Change Whisperer – Gail Severini's Blog


Time to kill the phantom 70% failure rate quoted on transformational strategy?

Time to kill the 70 failure rate

The “70% failure rate” has been exploited enough already. It’s time to stop beating this dead horse and give it a decent burial.

I get why it resonates with most of us. Strategy execution is hard. Some falls short of objectives and some fails outright. The more transformational the change the more likely that it will fail in some way.

We all abhor failure. Any failure feels like too much. It feels like 70%. continue reading here



Are you making a difference? Why change management?

I meet a lot more people these days who are interested in authenticity and making a difference.  I view this trend as a move in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs closer to self-actualization (i.e., money and status are surpassed as satisfactory rewards). This won’t resonate with everyone―you Gordon Gekkos of the world just won’t get this so you can stop reading right now.  However, for those interested in making a difference, we are on a mission aren’t we?

The unintended consequences of vacations

Maybe this post is a result of vacation.  Vacations are always a time of personal renewal and reflection, re-setting for the year to come.  This post was supposed to be about “the role of generosity in change management” but it morphed into this. As I untangled a mess of ideas around why generosity is so important in practicing change management (as in ‘generosity of spirit’ such as empathy, compassion, tolerance, patience) I started to think about why I got into this work in the first place.
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Change Management Methodology (Strategy execution methodologies series. Post 4)

“Business is a machine made out of people” Bill Duane.

In Post 1 of this series, we established that strategy is “just another good idea” until it is implemented and churning out results, and that there is no single turnkey methodology for executing strategy. In Posts 2 and 3, we turned our attention to the “go to” methodology—project management—and explored the two dominant project management methodologies: The Project Management Institute’s (PMI’s) approach and PRINCE2. In this post, we’re going to look at change management and how it’s deployed.

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Dispatch from the Conference Board of Canada’s annual Change Management conference (2012)

What is the “state of the nation” as far as “change management” goes in Canada? Titled “Agility, Performance and Engagement,” this conference had an unusual mix of theory, leadership thinking, and pragmatic case studies. I think that combination is an interesting comment on where we are in understanding, leveraging, and advancing this powerful competitive advantage.

There were ten presentations from representatives of TD Bank, Globalive/Wind Mobile, Lean Agility Inc, Shackle Associates, VirtualeTeams, Loblaw Companies Inc, Niagara Institute, SASKPower, and Centennial College, as well as several bright, experienced independents and authors.

Photo provided by Shirley Williams, WilliamPearl & Associates

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10 tips for becoming a trusted advisor in change management

To be an effective change agent one needs influence in the organization. Influence is built on many dimensions of trust―trust that the change agent is legitimately qualified and experienced to execute the scope of work, trust that the change agent has the best interests of the organization at heart, and trust in the relationship with the sponsor.

This trust is earned, one relationship at a time, and that usually takes a lot of time. In transformational change, where time is of the essence, it is essential to expedite the development of trust.

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“Change leadership” is not THE silver bullet. The Silver Bullet series.

Seems like many organizations are looking for the secret to effective strategic execution―the one thing that will fix the so-called 70% failure rate. The problem is (and we all know it deep down), there are no simple solutions for complex problems.  In this series, I will look at the conventional “silver bullets” and explore why none work alone and each is only moderately effective in its common form.

“Change leadership” is a favorite clarion call among change practitioners.  And, don’t get me wrong, I too believe that “it” (once we can agree on what “it” is) is important.  However, I believe that by promoting change leadership as a panacea we are setting ourselves up for failure.  I realize that this is a bit of a controversial position to take―I may be asking you to think differently about what you know.  I will look at three points:

  1. “Change leadership” is not “leadership”
  2. Why is sponsorship regularly rated as the most important element for successful change if it’s not a silver bullet?
  3. The punch line

Note: the context for this discussion is “strategic” change or “transformational” change.  Our firm’s definition: “Transformational change is highly disruptive to the way people do their work. It generally affects a large portion of an organization, shifts the power dynamic, and requires changes in mindset and behaviors to be realized.” (1) This is very different than the more common incremental change.

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Insights in Change Management—Interview with James G. Bohn, Ph.D., Johnson Controls (Part 3 of 3)

Who do you seek out when you are faced with something new? Someone who has done it before, of course. Leading and managing change is fraught with risk—nuanced, contextual, dynamic, and difficult to decipher. Judgment is acquired over time and experience. It is a rare opportunity to speak with a seasoned practitioner in change management and get his or her insights.

This is the final post in the interview series with James G. Bohn, Ph.D., Director, Global Change Management Office, Johnson Controls. For Part 1 please click here; for Part 2 click here.

8.       Inspirations and Aspirations—Who inspires you? Individuals you work with? Do you mentor others? Do pro bono work? Writing? Networking?

Albert Bandura has been my inspiration for nearly 20 years. What I like about him is that his research is readable. I think in many ways it is humanistic. It has helped people in many ways. His work on looking at human freedom from a cognitive point of perspective is just amazing. It’s just fun to read and he is such an iconoclast. He is my number-one read and I’ve even got my daughter, who is a lawyer, reading him as well. 
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Insights in Change Management—Interview with James G. Bohn, Ph.D., Johnson Controls (Part 2 of 3)

Change Management practitioners are in the fray of turning strategy into ROI. This often feels like nailing Jell-O on the wall but seasoned practitioners have insights that the rest of us can benefit from.

This is a continuation of the interview with James G. Bohn, Ph.D., Director Global Change Management Office, Johnson Controls. For Part 1 please click here. Part 3 will be published shortly. You can subscribe to ensure that you don’t miss it.
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Insights in Change Management—Interview with James G. Bohn, Ph.D., Johnson Controls (Part 1 of 3)

Who knows more about change management than practitioners in the trenches? These are professionals who are vested in helping organizations achieve the promises to the Board (the strategy, “the change”) and who have dedicated their careers to figuring out how to do this well. In this series, Insights in Change Management, we will hear the voices of these professionals.

Jim Bohn is a seasoned change management practitioner with deep experience in facilitation, diagnostics, and coaching. He currently works on innovation, development, and standardization at Johnson Controls as Director, Global Change Management Office. He has managed large-scale client transitions ranging from pharmaceuticals to industrial and technology operations. Jim’s projects have ranged from mergers and acquisitions to large-scale IT change across North America, Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Europe. You can find Jim on LinkedIn here and on his blog, The Impossible Art of Middle Management, here.

This interview comprises a series of questions and answers that will be published in three parts:

  1. Part 1—What brought you here? Includes: How did you get started? What’s your definition of change management? Where do you start?
  2. Part 2—Where is here for you? Includes: What do you bake into every engagement? What have you learned from failure? In SWOT analysis, what are the top three touchstones you refer to?
  3. Part 3—Who inspires you? Includes: What gets you up in the morning or keeps you going? What does the future of change management need? As a bonus, Jim answers the question, “What would you like to ask other practitioners?”

This is Part 1.  Parts 2 and 3 will be published shortly. You can subscribe to ensure that you don’t miss them.

Here we go….

1. Your story—How did you arrive at change management? Why did you choose this discipline and why?

Around about 1980, I received a flyer from University Associates, which at that time was one of the premier change management facilitation groups in the world. I was in product design at the time and always knew I wanted to work with people and help people adjust to change. What I had witnessed was that often people would flail through change but sometimes a good leader managed to help people through, whether it was through communications or just anticipating barriers. It was logical to me and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I read the flyer and thought, “This is me—this is what I want to do.” In 1992 I had an opportunity to attend a conference and sit down with a magnificent practitioner and I was convinced. As I was working on my PhD and that set the direction for me. I went on to focus on human motivation. That moment set my goals for literally the next 20 years of my life.

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Fatal assumptions and setting projects up for success

“If we always do what we always did, we’ll always get what we always got” – True and so what? 

Well, often (usually) we need to move ourselves and our people out of comfortable situations in order to achieve different (hopefully better) results.  And as ‘easy’ as this looks when we put together analysis and business cases – then convince ourselves even more as we buy into the initiative vision statement – we often have a nagging doubt that implementation and benefits realization are rarely that ‘easy’. 

What are the, often fatal, assumptions that could free us – could liberate our approach to do things differently?  That we ignore at our own peril? continue reading here




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