Change Whisperer – Gail Severini's Blog


What are the real costs of “muscling through” change? The evolution of Change Management. Post 1 of 3

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”—Lao Tzu

crowbar There is a back-room mindset in times of change: “Change the people or change the people.”  It means either convince (or coerce) the existing staff to adapt to the new way of working or fire them and hire someone else.  This phrase has always irked me.

Looking for some objectivity and additional insight for this series, I partnered up with senior change practitioner, Jennifer Frahm. You may know Jennifer from her terrific blog “Conversations of Change.”

We applied ourselves to articulating why this mindset is a fallacy, to considering what leaders are doing instead, and then finally to whether advancements will actually make Change Management, as we know it, extinct.  continue reading here



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



Innovating Project and Change Management to generate better results—Book Review

Few organizations have figured out how to do strategy execution well.  One of the enigmas of implementation continues to be the gap between project management and change management.  This post is a review of a new book that tackles this very challenge. The Next Evolution—Enhancing and Unifying Project and Change Management: The Emergence One Method for Total Project Success is by Thomas Jarocki (Brown & Williams Publishing LLC, NJ, USA, 2011).

continue reading here



Internal social media – engaging your organization – a status check (Part 2 of 2)

Are organizations leveraging internal social media today?

According to media reports, internal social media is beginning to get traction: “As social networks increasingly dominate communications in private lives, businesses of all sizes — from tiny start-ups to midsize companies like Nikon to behemoths like Dell — are adopting them for the workplace.” (1)

continue reading here



What is “Change Management”? And, is definition important?

Ask 10 people “what is change management?” and you will get 10 very different answers.  So YES definition is important!

Many Leaders come to the term “Change Management” and intuitively believe they know what it means – and that they are already doing it.  However, behind these innocuous words is a highly specialized discipline that has been evolving over the past 60 years.

Understanding Change Management offers untapped opportunity to drive more value to the bottom line.

The broad definition 

It’s about “managing change”, i.e. taking a strategy and managing the implementation right? Well, yes, in the broadest sense.

My own definition starts from strategic alignment and extends through delivery to seeing the results track in.

Change management encompasses an array of multi-disciplinary capabilities:

  • Leadership and Strategic Planning
  • Project specific capabilities, e.g. Strategic Marketing, Organization Design and Development, Business Process Re-engineering, Technology Implementation
  • People Change Management (PCM), Training and Communications
  • Portfolio / Program / Project Management

Realizing full ROI only happens when ALL of these are INTEGRATED and OPTIMIZED.

Of note, you will see “Change Management” appear on many position descriptions and job postings these days.  This reference typically refers to a general understanding of the nature of change and high level awareness of the process that might be required for straightforward transitional change.

Underneath this broad definition though is a deeper, more powerful, resource - what I term “People Change Management”.  It is increasingly recognized that this so-called “soft stuff” represents the highest risk to transformational change.  It also represents the greatest opportunity for driving value and for competitive advantage.

The deep definition - People Change Management (PCM)

Kurt Lewin got us started and many others have continued the work of understanding how to help people traverse change.  The business notion is that the faster we can get employees to stop doing the old thing and start doing the new thing, the faster the ROI comes in.

Some of the renowned names in the field include: William Bridges, John Kotter, Peter Senge.  Others have gone deeper and applied it to the “hows” of  managing change faster and better:  Linda Ackerman-Anderson, Dean Anderson, Rick Mauer, Jeff Hiatt and our own Daryl Conner.

How do I think of  People Change Management?  It:

  • Reduces people-related risks (eg resistance and misunderstandings) that effect costly delays, re-work, error / waste and turnover
  • Increases and expedites user “adoption, proficiency and ultimate utilization” (Prosci Learning) thereby optimizing business results
  • Encompasses a structured process and tool sets
  • Includes: Leader (Sponsor) support, stakeholder management, change readiness, business impact, communication, training, and change metrics as well as contingency planning and interventions as required
  • Engages users in the change, shares information, improves solutioning and expedites the transition to the ‘new state’ 

How does Conner Partners define “Change Management”?

Change management is the orchestration of change in a way that identifies and addresses the human risks involved in implementing change. This strengthens the individual and organizational ability to handle change well and increases the chances that the change will be put successfully into practice.

Of note, this very tactical and process-driven application of Change Management is deployed within Programs and Projects.  It is substantively different than the generic competency requirement on position descriptions and job posting.

Mastery at this level prepares Leaders and Practitioners to deal with high risk, disruptive change – transformational change.  Mastery often encompasses Organizational Development capabilities associated with: organizational behaviour, organizational design, learning and development, compensation, culture change, etc.

PCM Current Maturity Levels?

Prosci Learning has a neat little Maturity Model here that articulates a development path from novice to mastery.  My experience is that few organizations have reached level 5 – and even fewer have an integrated, end-to-end, execution approach (a PMO is not “it”).

Most organizations are great at some components of change or they would not be around today. However, few (very few) are great at the whole array.

What a great opportunity for developing competitive advantage!  In fact, many Fortune 500 companies are going beyond adding the generic competency onto position descriptions and beyond adding Change Management checklists into project management methodology.  Many are in the process of developing Enterprise capability through Change Management Communities of Practice, Centres of Excellence and even dedicated leadership positions.

Deeper still – specialties within Change Management

In a recent discussion on LinkedIn one of the practitioners I have come to respect, Faith Fuqua-Purvis, proposed the notion of specialists within Change Management (much as within engineering there are Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, etc). I see this as key, for example “Communications” in Change Management is NOT the same as broadcasting information – it is not a PR or MarCom definition – it requires engaging Change Targets in 2-way dialogue. Furthermore, the notion of “risk communication” is also important here – effectively communicating with people who are “in crisis” is very different than day-to-day communications.

The specialities could include:

  • Defining strategic intent at an operational level with a realization focus, e.g. developing Vision and Mission Statements (not as simple as it sounds – I have seen many a project set the wrong trajectory with the wrong vision / mission statement – and this is NOT something that should be a whimsical engagement ploy)
  • Training and coaching sponsors and agents in change leadership/management
  • Enrolling sponsors and targets in this change.  Surfacing and resolving resistance.  Building and sustaining commitment.
  • Developing and deploying communications (informational and conversational, commitment focussed)
  • Anticipating, designing, resourcing and deploying specific types of interventions
  • Risk Management (against proven risk frameworks)
  • Etc

And, by the way, these are not mutually exclusive requirements – to the contrary, they have mutually compounding benefits.

Only when practitioners can clearly delineate

the different specialties and competencies within Change Management,

 describe their benefits and understand their relationships

– only then are they are really prepared to deliver “Change Management” value.

So, while this does not require that our definitions be identical, I ask my colleagues to give more consideration to contextualizing what you do and relating it to what other specialists within the same space do, i.e. don’t sell just your capability. Please consider the breadth and depth of change management and build up the team to meet the client’s best interests.

If you are researching Change Management to deploy within large-scale strategic change, I’d be delighted to share more with you – you can reach me at gail.severini@connerpartners.com .

_ _ _ _

Faith and I both believe that Change Management is a critical component of successful business change.  As such, and along with some others, we are committed to expanding the general understanding of Change Management and will be posting multiple articles on this topic over the next several months.  Some articles will be collaboratively written, others written and posted individually.

We hope you will visit both our sites.  To see Faith’s blog, follow this link.

If you want to know more about who we are, you can find us both on LinkedIn. You can also read more about Faith here and if you want to contact us, you can reach Faith here and me at gail.severini@connerpartners.com.

Related Posts:



Dilemma: can you, should you, attempt to change your organization’s culture? Thoughts?

Okay, this is an experiment at crowdsourcing solutions … here’s the dilemma:

  • we all know that culture is a “challenge”  for our current change initiative, Program or Project (let’s be clear this is a euphemism!)
  • BUT addressing culture was never raised in the business case or in the initial Program scoping
  • quite possibly whoever brings it up now takes a big career risk
  • What do we do – do we talk about the elephant in the room or sweep it under the rug?

Please share your thoughts by commenting.  I will summarize and share mine back in a couple of days here or on a related post – don’t want to miss it … you can subscribe by email at the top left.

What do you think?



Is your Brand Promise on the Change Train?

Is your Brand Promise important to you? (Huh?) Is it important to preserve a stellar customer experience during change?

As you make changes throughout your organization do you mindfully consider the impact on Brand Promise? On the culture that supports it?  Many organizations take this for granted.

Do you tolerate or build (gasp!) changes that compromise the Brand Promise? continue reading here



“New normal”: adaptation required

All of us – Leaders, Managers, Employees – must think differently about our roles in this “new normal”.  However, this will not come naturally.  The new mindsets must be adopted at the top and actively and deliberately cascaded through the organization.

Leaders, how will you get your people to embrace the changes that are required to keep the organization productive and competitive?

Our latest white paper has identified 3 channels of execution (individual, group and organizational) and 3 capability dimensions (capacity, competencies and culture) that intersect to produce 9 “pistons” of change (FYI, most often program and project change is only permitted to function within 2 of these 9). Maybe your organization already excels at, and integrates, all 9 in this framework to deploy both short-, mid- and long-term change – this is rare (think unicorn). continue reading here



Crack or Chasm between Project Management and Change Management?

Recently there seems to be an increase job ads that bundle some Change Management capabilities in with Project Management.  Many experienced Change Management specialists have expressed concern that a combination could detract from the value of both.  The drivers are different and there is a gap.  The risk is that the gap represents benefits realization.  The answer lies in understanding the particular project and client environment. continue reading here



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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