The Changing Nature of Change Management

What is new, what is  changing and what refuses to change for the change management profession?

This is, of course, IMHO, take everything CM with a grain of salt.


Awareness down to the individual stakeholder is new.

There are a lot of things written, pushed, manipulated out there when it comes to change management. The world of CM thought is one search away. It appears a lot of people are making those searches. I have been surprised at the level of questioning that comes as a result of those search journeys. People are surprisingly astute, open to thought and willing to question when it comes to change.

Change Management thought used for operational work.

On many, if not most, projects (not always with much real change) there is a CM resource. Not only is this assumed to be an important role, but people push back when it is not. Personally I used to have to work hard to build trust, now I am received with open arms- a change management consultant on board means there actually MIGHT be some change!

Internal change practitioners.

They were always there, now they have the label. One reason is that they have vocally stepped up (CM is about people so everyone wants to try it at some point). They have created Communities of Practice, they have volunteered for extra work in order to build an internal CM resume and they have pushed senior (but usually mid level) leaders to include CM in some way. This category of new will be next years “changing” as they gain leverage and create successes.

End State and Goal Focus

There is much more talk about the future and the real reasons for change. The more that happens the more transparency needs to exist. Honesty and clarity are core components of successful change.


The original gurus have lost sway.

Change Management as a practice is finally beginning to mature. There are enough senior practitioners out there now who have been through big engagements that the original approaches can be questioned. “Why is it we focus so much on resistance?” questions tend to change the way CM is approached. Not much questioning of approach has happened in the last 10 years- that is changing.

Collaboration and virtual environments are producing results.

It could be argued this virtual thing has gotten out of hand (everyone calls in even though their offices are right next to each other). With the global nature of almost all business, virtual was inevitable. Now that the tools are better and organizations are doing more change around social media and different ways to interact and share information, successes are starting to show up. It is easy to use collaboration to create wins within CM (Yammer for dialogue to build FAQ’s is my favorite so far). Turning that into operational interaction that gets information sharing and saving to the right level might be another “changing” for next year.

Levels of CM.

Not only are CM resources almost assumed for projects, but multiple specialties are often included. Partially gone are the days when the change management consultant did all the training, made all the videos, created all the communications and then somehow (by giving up sleep) actually PRACTICED change management. We have junior, mid and senior level consultants now. Sometimes there are all three on the same large transformation.

Status Quo

Some things are slow to change.

My list of CM status quo:

  • Heavy reliance on templates (why? for documentation? for planning? to cover your “you know what”?)
  • Urgency. Not going away, not necessary to get rid of. The perspective that there HAS to be a sense of urgency is status quo guru stuff and is all about push change. People are onto this.
  • The list of deliverables- Readiness Assessment, the survey, individual readiness yellow/red/green chart, the plans. Versions of these do make sense (as does some status quo all of the time). Again, it is the way they are approached and the reasoning behind including them that is status quo. One decision by a senior leader throws all those deliverables completely out of whack (so what was the reason to create them again?).
  • We should do whatever we can internally with internal resources. ‘Never gonna go away. This may make sense for operational work where competency can be trained and developed. It rarely makes sense when competency needed requires experience OUT of the organization. The ONLY way you get that is with externals. CM is one area where I would venture to say external influence is essential to success.

Stakeholders are open to this change management thing. Approaches (and so successes) are following that openness. Change Management is changing. Now if we could stop with the templates, false urgency, spreadsheets and “we can do this ourselves” attitude we will be closer to a mature approach to change.

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Bring Some Bill Clinton to Your Change

President Obama jokes about making Bill Clinton  “the Secretary of Explaining Stuff”.

The more I think of this, and of President Clinton’s clear, factual explanation at this years Democratic National Convention, the more I see this as a possible role within change. Change, like politics, can get pretty muddled. It is often hard to figure out what is up, down, forward, backward or sideways.

In a perfect world the Owner fills this role. Typically this responsibility falls to the Implementary Leader. I could see mini “Under Secretary” roles helping out for the real specific, functional stuff. Any version would help- explaining, when it comes to change, is a good thing.

Here is where you might need a Secretary of Explaining Stuff:

  • Right at the Change Idea
  • Along the Way
  • When things get Muddled
  • At the End of the Change Timeline

Right at the Change Idea

Crafting end state descriptions may not fall under the explanation category- I think of explaining as going over something that has already happened. Creating end states does require a little analysis, some looking back and understanding of current and past organizational business practices. Having an expert available for each of these explanations goes a long way toward crafting an end state view that makes sense.

If the change is coming about because of some nasty, bad stuff (reactionary change), then certainly an explanation is in order. Explanations make it easy to hold that bad thing still, look at it clearly and figure out what that means for the future.

Along the Way

There is always explaining to do along the way.

There is the explaining of the end state- at this point some end state descriptions have been crafted, which means they will need to be represented. As soon as anything happens there may be the need for explaining. The same is true right before things begin. When something goes wrong explaining is essential (and usually avoided- in Clinton’s case there is the explaining of a current presidents record and the reminder that the most recent leader left quite a mess). In those cases it would be nice if the explaining came from those who made the mistake(s) (explaining not blaming).

When things get Muddled

Muddled is different than something gone wrong.

Muddled is when things get confusing. This usually happens because the preliminary steps of end state descriptions, strategy and planning were skipped or came up short. In our example here it could very well be because there never was any explaining.

In a muddled scenario explaining is often the key to understanding, both the nature of the muddle and the perspective and connection of the people involved.

At the End of the Change Timeline

Hopefully the explanation is a wrap up.

A wrap up and possibly an introduction to the next effort.

I have been on some chopped off engagements where a huge change was just stopped. Those explanations are more “what if” than anything else.

A good explanation at the end would look at where you were, tell a little story around that, show how you addressed the idea or the reason for the change, stroll along the change path with examples of expertise used, call out obstacles overcome or not and weave it all together for a soft landing of satisfaction.

Explaining is good. It helps to create end states. It helps to encourage participation. It is an avenue to address problems and mistakes. It can serve as the fabric for a final story. It can even open the window for what if discussions. In fact there is some much explaining that can be done with big change. It makes sense to have a “Secretary of Explaining Stuff”.

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Change Management- Borrowing The PM T Minus Method

IT project managers use a time technique I will call “the T Minus Method”.

The approach sets a date for final implementation (as in the tool is installed not the adoption form CM uses) and then determines other dates along the project timeline by subtracting. Something that will happen 10 days before the implementation is set at T – 10.

From a project standpoint this helps in a few ways: smaller numbers likely increase urgency, there is a continual emphasis on that monster deadline date,  the amount of time for something can be illustrated with numbers (from T- 20 to T – 10) and not only does the beginning and ending get set in stone so do all the parts and pieces.

From a change management standpoint this is a double edged sword: T- minus is actually a morphed form of end state back (kind of ruined with the T minus date), within the project stream this is a helpful way to actually put dates on things, doing so continues to refocus on the end state (or at least the arbitrary day it supposedly starts) and playing the T minus game soothes edgy project managers.

How do you borrow this for change without messing up all your careful pre-work (front loading)?

  1. It is a project management technique.

    Keep it there. Help out the PM by putting layered change tasks (training, communication within the project timeline, events, etc.) into the T minus structure. Don’t do any kind of T minus with the overall change work. (although how would a T minus from an imaginary end state date work…). And continue to emphasize the importance of end states and post “implementation” change work.

  2. T Minus timing reveals a lot.

    Watch how the PM (or PMO if this is big change) determines these, let’s face it arbitrary, dates. Are they padding the time? Are they favoring in their date range picks certain functions? Does it appear they are making assumptions (perhaps of invisible resistance) in their date pick process? Are they missing spots where the date, from a change perspective, need to be padded (resistance or other)?

  3. What effect does T Minus have on stakeholders?

    For a project management organization the setting of T dates usually calms stakeholders (false calm as seen by the CM). For other companies T Minus is a false fire alarm that simply sends everyone into a screaming help mode. For either version helping stakeholders to understand T minus is a project technique not one for longer change processes can make dates helpful. Change is not entirely date-less, even outside the project stream.

  4. Use it if you have to, delay it if you can.

    T minus is a good “herding cats” technique to get things going, to force commitment and to monitor date padding. For project managers. Do the best you can to delay the T minus work until the right time. Fill in the pieces for end state descriptions and the change process before timed work takes away the attention to behavior the stakeholders need to start with. If you WERE able to get that front loading in by all means adopt the T minus approach for those tasks you are responsible for. It is a great approach to TASK.

T Minus is a powerful approach to project management timing and push. Change Management is less about push and timing and more about vision and understanding. There are some overlaps that make T Minus an option for some parts of the change process.

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The Two Change Management’s

There are two change management’s now: one for the end state focus and for attention to impact.

You would think that change management would be about describing the change, figuring out the path to get there and making sure everyone is informed and has a chance to change and be a part of the change.

It is with our first CM. The second is a role of its own- working with those who will either actively participate (the project  and extended team) or will be “impacted” (in quotes because this term is heavily overused within organizations).

End State Focus Change Management

This is the CM that spends time up front (“front-loaded change” was a term I used for a previous client to put CM where is should belong, which would not be front loaded just normal) helping the first round of stakeholders understand the change. The process of developing understanding facilitates end state descriptions- different versions of the end state depending on the stakeholder or group.

End State Change uses time to connect with stakeholders (for this CM stakeholders means anyone connected to the change) as close to the individual level as possible. Time spent early on with this connection helps prepare for participation, for possible behavior change and for resource planning (based on expertise and availability).

End State Change will always focus on the goal(s) before operational needs. This CM knows operations will be different after the change so it is operations that must adapt for the new environment.

This CM knows that change continues in a different form for the life of the company. So this change is a foundation for the next change. Time changes when you have this perspective. The specifics of deadlines, beginnings, endings and milestones are flexible and usually take awhile to become actual dates (if they do at all).

There is plenty of “fighting resistance” with this CM, but it is in the context of finding the core reason for unwillingness and balancing that against the view back from the end state.

Impact Change Management

The second change management is the CM that a middle manager sees- who will be impacted and what do we need to do because of that. This focus assumes that ALL change hits someone hard in some way. This CM spends time looking for all the roadblocks (read people, or more appropriately, persons) that will get in the way of the path forward.

This change management always focuses on operations first. Getting this change to happen with as little disruption is foremost. This change management assumes it will find a way to “integrate” this change into operations (I almost wrote, “the fabric of the organization” but realized that would be a version of our first CM).

Impact CM is a race to loop those to be impacted-potential-resistors into the process as quickly as possible (hopefully in line with incredibly crunched timeframes).

Resistance fighting is key. Getting stakeholders (this definition means people within the organization that will have something taken away or that will not participate just because- they all have their “just becauses”) on board or out of the way is essential. Helping to genuinely change behaviors is a distant second.

Impact CM is controlled by time. In fact in most change cases within organizations this CM starts the instant firm specific dates are set.

Change management has taken two forms- end state focus and impact focus. It may surprise you that I think senior consultants heavily invested in the first version are getting pretty good at the second (do we have a third hybrid version?).

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Not Seeing the Big Picture?

Searches often create blog posts. (When practicing change do some reversals with a different viewpoint). The search,

“How to Compensate for not Seeing the Big Picture”.


The Big Picture


Can be the end state, and end states.

Because people and approaches are mired in the present and the past, end states typically are not imagined and are not described. There is a lot of work and talk about vision and visioning. That tends to flesh out as a standing-in-the-present-looking- to-the-future exercise. When it should be standing in the future and looking back at the present (with a dim view of the past beyond that present).

The Big Picture can be the willingness to look at the totality of this change.

There are very few projects that do not have some sort of connection outside of their original circle of influence and, ugh, impact. Even the small stuff has a Big Picture. There are many little field trips for a change agent to touch the edges of that Big Picture. There tend to be many versions of that Big Picture to, which can change the parameters of influence.

Peripheral Vision

There is the Big Picture that has to do with peripheral vision.

Big efforts can be overwhelming and small efforts that turn out to be big can be stifling. Horses concentrate better with blinders- less distractions. Those involved with change are willing to put on their own blinders in order to make the task list easier (and datable).

Short of taking an approach early on that does teach and deal with the Big Picture and teaches and does not require compensation, what is the answer to the search?

  1. Not everyone HAS to see the big picture.

    The more ownership, or the closer to the owner, the bigger the picture. Focus on each individual picture. An exercise in describing end states, very early in the change process, will help.

  2. See it  yourself.

    If you are the leader or a consultant create that big picture and continue to take the steps to get there despite others lack of foresight. Some will come around- been there seen it.

  3. Insert Big Picture tasks within the confines of the effort.

    Make it impossible to move forward without a little input from the owner, or at least senior leadership. Maybe that decision is a little too risky for the mid level manager to make? Call that out. Maybe this thing is going to require more resources or money in the future than has been budgeted? Call that out so senior leadership has to participate in the dialogue. Bring the Big Picture people (who, obviously are not, with our search parameters) into the conversation.

  4. See the world from their eyes.

    Seeing the Big Picture is not an easy thing. Change Management always requires trying to teach the ability to see that difficult way and then, having failed that (because you will always fail at some level, which means you always succeed at some level- you have that going for you), compensating. If that person did have a sense of Big Pictures and THEY needed to compensate what would they do?

  5. Play the internal politics.

    This is the answer to four and our search. If you can’t get it the best way you have to switch to the compromise (is that the definition for all Change Management?). The compromise is a lot of time spent scaling things up. The compromise is very carefully and very strategically (from YOUR Big Picture view) skipping a step and scaling straight to the owner. Unlike number one above this is just to get something to move faster. Play the “resistors” like fiddles by integrating their needs (even if you know that has little to do with Big Picture things) into the change process. The bigger the effort the more you will have to grab champions to replicate these compromises.

  6. And finally:

    Use a templated, certificated, urgency based, resistance fighting method, approach or model. They were designed for exactly this- change that will never get to the Big Picture.

The need to compensate for lack of a Big Picture view or purposeful disregard of the wider influence of a change effort is a shame. There are models out there, designed from a compensation perspective, that can help. OR you could be a real change agent and teach, guide and integrate Big Pictures into your approach.

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Change Consulting Obstacles The Big 5

This post is meant for practitioners, external (especially) and internal (if you are focused on end states above your personal compensation- good luck with that). Senior leaders you are more than welcome to read as a fly on the wall…

  1. Project Management
  2. Leadership
  3. Individual Agendas
  4. Groupthink
  5. Money

Project Management

The number one obstacle for change.

If you are one of those rare PM’s who understands bigger picture things, who values individuals as part of process, who can see themselves as a stakeholder and describe your personal end state, then KUDOS to you! You are a rarity.

A typical first working interaction with a PM and the PMO goes like this:

Organization uses a project process that has absolutely no change work built in before the project work starts or after that timeline is checked off. PM knows little to nothing about change management (other than a narrow layering approach). PM is used to being “in charge” or at least a ringleader that people listen to. CM is a major threat to everything that PM is measured on and believes in. PM, with this animosity built in, will judge the CM on the first deliverable they present (after all PM’s live deliverables). CM is not about tasks (except for Tactical Change which runs with the timeline, but that is not the first interaction that occurs between these two practitioners). CM is about process and, at times, transition.

So our deliverables (the kind that go on “paper”) are very different. Those deliverables show up as things to pay attention to, things to keep ongoing and a short list of specific things that go into all change processes (communication intros, updates and kudos to name three).

Memorized lines of project managers (right off the bat I can think of six times I have heard these word for word), “this makes no sense to me”, “I have no idea what this is” “I can’t use this”.

Translate that deliverable with vague beginnings and endings into layered Microsoft project tasks (like templated change approaches) and our PM is happy. The problem is change doesn’t happen with that approach.

One PM asked me, “what is it your are trying to do here?”. My answer, “help the change happen so that everyone is more productive, engaged and comfortable with the end state…. isn’t that what you are trying to do?”

Hint to change practitioners this is secondary for the PMO. Accomplishing “the list” as cheaply and quickly as possible is primary (which is fine, that is what they are paid for).

Practitioners, especially external, consider this your number one obstacle. Address it with the mediation savvy that got you into this career in the first place.


Is it me or have organizations become increasingly organic in their approach?

Everything seems to “scale up” to leadership. The role of  senior leader has become the auditor of idea and process. What happened to the visionary, people and idea oriented leaders?

Obstacle number two for you practitioner is this cascade up pattern. Things cascade up in the way small change that turns to big cascades horizontally. The change version has an inclusionary element. The leadership cascade is just higher levels of auditing (with many audits along the way).

I wish I had a picture for every time I suggested, in forced organic environments, that leaders be stakeholder participants as well as figureheads. “Oh no” (incredulous look) “that’s not how we do it here”.

Somehow leadership HAS to be connected to the change. Take “sponsorship” if that is the best you can get. Shoot for actively involved in both the change and the project process.

I have decided the ultimate measure of an organic environment turning to a leader participation effort is for the most senior leader to ask me for a cup of coffee and conversation. No scale up PowerPoint presentation, no virtual meeting where the loudest voice wins, no silence, invisibility and reverence. Just dialogue over a shared beverage.

Obstacle number two is the difficulty getting leadership to the right participation level (and understanding- which is an exponential scale up). Externals, do everything you can to contract directly to that level (direct and not on a pre-defined contract or through a third party).

Individual Agendas

This one is the most obvious, but the easiest to work with.Guaranteed there are agendas, individual or otherwise, that line up better with end states and change than the ones that are obstacles. The key to hurtling this obstacle is to find a way to weave agendas together.

That could be something as complicated as getting the organization to tweak salesperson performance measures either toward the change or simply slackened somehow during the change. It could be as simple as your own version of reaching out to talk over a cup of coffee. There is resistance, there are individual agendas and there are people who do not get noticed and react. A shared conversation and some adjustment from the discussion can smooth out all three.

So this is one of the easier obstacles. Unless of course the individual agenda is that of the PM…


This one is the strangest.

Someone says, “this is the way we do things”, the practitioner suggests an “easy” substitute and everyone they talk to agrees. But no one will do it. No one will publicly say, “let’s try this”. No one wants to budge. Which, of course, reinforces cultural groupthink.

Addressing groupthink is, I think, the highest level of strategic horizontal change. To overcome groupthink requires coming at it from multiple angles, through many different stakeholders with an intense focus on one person who can make a decision and a couple who can publicly change their behavior around the groupthink almost instantly (which is actually easy because remember everyone agreed with the idea to change this thing- just not publicly or with anyone else internal).

Our obstacle three takes a lot of time and a lot of effort and its hard to address more than one of the organizations version of groupthink at once. That would be TRANSFORMATIONAL change.


Not high on the list because there is always money. Just never enough.

Addressing this obstacle is about trying to get the organization to focus money and then communicate that focus. Great example: in bad times (or perceived bad times) organizations love to do the 10% hatchet job. What does that signal (to employees)? (Fear? Ineptitude? Laziness?). Would it not make more sense to look carefully at the whole structure of projects, programs and initiatives and eliminate something? Make it a change effort and move those people connected to the eliminated thing to interesting new positions if you need some internal PR padding.

Money is the number one obstacle for practitioners in trying to get to end states. Because of lack of money, or incorrect focus for distribution of that money, best case scenarios for change rarely happen.

Like all the other change management you practice practitioners think best end state and then roll back from that depending on resources.

With your OWN version of money do not hesitate to negotiate. Even if you are in a third party contracting situation. You can always change the rate, even if just a little, and you can always say no.

The Big 5 of obstacles for change practitioners, and savvy leaders, are Project Management, Leadership, Individual Agendas, Groupthink and Money. It is because of these obstacles that Change Management exists as a career.

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Users- a Different Kind of Stakeholder

Here is a twist: using change management techniques for operational issues.

In this case making sure users are comfortable with and leverage the organizations technology.

This is a first for me- a client has set up an entity of sorts (a little like my Corporate Change Management idea) to address user issues. This is not connected to a specific IT implementation (although they do have a few going on, but that is typical of any organization).  It is simply a collaborative support web with a user focus.

This is a big deal. Organizations just do not do this (or at least do not do it in the correct way). For senior leadership to grab on to this horizontal, collaborative approach and, in a sense, separate it from the status quo of the company is genuine innovative change.

Here are the components:

  • A user group that meets on a semi-regular basis
  • A group, called a Steering Committee, of executives from different functions
  • One implementary leader orchestrating the connections
  • External support
  • Internal support

A user group that meets on a semi-regular basis

This is a group of typical users who were asked and or volunteered to be representatives (guinea pigs? beta testers?) for current and new technology use. As I said this engagement has change components for an operational entity. This is like a permanent focus group. I am suggesting that they get creative in the rotation of individuals within the group.

This is an incredible opportunity to mix functions, give employees a chance to interact in ways virtually impossible on their own and provide a mix of knowledge non existent in most organizations. And these are line users, so membership in a group that really feeds information to senior management is, I would think, an honor. As it should be (hint senior executives make sure those ideas are used and acknowledged- that of course will be one of my recommendations).

A group, called a Steering Committee, of executives from different functions

Most organizations have some form of a Steering Committee of leaders. They sometimes have multiple versions that focus on different topics. This particular one is a focus on users and communication.

Again we have a change component: something that guides leaders to see things from a stakeholder perspective. In this case looking at technology and the way it is communicated and explained through the users eyes. As with all change these leaders are also users, with change executives are also stakeholders (even though they never seem to acknowledge that).

If this groups meetings are facilitated well there is an excellent opportunity for some horizontal change management either for operations or for ongoing initiatives.

One implementary leader orchestrating the connections

There is one person who is the visible figurehead (and go everywhere seen everywhere leader).

This is an organic idea that rose up to the highest executive levels. The pain was there, a survey put that data on paper and the leaders knew things were not right. With someone there to take the reigns (and intensely focus on the issue over a period of two years so far) it is an invisible initiative that will, and has already, prove to be very valuable for the organization.

Much like change we have an implementary leader. This is different though. Currently the reporting structure looks like you would expect it to- basically a Director to VP relationship. There has been suggestions (this would have been my first if they had not beat me to it) to have this person sit at the highest levels of the organization with basically a “C” type reporting structure. No fanfare, just a signal this is important with the visibility that carries. That would be like my suggestions for a trusted advisor external consultant.

External support

Which brings us to external influence.

I wanted to put this as the first in our list, but the client has done so many things that I would have suggested (a real surprise) that I am moving the extra support down the list.

There is a strategic to tactical element (me). There is an external technology architect to effectively do a little change management on the technical side. And there will be vendors to build a library of reference points (tool tips, written documentation, video training, in person training, etc.).

Change that actually clicks, I think, has to have some external influences. Some day I may be proven wrong for that statement, so far, no.

Internal support

Lots of it.

This focus on the user approach is really popular. It does not seem like it has been difficult getting help here and there. This is not an official initiative, project or program (line items in a budget) so there are really no dedicated resources. And yet there is participation, efficiency and good communication. Make sense change has a way of drawing in that kind of energy. How cool to have that in an operational way.

I may have more to say about this as time goes on, but my first reaction is a breath of air and a sigh for organic change, even better in an operational context, that makes sense. Second is the fact that the whole approach carries with it a certain focus (that I have not seen before)- the user. There is plenty of room to weave and communicate to create a web and horizontal connections on top of the first focus of making sure everyone in the organization knows how to use the tools available.

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PULL- Change and Project Communications

Have you heard these comments and responses in your organization?

“Where can I find (fill-in-the-blank) information?”

“It is right there (same fill in for portal, intranet site etc.).”

“How do I do this”.

“Ask so and so”.

Revert to response one.

I am continually amazed that each organization I work with suffers from this problem. (many of my change initiatives seek to address it).

The problem: communicating to the right people at the right time with the right intensity.

The secondary problem: not having to do this over and over and over.


In order to avoid mountains of emails and memos, organizations big and small must have a landing spot. The landing is a central portal that can be a home page or the place you feed in to from others spots. It is an intranet, a SharePoint site or a web site.

Pull is the secret magic thing that gets people to go from the message and/or the link to that central spot. It is also the usefulness of that central spot when the person gets there. Success on the first try will likely allow pull for the next communication.

The site should develop pull of its own so that users go back of their own accord. Hints for this: a reasonable amount of similar posts (say from leaders), good organization, visual interest, a disconnect from Corporate Communications (if you can get away with it).


Once there users must know how the thing they are looking for connects to the whole and to other things. This information has to have context to be understood and remembered.

Here is where the big problem is (I think). The context that these sites have is textual, like an outline. Outlines make sense when you can see the whole thing. Pull any one of the pieces out of the mix and it gets confusing. Or present it in an unfamiliar way and same thing. If you know CSS you have a good example. A code structure that makes sense if you think that way- words can give you pictures of connection if you are an expert CSS’er.


Even the most well run organizations seem to have disconnected repositories. There are all kinds of reasons- silos, security, space limitations etc. Or they have a repository that is holding everything with a horrible search function.

Take lack of pull (from over saturating users with emails) add in textual organization and top it off with storage disconnect and you have users wasting time trying to find things.

This has a lot to do with change management in that sometimes the simplest of things- getting those who will change to read or see something that is important- is next to impossible.

I have no silver bullet…

Except for this (I have never seen this anywhere nor have I been able to convince a client to do this high enough in the organization for it to work):

A Picture Map

The picture map would be a mind map of sorts. Multiple levels of importance would be represented by different shapes, or sizes or colors. Links to each of those areas might be represented by different sized lines depending on importance (or traffic or time). This would be an image map. Everything would be hyperlinked. The number of times you click through things might represent importance.

Each branch might have a similar map of its own- keeping some consistency with importance.

Clicking through combined with the previous organization would give context.

If the map was big enough and organized well enough you might be able to get to anything important in one or two clicks.

Yes much like a good website. But websites are basically textual too. It is the image that is important.

I have tried this at a low level for clients with multiple change initiatives happening at one time- it is VERY powerful and very effective.

Do anything you can to create pull, form context and have a navigable repository. If you can do it with one or a few pictures even better!

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Leaders Vision and Stakeholder Participation

A typical bullet point list for change management within an organization:

  • something about management vision and understanding
  • something about impact
  • something about planning
  • something about users, stakeholders and participation

They are never numbered, but always in this order. So if they were numbered what would be strange about this?

You can have participation with no vision. I know makes no sense, but look around your organization…

Can you have vision with no participation?

Not for very long.

The order is backwards- 4 needs to be one. Understanding stakeholders over a period of time, refreshed continuously is why change management exists (because it is not happening- or at least its not first on the list).

One could be two- stakeholder then vision.

Impact is a nasty word, negative in connotation. The process and approach that follows usually fits right in to that connotation.

Planning is usually about layering CM over the project process. That does need to be done but not without the stakeholder to vision then back to stakeholders order.

Keep in mind leaders and practitioners (who can influence leaders and the decisions of organizations) you can have participation without vision (however scattered that may become) but you cannot have a vision that means anything without participation. Are you signaling and showing you understand that premise?

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The Buzz (and bite) of a Change Management Consultant


Change management practitioners  (who have worked high in the organization as well as side by side with implementers), have a knack for seeing connections to the bigger picture. This is a powerful (and irritating) addition for organizations.

It is powerful because small things mean a lot to individuals. Connecting to something bigger gives each of those small things more significance. More significance in relation to individuals equals more participation.

It is irritating because to most, especially those implementers, there does not seem to be much connection between the little things and more important tasks to accomplish. CM practitioners must seem like mosquitoes in springtime Alaska- they just keep buzzing and it is hard to swat them away.

Something as innocuous as an executive communication within a project, we know as practitioners, can have big connection and important significance for change and the organization. Little trust and confidence threads run through all the organizations interactions, especially those of the leaders. Change feeds on trust (or maybe survives would be a better word). Anything that takes away that nourishment will effect change in a detrimental way.

The way things are done can be reinforcing for those who need to get things done fast. The “way things are done” can feel like “here we go again” to stakeholders and employees. Since those good practitioners do see a bigger picture they are magnets for feedback (even and especially the negative complaining kind, which are FULL of valuable tidbits). Having that feedback in their own database helps them see how badly something can go wrong on a broader scale. (and so they buzz like mosquitoes).

I bring this up here in a blog post because it seems no one is really responsible inside organizations for seeing these connections. Leaders should know better but cant be flies on the wall at the implementary/stakeholder level. Those at the level of task have no accountability for the bigger picture (other than the hierarchical connection to their leaders).

This buzzing about the little things and how they feed the big things, and the conversation about how the big things need the small things is important. Practitioners need to keep it up for the good of everyone. Too bad we can’t bite like mosquitoes. The need to itch would make people pay attention…

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