Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

Why Social Media IS change

Social Creeper claims it is the biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution (outstanding short video here). Skeptical? The video is compelling – consider these quotes:

  • By 2010 Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers
  • 96% have joined a social network
  • Social media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the web
  • Years to reach 50 million users: radio 38 years, TV 13 years … Facebook 100 million users in 9 months!
  • If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 4th largest
  • 80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices, people update anywhere anytime, imagine what that means for bad customer experiences
  • 25% of search results for the World’s Top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content – do you like what they are saying about your brand
  • Social media isn’t a fad, it is a fundamental change in the way we communicate
  • 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations only 15% trust advertisements

Social media is challenging and changing: 

  • What its audience thinks and even how it thinks about what it thinks (think about that for a moment or two)
  • The way consumers buy products and services – research, sourcing, reference checking, price comparison, etc 
  • The way businesses market to both B2C and B2B – must become engaging, listen and respond not broadcast 
  • The entire function of Public Relations – it is not possible to control or even shape what is broadcast or published. Must become AUTHENTIC, proactive and responsive

Social media is the Über-user group. For any software provider who once shivered going into a face-to-face Users’ Group, considered providing an online forum but “chickened out” – the genie is out of the bottle.

“Rethink, Reimagine, Reset”

Please do read this blog post “Rethink, Reimagine, Reset” – Idris Mootee, CEO of Idea Couture, is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats. His post challenges us to think harder about leveraging existing technology to improve the world around us. 

My response?  Here we go:

Agree completely – vehemently. I hear a call to action to leaders to THINK HARDER – good intentions are no substitute for good work.  And nothing less than great strategy and great execution will preserve our standard of living. Shake ups are required – paradigm shifts.

Not convinced? Peer into the future by considering the trends described here :

“For the first time since Bloomberg BusinessWeek began its annual Most Innovative Companies ranking in 2005, the majority of corporations in the Top 25 are based outside the U.S.”. 

And, by the way, expand your horizon beyond the US to the North America continent – there are ripple effects.

It is not clear that technology innovation alone will compensate for the gross growth we are losing however there is likely no single silver bullet – we need to think in terms of ‘and’ not ‘or’

I particularly embrace Mootee’s call to action:

We don’t even need to look into the future, just look around us, there are plenty of technologies that allow us to change the world. We just need more design thinking and imagination.

This reminds me of one of my favorite affirmations – a quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have!”

This is the start – the thin edge of the wedge. Critical to creating traction for change.

Next?  We can ignore the change that is evidencing itself around us (and by all accounts we do this very successfully) but until we acknowledge that fundamental shifts in our economies are occurring we cannot begin to change the trends.

Top 5 Questions for Leaders responsible for Strategic Change results

We ask these questions because leading and managing change is the economic imperative of our generation. It’s not enough to know what to change – organizations must deliver … and deliver, and deliver.

Every organization struggles with it.  And this is why we have invested in Change Management mastery. What does it take?  The top 5 questions for leaders:

  1. Is driving results out of strategic change initiatives truly a top priority for you?  Enough so that you are prepared to change what you do to get it done?
  2. Has your team failed, or fallen short, often enough to know what it takes to succeed? Have they seen Change Management mastery?
  3. How much is enough? i.e. if mastery of leading and managing change requires ~50% of a leader’s time – where is that time coming from? And is a little Change Management (or junior CM capability, eg “Communications” or “Training”) in a project enough to achieve masterful results?
  4. If your organization is implementing strategic change across multiple SBUs or departments why wouldn’t you create organizational competence, capability and capacity?
  5. Would a shortfall of 2%, 5% or 10% make Change Management important enough to invest in mastery?

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Organization Design – Change Management Reporting:

Counterintuitive tips for creating traction for change
May 2, 2010, 5:03 pm
Filed under: - People Change Management, - Professional Development

Every change is different. Every person is different.  Having said that there are some sneaky, simple tricks for getting started.  Don’t believe them?  Give them a try.

1. “Begin anywhere” – sometimes a change seems so big that it’s hard to get a plan together.  Well, our brains are more capable of multi-tasking that we give them credit for.  Sometimes you just need to begin anywhere.  For example, are you moving? Forget about a plan! Really? Sure.  Just start with one box and pack it then stop.  You might be surprised to discover that as you are moving around you begin to think about what to do ‘next’, and what to do before ‘next’ , what else needs to be done, etc.  Getting moving gets the brain thinking.

2. “Plant more seeds than you need”.  Start a list.  Often ‘planners’ think that a list has to be ordered – chronological, prioritized, etc.  Sometimes there’s too much information to hold in our heads so just throw it onto a page.  You can order it later – the first step is collecting the data.  As you ’empty’ your thoughts onto the page, you free up space to think about more stuff.  Okay, true, this is not a technical explanation – but it does work.  As you plant the seeds, some will be useful and grow and others will just vanish naturally.

3. “Chip away” – sometimes you can start change with a series of small steps – this is, after all, how great sculptures are created.  Want to stop smoking? Start by transitioning to a less potent brand for a week or two, then cut out smoking in the car, have a little party (you might have cut your nicotine by half by now!), then start taking the stairs (this will remind you why you need to work on your lungs),  cut out the pre-breakfast cigarette – get the picture?  Before you know it you will have made great progress. Then … keep it going one “chip” at a time.

4. “Keep your eye on the PATH, not on the ball” – yes, you will slip up (everyone who has every started a diet, fitness plan, etc) knows this from personal experience.  However, it is the TREND that is important not the individual data points.  Great change must anticipate some set backs and short falls.  It is the aggregated progress that is essential.

Well, this list is a manifestation of the tips above! How so?  Well, I:

  • “began anywhere”
  • “planted lots of seeds” (well 4 anyway)
  • began “chipping away”  at my objective to write a Tip Sheet and
  • considering the “path”, I am 4 tips along the way to creating a great deliverable

How can you use these in your personal life or in your projects and strategic change? More to come – which probably leads to Tip 5: “Consider the change a “work in progress”.

Best advice for new consultants

In this economy, our firm is often introduced to professionals who are making the switch to consulting, those who wonder “What is ‘consulting’ all about? Is it for me?”

In the interest of collaboration, we posted the following question on LinkedIn’s “Consultants Network” Group:  “What’s the best advice you ever got or never got?”  (Discussion ran in Aug 2009)

We agreed to publish the comments with credit to the author. To start it off, I volunteered:

I always recommend that serious professionals join the Canadian Association of Management Consultants (or similar for your geography). Why? There are hundreds of contractors who call themselves consultants – I believe there is a difference. For one thing professional consultants are committed to the profession of consulting, to higher standards of professional conduct, and are prepared to be held to those standards.

James Reyes-Picknell, CMC, President and CEO, Conscious Group Inc.

Never work harder than your client!  If they don’t want it, it won’t happen. No need to stress over their choices.

Duke Butler, Strategy and Corporate Development at Duke Butler

I agree Gail – consulting is not contracting – it is a profession. I also recommend the CMC designation and, while I also worked in big companies (Deloite, Microsoft and Amex) there will be times when you will have to survive on your own – famines will typically last over a year so store some acorns for the winter! I always have worked hard (maybe harder than some clients) – I also turned down some big strategy firms which I don’t know was wise – work for the top firms you can and learn as much as you can if you plan at all on an independent consulting career!

George Barnhart, Executive consultant at TiCE

From my experience, a challenge faced by new professionals entering the management consulting ranks (particularly as an individual or with a smaller firm) is that of landing client engagements. Closing the deal and getting a contract is difficult in the best of times and even more of a challenge in this economy. I’d recommend a visit to Cal Harrison’s Beyond Referrals web site – . Cal’s e-newletter is worth subscribing to and attending one of Cal’s presentations should be high on the professional development list.

Christopher Harper, Diversified consultant with experience in human resources, IT, and strategic planning

My advice would be to know what you don’t know and be comfortable admitting it. Clients don’t expect consultants to have all the answers, but they do expect you to understand their problems and find the best options for them.

Chris Jones MBA FCMC, Associate Faculty at Royal Roads University

I second George’s comments re Cal Harrison. He has made presentations to Victoria CMCs twice – one an evening session and the other a full day at RRU. I understand he has done presentations in Vancouver too. We are hoping to arrange a webinar for him next fall in Victoria. If we do I wonder whether we might link up with Vancouver and Kelowna at the same time?  I would also suggest a visit to ConFab USA 2009 in Reno. They usually have a whole stream (i.e. 1/3 of the sessions) dedicated to new consultants.

Mike Frenette, SNR PM focused on PMOs & virtual teams. MS Project PRO & Server 2007, SharePoint, DotNetNuke.

Loves bleeding edge!

Always put the client first, but that doesn’t mean you just do what your client tells you to do. Consultants, not contractors, help the client understand what is best for their business and are not afraid to take risks in recommending what they know is a better approach, process or tool – even if it is contrary to their client’s current line of thinking. But… as Christopher Harper points out – be certain you know what you don’t know. Give advice ONLY in your area of expertise and only when you feel certain it will work in your client’s environment.

Tony Wanless, Creative Management Consultant

  1. Always remember that, as a consultant, your job is to analyze, recommend, and guide. It is not to merely be an implementer. If that’s what you do, you are a contractor not a consultant. Unfortunately, many clients and prospective clients don’t understand this and so have to be firmly guided.
  2. Consulting is a profession, with its own processes. Take CMC-Canada’s Essentials of Consulting course.
  3. Value yourself. Prospects will often treat you like a tradesman because they don’t know any better, and so will do all the things they do with trades people such as try to negotiate the price, change what they want in the middle of the assignment, and, occasionally, try to establish that they are “the boss” because they have “hired” you. In each case they must gently be reminded that you were hired for your expertise, not for your time.
  4. Remember that consulting is a collaboration between client and consultant, so while it may seem opposed to #3, there has to be much discussion, communication, and general give and take. The objective should always be to achieve the desired goal.
  5. Bone up on the business of consulting, which includes knowledge of general business management. Don’t sit on your high horse and think you’re too good to be involved in the minutiae of business, such as marketing, administration, etc.

Couple of closing thoughts:

Consulting is not for everyone – even experts, specialists and Subject Matter Experts (or perhaps especially these) should think twice. 

Quick notes about joining a firm vs working as an independent:

  • We are knowledge workers and must face the brutal fact that our value to the client, therefore to the firm, has the shelf life of our knowledge.  Large firms will claim to invest in your knowledge, and some actually do, but do not rely on this – if work dries up, as it has in the recession, they will have to layoff. At the end of the day you must undertake Tom Peters’ concept of “Brand You!”.
  • Working as an independent, or in a small firm, raises a host of other issues.  The feast / famine cycle is well covered but every consultant I know lives in denial of it on a day-to-day basis – make accruing for the famine a non-negotiable discipline. 
  • Building a client base, marketing yourself is key.  Build skills in this area and create and disciplined process for this.

To thrive and enjoy consulting, in my humble opinion, you must:

  • LOVE to learn – have relevant and current knowledge or skills that the market wants on an on-going basis – and be prepared to invest your own time and your own money in staying the expert.  Set an annual target, say: $2500/year on training, read 5 relevant books, publish on your expertise, etc.  Professional associations require this as a condition of accreditation for a reason.
  • Enjoy producing independently but working collaboratively – you must have an aptitude for selling, not just yourself to get work but, once inside, your recommendations.  This is relentless – do not fake yourself out on this.
  • Be a GREAT communicator – this is non-negotiable
  • LOVE the hunt, love sales – it is not enough to be altruistic and want to ‘make a difference’ for clients, to be great at the work.  No matter whether you are an employee or an independent you are expected to identify and develop leads.
  • Have an aptitude for the “simplex”:
    • Understand the complex but bring clarity and communicate it clearly and concisely
    • Be able to understand and negotiate apparently opposing points of view – bring diplomacy