand, or digging your feet in, or just plain being obnoxiously stubborn?
:characterized by refusal to compromise or to abandon an extreme position or attitude
The last US congress, the 112th, became the “dictionary definition” of this word with their inability to pass anything of substance (with a whole lot of wacky ideas pawned off as substantive). (What are the odds the 113th will be any different?).
This word is one of those words that is used with change incorrectly. Well maybe not this BIG word, usually it’s the synonym resistance. (Funny intransigence only has three more letters than resistance and yet my kids would say it is one of those BIG words- as in hard to learn and hard to remember the definition for… let alone spell). When one person thinks something should go one way and another is unwilling to go that way I do not think there is necessarily intransigence on the part of the second party (or resistance).
Intransigence might be an extreme example of resistance. Resistance does not have to have a position (it will certainly develop an attitude though). Resistance tends to be a desire to just stand still (or carry on as usual) when it comes to change. If intransigence was to refuse someone else’s position we might have a change word.
In almost all of the cases of “resistance” I see (or situations where another consultant would look for ways to reduce “resistance”) there is a very good reason for not participating- when the world is seen from the “resistors” viewpoint. It might be history that reduces trust, or structure that will not accommodate the change, or lack of prioritization that means it is mathematically impossible to add in or just an idea that does not make sense.
There is ALWAYS a reason to be resistant. And there may always be a reason for intransigence. For that person with their feet dug in, certainly.
When it comes to change don’t get all riled up about intransigence or the lighter form of resistance. Find out why. Change something else before you try to change the intransigent/resistant person.