Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

Change management is a means to an end – planning CM

Sometimes as practitioners we ‘fall in love’ with ideas, theory, analysis and plans.  However, at some point, we all must stop the planning and get on with the execution – that is where the pay off is.  Often ‘change management’ fails because it is too academic – practitioners fail to make the theories concrete, actionable and accountable. 

As a rule of thumb, how much planning is required?

Obviously it is perilous and irrational to pull a number out of a hat.  But let’s just say that for a moderately, complex project that affects both a program team and designates where say 10% of the budget is set aside for adoption of the change, marketing of the new initiative, etc – how much of that 10% should be planning vs execution?

  • Should it be 20:80?  Hmm sounds reasonable. 
  • Okay, now if this is a $300K project with $30K (10%) on change management that translates into $6K on preparation and $24K on execution. 
  • At $150/hour that buys 40 hours of preparation and 160 hours (4 weeks) of execution.

Interesting – when we put some numbers to it.  Suddenly we can think about the specific case and consider whether that’s enough or too much.  And more importantly, can drive results by focusing on execution.

Now, please no one write me to point out that it is naive in the extreme to put a quote out there without any context.  We already agreed that this was just an exercise.  If you don’t get the point of establishing a ratio, then you don’t get it.

The focus of our change management activities must always be on producing results.  There are no short cuts.  Organizations that have never implemented change management best practices or who have cultural challenges or dysfunction, or have high risk, dynamic programs must spend considerably more time than the 20% getting the analysis and planning right.  But perhaps we can agree on the merits of setting some targets upfront.  After all change management is only the means to the end, not the end in itself.

“The future is always changing …

“The future is always changing … in the largest of ways by the smallest of things”—PUSH, the movie.

drop of waterWhat a great concept.  It jives with Jim Collin’s notion in “Good to Great” of the flywheel – making modest changes in cycles over time to drive breakthrough performance.

I appreciate this as a way of thinking about a big opportunity or problem.

It gives us hope for making change happen and a way of breaking solutions into manageable pieces.

This is also a great way to break down resistance in projects.  For example, one can suggest to resistors, “Can we try one cycle together?” and “Would you give it a try for a week and I will come back and we can talk about the results?”  Sometimes the biggest hurdle is just getting started.  This approach allows for small compromise to generate an authentic conversation around results.

The notion that a small change can have big results also speaks to direction – a modest directional change creates an increasingly different destination as the miles pass.  Navigators have known the importance of this for hundreds of years – something we often forget in business.

The beauty of making small changes is the ability to increase accuracy – to create trial and learn scenarios, to experiment with innovation in pilots, and if the directional feedback is positive to adjust the main course.

Some change is dramatic and disruptive but not all change needs to to be.  Small things can create large impacts.

Do a small thing today.

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Who makes change happen?

This is a great little reminder about WHO makes change happen …

“Whose job is it?

This is a story about people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. 

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. 

Anybody could have done it but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it .

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.” 


Note: If anyone knows the original author, please advise so credit can go as due.

So, if it’s not  Everybody, Somebody, Anybody or Nobody – who is it in your project?  Is it the Sponsor, the Program Manager, the Workstream Lead, the Project Manager, the Business Analyst? 

I believe the message here – it is “me”.  Whatever role I am assigned I make change happen.

Only individuals can make change happen.  Generating organizational change means helping each individual change. 

For leaders (in whatever role you are assigned): begin with yourself and help others to adjust. A great resource for this is “It Starts with One”, J. Stewart Black and Hal Gregersen, Wharton School Publishing, New Jersey, 2008.