“Best Practice”: Sprint or Marathon? The Change Culture
The destination mirage:
We seem to have a developed a reverence for “best practice” which suggests that it is a destination – a single change that moves us from mediocre Point A to stellar Point B – this is a snapshot view. The reality is a moving target and an array of “best practices” to consider – much more like a vacation video:
- As organizations implement one “best practice” they learn about how to make it better, and perhaps consider customizing or modifying it for a Phase 2, 3, etc implementation.
- Not only that, theoretically any, in fact every, practice can be made better.
As organizations take a strategic approach to which improvements might yield the greatest ROI (as measured in cost saving efficiencies or effectiveness or in desired revenue), it becomes clear that this journey is more like an escalator than a staircase.
The quest for “best practice” is a marathon where the road ahead is being built as we approach it.
“Best Practice” is a moving target. Practice can be considered a noun AND a verb. It is generally accepted that to improve one must practice – in “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell goes so far as to suggest that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is the bar.
For anyone interested in “Mastery” do check out the book by the same name by George Leonard – he devotes a chapter to “Practice”. A couple of quotes:
- “Practice is the path upon which you travel, just that”. It is a journey toward “Best”.
- “The master of any game is generally a master of practice” and yet the master still practices regularly and often.
So maybe “Best Practice” is the best way discovered so far. It is being practiced – iterated and refined. That “Best Practice” gets replaced with new and improved approaches as they can be introduced.
What I like about this approach is that it presents plateaus where learning can be leveraged and users can adjust and gain confidence. The climb toward the next plateau presents challenges and opportunity in a scope that is manageable then there is another plateau to adjust.
The concept of “Practice” allows, even expects, ‘mistakes’ (tolerable because one learns from them thus investing in becoming better). Users do not face fear of failure – they face expectation of progress. The plateau is the current “Best Practice”.
The sweet spot – embracing a culture of innovation:
What does this mean for the organization’s culture? For any competitive organization it means that learning to change quickly must become part of the culture – the change culture.
This does not happen naturally – in fact, most often, employees resist change.
Creating a change culture requires a determined, planned and sustained approach that includes: a particular type of leadership, organization design and development, compensation structures, planning, business casing, risk management, change management and project management.
Many organizations package this around the notion of “innovation” which is at the forefront of developing “best practice”. This is the sweet spot where “best practices” can create competitive advantage.
“What’s Missing in Organizational Change Theory and/or Practice?”
Question posted on LI by Rick Maurer, author and consultant. My answer, skewed towards realization of change:
1. The Business Case for CM. Wait, hear me out.
Firstly, we speak in our own language using words that look familiar to the average business person but often mean different, very specific, things to us (e.g. ‘adoption’, ‘resistance’ even ‘communication’).
Secondly, there seems to be a chasm between those in business who ‘get it’ vs those who don’t – and our use of language only impedes the discussion. At the risk of generalizing, those who focus on ROI or installation (often Project Managers and Operational Leaders) who have ‘grown up’ in chain of command cultures strongly believe that people will do as they are told, believe that once they understand they will convert. And therefore these Project Leaders see no need for additional capabilities. Any failures or short falls are attributed to insubordinance or ignorance – those problem people are fired and more compliant people hired. Enough of such failures (and their substantial costs) and these Project Leaders might begin to wonder if there might be other ways.
So, to your question, IMHO the first thing that is missing is the “Brief”, the Executive Summary of the compelling business case for Change Management – in the audience’s language, in their context. And, by the way, surveys will not get us there. Project Managers and Operational Leaders want some hard facts – the good news is once they ‘get it’ they often become enthusiasts.
2. An holistic approach
There are many, multi-disciplinary, capabilities required in executing transformational change including:
- Leadership and Strategic Planning (e.g. Vision)
- Strategic Marketing, Organization Design and Development (e.g. Culture and Capability), Business Process Re-engineering, Technology Implementation
- People Change Management (PCM), Training and Communications
- Project Design and Management
Again IMHO, Change Management is not actually any single one of these: ‘change’ only happens effectively and efficiently when these are ALL appropriately optimized. Perhaps worth adding, I see a differentiation between Organizational Change Management (OCM) and Project Change Management (PCM) (more here)- different competencies that must be aligned. Further, there are too many practitioners promoting their own area of experience, e.g. leadership training, as it if alone is the silver bullet.
A broader and deeper CM “map” is required – and unless and until we get good at 1 and 2 the perception of our value add will continue to be misunderstood and underestimated, as well as under-deployed and mis-applied. Of the few good resources I have found recently include “Change the way you lead Change” and “Switch” (“Switch” because the authors demonstrate rather than explain) (full info and other resources are shared here). Of the practitioners who ‘get it’, in business terms, and publish their leading thoughts, in ‘business’ terms, it is worth noting Luc Galoppin. Eager to hear if others have found great resources.
Establishing a qualified CM resource in a Program goes a long way towards getting the benefits of CM. The problem is how do you find one or know him / her when you see them?
There are degrees and certifications for almost every profession (MBAs, diplomas, designations) and professional bodies for almost every discipline. Yet how would a buyer begin to evaluate a legitimate, qualified and experienced Change Management professional? Yes, one can compile a list of OD, HR, PM, etc qualifications and bundle them but this is inadequate. So much of the work we do today is based on ‘good judgement’ – this is (my new favourite acronym) TBU (true but useless). I understand that there is a fledging effort underway here http://www.acmp.info