When social media and advanced technology (going to space is high on the advanced list) come together we have Space Fast Change Around Us. Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut, has created a video series to help answer all those living in space questions. I am not one to go to videos (I would rather search text and picture based- videos seem too slow and are too time consuming). But…
This series makes me understand how people can get completely absorbed in videos and burn an incredible amount of time. We have permission for this series though because we are learning right?
We all need to know how to:
Brush our teeth in space
Sleep in space
Wash our hands in space
Cook spinach in space (to have Popeye energy for all those spacewalks)
Make a peanut butter & honey sandwich in space
Because I know you are curious: How to use the toilet in space
This is Fast Change Around Us: the ability to look at a long list of videos of people living in space. What’s next, virtually accompanying a group of astronauts on a Martian picnic?
Gail Severini’s post today, “the Enlightened Program Manager-Partnering with Change Management” got me thinking.
She says (correctly by my experience):
“The reality in most organizations is that strategy is parsed into Strategic Business Units and/or Divisions and the leader assigns it to a program manager to organize.”.
What if all strategy in organizations was not treated the same?
We have to start with those situations where this really makes sense-transformation.
True transformation- not something that just picked up the label because it is big and/or Enterprise wide. If the organization is really going to be different after this change- process, approach,technology and people (yes it is probably all of the above)- then a different kind of strategy is called for.
This would be a strategy that is orchestrated at the highest levels- CEO and Board of Directors. Everything would connect (and would be communicated as connecting) across the organization. If this is a picture it would be one map as a whole with parts and pieces within. And it would not be the map (I have seen many of these) that is drawn AFTER the parts and pieces have been parsed.
As an aside this parsing process is similar to a present to future perspective for change. It almost eliminates any view of the whole. Contrast that to strategy that is whole focused and high in the organization and an end state focus for change. Both give the whole, provide context and effectively put the “parsing” into perspective.
If all strategy were not treated the same there would always be an element that raises work (which carries lots of internal political baggage with it) to a level that is shared by all.
What if the “Program Manager” was above the units and divisions?
One way to do that would be to elevate those Program Managers Gail mentioned to this higher level-if only for the transformation.
This is done frequently in organizations by naming an SVP as the leader (In my taxonomy this would be the Implementary Leader) of the transformation. The inherent problem with this is that now you have a peer leading a horizontal (the one with the “S” ego’s and reputations). In my pie in the sky vision this Program Manager would be a role that stays after the transformation. In fact it might have been a role that was created early on in the organizations history in preparation for the big change every company goes through eventually.
I see this role as the business version of a very high level change management consultant. (In fact they would partner as right and left/left and right, in a perfect world).
The CEO would still need to be the owner and own the change, but this set up would signal to the organization that there is also an important leader to implement (and in this case the support of a senior change person who will focus on the whole, the context and the people).
What if unit and division tactical strategy scaled up?
You could edge toward this structure by creating more scale up from inside the organization to a holistic strategy.
Most companies would argue they already do this with some version of committees, executive summits, golf games etc. I have been in 70+ companies as a consultant and have yet to see any of these arrangements do anything more than quickly parse work. They all basically scale stuff up and then get parse stuff back in (maybe it is more of a grand permission process than strategy).
All strategy is not the same. Approaching transformation as if it is a program of Divisional/Business Unit work streams is status quo. Change and status quo do not blend well.
No not what is the ROI.
No not what is the best way to measure change management.
Rather, what does success look like?
For the client:
Of course this depends on who the client is. If the client is the owner of the change, success would be getting to a version of an end state that would not have been possible without CM. Maybe things happened faster than predicted. Maybe the change hangs on longer (or permanently) than originally expected. Maybe stakeholders feel more comfortable about the next change. (See the pattern here leaders? CM is as much about the next thing, or righting the last thing as it is this current change thing… when done successfully).
If the client is in middle of the organization then the future is set aside. Success directly correlates to elimination of roadblocks and speed to success measures (forget end states, and the next change and building anything- in the middle it is about now and tomorrow).
For the Consultant:
For that senior owner it may be that the consultant helped build competency or capability for that owners organization.
For the middle client it may be that all those difficult people issues were handled, dealt with and then things got better.
One is strategic and one is tactical. If you plan on being successful as a change management consultant you better be ready and able to do both. (Ironically sometimes at the same time).
Successful change management is end states that arrive better, stronger and faster than they would have without the change management consultant. OR projects simply move smoothly and fast (for those middle of the organization clients).
Yesterday I gave you the Weakness of Internal Change Management, today the strengths of External Consultants.
First a clarification.
Not all external consultants have these strengths. I am right alongside that pessimistic leader who has been burned by a big firm or spent too much time listening to how that boutique firms approach will someday change the world and most certainly change this clients world quickly. (Yes it will, but not for what the client thought).
In the context of this post I am thinking of small firms (10 or fewer employees) and independent consultants who put together teams specifically for an engagement (often including internal resources).
OK now that we have stripped away those firms that are on a constant mission to build revenue and are talking about the firms that only get revenue with clear results we can talk about external strengths.
- The opposite of internal weakness is the number one external strength- the willingness, know how and experience to call things out. Usually those things are the elephants in the room. Sometimes, for the most bold of us, it is structural root causes that are making true change impossible.
- Ask why. This is the subtle form of calling things out. There are so many times on engagements where I ask why and I get, “because that is the way we do things.” OK. Again, “Why?”. Usually I get the exact same answer.
- Cover for internals. No matter how much internals want something to happen and how hard they try to make it possible there are just some things they do not have the leverage for. They RARELY have the ear of senior leaders. Were they to, a PowerPoint slide and recommendations would have to be at the ready. Most senior externals could create that on the fly as part of a conversation. AND they often have the leverage to do without the time-wasting PP session. (Internals, hint, you should be taking advantage of this rather than bemoaning the luxuries of external consulting).
- Mediate. The internal form of mediation carries that aura we used to have hovering over us as kids- you never really know when you are going to say the wrong thing. And when you do you are never really sure why it was wrong. Internals tend to be able to stack up a gazillion internal political things in order to use as measure to decide when to talk, when to jump in and take charge and when to tell someone else it is time to stop talking. ‘Not sure if that is change management or some sort of crowd management. Externals jump in. My family kids me that when something isn’t right or fair there is no way I would remain silent. That is a strength (and believe me a curse too).
- We compliment and reinforce. Because those “performance measurement systems” are just not the same as a human being telling someone, with an example, why they are good at what they do. There is not a lot of kudos-giving in organizations. And when there is it seems a carrot technique to get just a little more effort out of everyone.
So externals, have you gotten to the point in your career where you can, and can get away with, these things?
Internals, these five things you are not going to change. You can try to do them on your own (and risk your job) or you can contract with and/or leverage externals around you to fill in the blanks.
Senior leaders, take note of these five things (and the weakness of internals from yesterday). Use your externals as consultants. Or specifically call out roles as Contracting roles. You might even get a few of the five from the contractors…
Five strengths of externals: they call things out, they ask why, they help cover for internals, they mediate and they give appropriate Kudos.
Some things when stripped of a bigger picture view seem to make sense and be successful.
Internal change management is an example.
Internal CM, either through CM groups or done by someone designated as such do a great job of filling in missing project management pieces.
- They do those communications that would not have been done otherwise.
- They provide those spreadsheets to list the people risks.
- They “assess” the environment to find things that might get in the way (souped up people risk management).
- They are there constantly (unbelievable the hours internal CM’s are willing to be available) accessible to provide a sense that someone is managing those hard to figure out people issues.
They are doing all those things internals see as “best practices”. Which is great. This stuff does need to be done, to some extent. Doing it without real change management can be a lot of time and effort wasted though.
In looking back at all the internal groups and individuals I have worked with (and seeing an ad for six internal change management roles at a previous client that will now sextuplicate its issues) I see one glaring weakness.
The Big Weakness
The inability to call out roadblocks is the Big Weakness.
I can no longer count the number of times I have said to myself, “why is no one calling this out?”.
Or, “why are they talking about this behind closed doors, but never addressing the root cause?”.
There is good reason NOT to call these things out. You will pay for it as an internal. You might pay for it officially in your performance review (not a team player- PS “team player” companies tend to be a little stagnant). Or you may pay for it unofficially with strange changing arrangements- you know that, “did I do something wrong?” scenario.
The higher up the chain you are the more this will cost you.
To be fair, junior consultants, contractors and externals fearful of their revenue stream do the same thing. (In my mind they are very close to being employees anyway- by virtue of their silence and/or the procurement arrangements companies have set up).
I sometimes think this whole change management career is a building of competency, capability and experience in order to learn to call things out, at the root cause, and still be able to return the following Monday to continue the contract. I also know it is the times where we don’t return on Monday that creates the ability to do this with tact (in a way that gets the root causes addressed- not just to keep the revenue stream going).
The biggest weakness of internal change practitioners is their inability to call out roadblocks at the root cause. Thanks to organizational structure and status quo this is really not their fault. And a good reason to look to externals who have boldly and tactfully called those things out in the past.
: 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.
My favorite company on the planet (just ahead of iRobot) announced its plans for a nationwide (US) network of charging stations that Tesla owners can use… FOR FREE! That is Fast Change we can all grab on to.
I love to use visuals with my change engagements, especially when the change has some element of building over time. Maybe multiple pilots spread throughout the world, or a picture of behaviors that build on each other- anything to show the picture of this change building momentum.
As a stakeholder (I am saving my pennies for a Tesla- and I don’t even like cars, I have the SUV) watching this map get filled in is going to be thrilling:
If I had that Tesla I could drive to Los Angeles for FREE!
Coming out of the grocery store the other day a Tesla pulled out of a parking spot and rolled by with that soon to be telltale sound of four tires rolling on the ground, and nothing more. I know there are other hybrids out there that are just as quiet, but somehow the Tesla is different. The Tesla is sleek, the Tesla is blazing fast and the Tesla is completely electric (not just electric when it decides to be).
As a side note: there is a movement to add sound to electric cars to make them safer for pedestrians. Please no! Can you imagine what it would be like if the majority of the cars out there were silent electric? Can’t we just teach behavior change to pedestrians as part of this engagement?
Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles for free with a Tesla. I am off to surf and see how much “free” costs now.
By a quick count I have seen seven change “methodologies”.
(That is the quick count, it is probably more like 20 or 30).
By a fast comparison they are all the same.
Something like: figure it out, define it, get it in there, finish it and, a recent addition, check to make sure it actually happened.
The ridiculous extreme of this is when organizations check to make sure you will follow THEIR approach rather than something else.
I look at these methodologies and see the internal evangelism behind them and think, “there is a LOT of change management work do be done at this place.” Change work that has little to do with the ACTUAL changes they are pursuing.
Process has become the Band-aid
What is it about human nature that so many of us think, “if we could just come up with a way to do this, some steps along a path, anything to make all this CONSISTENT, then all our problems would go away.”?
And why is it that after all the hard work those evangelists go through to create this fix they end up with the same problems they started with?
There are lots of answers, all of which lead to chasing symptoms rather than addressing root causes.
The comical aspect of this is that the symptoms are BECAUSE of process.
- Must fill out this form
- Must follow this procedure (process gone extremely wrong in many cases)
- Must not taint this with any outside perspective
- Must make this repeatable (that will work the day we start cloning each other, people are not repeatable)
- Must cover our “you know what’s”
- And lately, must make sure we hide the problems with this change itself
All of these musts are pieces from different processes.
If you are in the middle of the organization start asking why certain process items are called for. Go the next step and quantify the time spend on these fillers. Force those responsible to justify the expense. (PS. If they honestly can then process makes sense).
If you are a leader actually make the changes. Start asking everyone why. Just don’t create your own process for doing that.
Process, usually in the form of model or methodology, has become the quick fix elixir for anything that has to do with change. The problem is process was often the reason for the need to change in the first place.
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.
During a little consultant “beach” time I am doing work on my house.
It is turning out to be revealing and an interesting exercise about change.
A local author stopped by on her daily walk as I was on my knees wiggling in a 40 pound piece of a wall next to my driveway. After a “few” of those lifts I was ready for a break and conversation. This was the third day into that part of the project so she had seen progress. What followed was a discussion about end states, process and all the little pieces that go into finishing change.
Like her book I am working piece by piece to put together a whole. For me, with this project (as part of the program of changes to our house which is then part of the remodel initiative) it is literally block-by-block.
She was fascinated with the piece by piece nature of this wall building. It’s like a giant puzzle, we both said. Or a big adult LEGO set.
“Did you know what you wanted when you started?”, she asked. Yes was of course the answer.
“Do the blocks fit that plan?”
Not so much there. The space had to be bigger to get the blocks to fit. I knew what height I wanted, but even a 3D plan does not give you the same visceral feedback as the real thing. So the wall got an extra layer of blocks.
In the grand scheme of this remodel that layer just changed the end state ever so slightly.
A higher wall might now mean a lower balancing plant. Or a bigger rock to balance the extra visual weight (these are big heavy-looking blocks, lots of balancing and softening will take place as I move forward).
While I have in mind the overall feel, while I have addressed form and function,while I know there will be a mix of this and that type of plant, I do not know EXACTLY how that will play out. Adjusting and adapting, piece by piece, will happen.
So back down to my knees for a bigger 60 pound block I lifted, grunted and thought about how organizational change works. Big plans, lots of process and many, many pieces that may have to be rearranged.
Organizational change is like building a block wall, best accomplished with an overall vision, lots of effort and adjustments piece by piece.