For recurring meetings it’s not always possible for everyone to arrive on time. If this is happening in your meeting, be prepared with some valuable info for the people that are on time, but hold the critical message for 5-10 minutes. This way everyone is on the correct page and you don’t have to revisit or (worse) leave important information out of the conversation.
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I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones. — John Cage
If we aren’t growing we are dying. Every idea has a shelf life, even the ones that currently work well. Old ideas manifest themselves with complacency, comfort, and boredom. Complacency causes us to lose our edge. Change shouldn’t be initiated for changes sake, but, a new idea for approaching an old problem can generate opportunities otherwise unrealized.
We see this often when a new person takes over an existing job. Simply, the new personality changes the perspective of the job. The tasks are the same but the results may be dramatically different. Its human nature to seek comfort but the opportunity cost of that comfort could be huge. Employ a new idea and see what happens.Read More »
Creating a template for project plans based on type of project and our change complexity rating is a great idea. But be careful. One of the biggest problems with any plan is that those assigned a task don’t fully understand what the task is and worse the manager of the resource doesn’t understand the task either and can’t support the resource. The template saves time and provides a comfort level that tasks aren’t missed. But be careful to ensure everyone understands the tasks and the overall plan.Read More »
Preparation for a meeting is more than creating a handout and reserving a conference room. What do you want to accomplish? Is the purpose to inform or to cause action? How should the attendees feel when they leave? Should the meeting be in person or can it be electronic? Predictability should be the goal if you want to feel good at the end of the meeting.
Pre-meeting with all attendees prior to “the” meeting is a requirement in any significant change communication. This is time consuming but what this does is help shape your message to the audience and exposes any hidden landmines while there is time to diffuse them. It can be argued that if you do your pre-meeting work well enough there is no reason to have the meeting. Of course, in sports and in change leadership even for heavy favorites to win it’s still necessary to actually play the game. But, with the proper preparation your meeting may go beyond your wildest expectations. Pay me know or pay me later? Make the investment.Read More »
What would it be like if your current and former employees testified to a senate committee about the working environment and culture of your organization? FBI employees did just that in 2001. In this testimony numerous problems were highlighted. The cause of the problems that emerged based on the testimony was that a “Club” of senior executives existed in the organization. The major characteristic noted regarding this club was their collective resistance to change.
We frequently talk about how to get employees to change effectively. What about the executive suite? In my experience in medium to large organizations the executive team is seldom the catalyst for change and innovation. This happens closer to the functional line areas. However, the executive suite can be one of the greatest barriers to change in their organization.
It’s easy to forget that executives are employees and people too. They are looking for calm and stability, just like everyone else. Because they have more control over their agenda it is easier to fall into complacency. The real danger is if the executive team establishes a buffer zone around themselves that insulates them from the rest of the organization.
John Werner, a retired agent had this to say to the Senate Judiciary Committee: “The rank-and-file employees are hitting on all cylinders, but they are frustrated over the inefficiencies of management, broken or non-existent information systems and concerns over being held to higher standards than senior management.” Other witnesses said that the senior executives have hamstrung the FBI’s technological capabilities by being resistant to change and set a bad example on accountability, operating via petty office politics and vindictiveness. Werner also said, “The senior FBI executives’ actions have created a climate of cynicism within the bureau that has discouraged promising agents from going into management.”
The impact of this executive approach for the FBI has been losing laptop computers containing classified data, spies going undetected, agents without the proper tools, and public relations blunders. Perhaps the possible implications for your organization aren’t at the national security level but you can imagine a similar material impact. Some tips:
When Jamie Dimon first joined Bank One (now JPMorgan Chase), he came in with questions blazing. These questions served as a fresh perspective and a challenge to any complacency that might have existed. Employees were keenly aware that they were moving forward. You don’t have to be new to an organization to ask questions. Expand your curiosity. How do things work?
Are policies fair and consistent?
Are the standards the same for all levels within the organization? Measurements should support the goals of the organization. Any measures that are inconsistent muddy the directional message.
Look deep inside
Constantly examine your motivations and desires. Where are you in your life? How does that impact your focus on change and growth organizationally? This is different from business strategic planning. This work is personal. It’s necessary to do this outside the daily firefight.
Seek a coach
The executive coach can serve up the challenge to keep you sharp. The investment in a coach or outside advisor also provides a mechanism for accountability. It’s not as easy to exert executive privilege with a professional coach.
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Perhaps you don’t have to stand up to the scrutiny of a senate committee. But remember, just because your employees don’t have that venue available to them doesn’t mean the analysis doesn’t take place. Will your employees report that you are a leader of change and positive growth?Read More »
Growth means change. By its very nature, organizational change is an emotional endeavor. When we institute change we have an effect on individuals. Because of this we have an obligation as change leaders to provide tools to help our employees thrive in the changing environment. This article introduces Change Breakthrough Analysis, a technique that is very powerful in helping people begin to be productive relative to our change initiative. This tool, as with many change related tools, has broader application in the personal and professional lives of people, but we will focus here on the application during organizational change.
The basis for this approach is rooted in quantum physics. Although we won’t discuss the more scientific aspects of this approach here we will allude to the parallels between the science basis and the human dynamics of organizational change. One principle we will use for illustration is that matter is made up of charged particles of light. These light particles have varying levels of positive and negative charges. We might say that the response of someone who is very agitated or excited is highly charged.
Organizational change is an emotional undertaking. Emotion can disorder our thoughts. Have you noticed that some of the more negative reactions to change aren’t that logical? It’s difficult to argue these points due to their lack of structure. If we can somehow order these thoughts we can create a cohesive force working in the direction of the change.
Picture a pendulum framed in a triangle. The swinging of the pendulum at the bottom of the triangle represents the initial emotional reactions of an employee as they first learn about the change. The pendulum swings broadly, caused by the highly charged reaction based upon the employee’s perception – both positively and negatively. The reactions swing wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other. At this stage the employee does not recognize the inherent balance of the positive and negative impact of the change. They are functioning locally and lack a holistic perspective.
As time passes, more information is obtained and thoughts are ordered, the employee moves up along this spectrum. As the employee moves up the spectrum the width of the pendulum swings are less dramatic. As the employee finds the balance of positive and negative impact and the charge is reduced, the employee moves up the spectrum and they experience an increased enlightenment and a more complete perspective.
How do you as the change leader dissolve the charge? The notion of exploring the positive and negative aspects of the change help dissolve the emotional charges associated with the change. This exploration also gives people something productive to do which shifts their focus from the solely emotional aspects of change. We move from unstructured thought to structured thought, bringing balance and moving toward greater certainty about the employees’ role in the change initiative.
A structured exercise to facilitate the achievement of balance is referred to as the Change Collapse. Collapse is a process of reconciliation and synthesis – when two oppositely charged human emotions come together, join, transform, transcend, and emerge in a new form, one in greater balance. This sounds extremely complex and its origin is. But in practice the process is actually quite simple.
An example: The collapse process seeks to identify the positive and negative impacts of a situation. For each participant, identify the benefits and the drawbacks for each of the following two questions:
- What happens if I support the change?
- What happens if I don’t support the change?
The change collapse process should be applied to all stakeholders in our change initiatives. You can then accentuate the benefits for supporting the change and the drawbacks for not supporting the change in all communications and coalition building activities.
The right questions facilitated by the change leader are critical. Some example questions:
- What exactly is terrific and terrible about the change initiative?
- What made you believe that about the change initiative?
- Who made you believe that about the change initiative?
- When did you begin to believe that about the change initiative?
- Where did you begin to believe that about the change initiative?
- Why do you believe that about the change initiative?
- How does this belief about the change initiative help and hinder you?
The process described in this article is referred to as Change Breakthrough Analysis because employing these techniques in your organization can provide a true breakthrough as employees begin to instantly recognize change as an opportunity.Read More »
It is important to recognize that managers and supervisors are also employees. As change leaders we are dependent on line managers and supervisors to carry the message of change. However, we sometimes forget that they are going through changes too. We ask them to work harder and they don’t get overtime. As we get busier we dump on them and hope they carry the load. So many times, the managers and supervisors get tired of their people whining and begin to ignore them. Communication begins to break down. Thinking individually, they know that if they help their people with outplacement they will be left alone with all the work.
These are just a couple examples of how the change principles can get away from us and the magic doesn’t happen. As change leaders we need to constantly monitor the supervisors and managers we are so dependent upon. How can we take a little pressure off?Read More »
Internal and external suppliers and customers are not as engaged in the project as you are. Each project team member should take responsibility for the communication necessary — the handoff — to clarify requirements from both directions.Read More »
When dealing with multiple projects that make up a change initiative the biggest danger are the tasks that fall through the cracks. It may be wise to assign individuals part-time responsibility for shepherding these functions across projects. Areas in which this may apply are systems and technology, human resources, communication, change, process flows, or facilities. It is important to make clear that this person’s role is coordination and support rather than full responsibility for successful implementation. This remains the role of the project manager.Read More »
Change initiatives usually cross organizational boundaries. For your change initiatives to be successful, you must become aware of the boundaries your project must cross. Without the support of key constituents throughout the organization success is merely a dream. To obtain and maintain this elusive support, coalition building is a critical skill set change leaders must develop. Our surveys of change leaders rank coalition building very high among all of the change leader skill sets discussed in these articles. Interestingly, the more experienced the change leader, the higher they rank coalition building and the lower they rank their perceived skill indicating the need for improvement in this area. Experience talks.
It is unlikely that too much time can be budgeted for the important act of coalition building and representing the views of all constituents on the change project management team. Coalition building is done at breakfast meetings, in the hallways, and as meeting attendees are gathering their papers. The change leader can expect to spend at least half their time on this task.
The job of the change leader is to anticipate the actions and reactions of important constituents, possibly influencing these actions and reactions. Open and frank communication, both formal and informal, facilitates coalition building. Change project leaders do have control of the information communicated concerning the change project to these constituents. Clear, concise, communication in terms that are relative to the audience serves as the best way to build effective coalitions that can pay large dividends at critical points in the project.
As with the general population, it is dangerous to stereotype change constituents. Individuals change their viewpoints as new information is obtained and evaluated. Keeping ahead of this curve is the challenge.
Consideration of the following keys to building coalitions will contribute to the success of your change effort.
Recruit stakeholders. Who can influence others? Identify these individuals and recruit them to your team. It may be possible to involve a key constituent as a functioning member of your change leadership team. As an insider they will be able to ‘live’ the reasons and benefits for the change. Also, as with the choice of a vice-presidential running mate in politics, executive sponsors should be selected with some consideration to their effectiveness in forging coalitions to bring the project home successfully.
Involve stakeholders. Get important stakeholders involved in problem solving, monitoring progress, and sharing knowledge regarding the change initiative. By providing something tangible for stakeholders to do, ownership is more likely.
Solicit customer input. Since most of the company is involved with and measures their compensation based on the customer, consideration of customer needs and how they could be positively effected by the change initiative can go a long way to obtaining support from internal constituents.
Spend time with stakeholders. There is no substitute for quality time with important stakeholders. Remember, time spent ensuring stakeholders are comfortable with your ability to lead the change, as well as time to humanize the change effort is time well spent. I frequently like to find a way to travel with a key stakeholder. This uninterrupted, informal time is like gold.
Showcase successful pilots. Managed well, a successful pilot of the change in one area can be used to sell the approach in other geographical, functional or processing areas.
Clarify authority. We are trying to change behavior. Without clear lines of authority and decision making, participants may interpret time spent with them on the change effort as informational only, leading to little or no action. Ask for decisions and commitments to be made.
Don’t surprise stakeholders. A primary goal for the change leader should be – no surprises for the important stakeholders. This may mean individual sessions with all attendees prior to the scheduled group meeting. No one said this was going to be easy!
The coalitions built can make or break a change effort. Include coalition building activities in your work and staffing plans to ensure your change effort reaches the desired outcome.Read More »