Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.


Change is coming

drop of waterChange is always happening around us.

The arena of strategy execution, and all of its components, is morphing rapidly in response to our changing market conditions.

At opportune times each of us has the choice to respond, or not.   A new year offers tantalizing timing to do re-set trajectory.   Over the next couple of months you will see a few changes around here.

What changing market conditions?

There is a general sense that the economic outlook for 2015 is positive.  With increasing confidence generally comes investment.  With investment comes growth strategy and strategy execution.  There are opportunities globally for organizations to grow and expand and this will fuel local growth as well.

These strategies are radically different than those of the past 5 years.  Effectiveness and efficiency (while still important) will take a back seat to creating global scale, marketing and sales innovations, re-setting organizational culture, building collaboration and other complex, high risk initiatives.

What does that mean for those of us who devote our careers to helping organizations transform?

From my modest outpost, working with clients and monitoring industry trends, it looks like work has picked up dramatically over last year – both the quantity and quality of consulting engagements, contracts and job postings has picked up:

  • Companies are hiring but judiciously. Turnover is scrutinized and not always filled in the same ways.  There are growth opportunities for internals.  While there are some opportunities locally the beefy assignments involve international components.  There are a few new positions generally supporting new strategies and execution, often fairly specialized.
  • This means that while there are conventional “jobs” there are also a large number of contracts available. Contracting allows an organization to be more agile, more flexible about the talent they need.   There seems to be a philosophy of keeping the core employee base very tight.
  • The contract and consulting markets, as usual during an uptick, are booming. Great talent is picked up quickly.  Maintaining a steady flow of work is all about timing, relationships and reputation.   Consulting firms will continue to struggle not just to pick up and retain talent but to establish and maintain great teamwork.
  • Unfortunately many of the job posting and some of the contracts and consulting assignments are tactical and disaggregated. This is something to be wary of – such scope is not a set-up for organizational success.

Other trends seem to be catalyzed by this growth:

  • Strategy Execution is back on the radar. As leaders look at global and transformational strategies there is a realization that this is complex and high risk.   I see Global Project Management Offices, Strategy Realization Offices, Enterprise PMOs, etc emerging more frequently.
  • Each of the components of Strategy Execution (subscribe for my next post) are transforming to respond to these new challenges. In March last year I reviewed the Project Management Institute’s “Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide”, The Association of Change Management Professionals’ “Standard” and the Change Management Institute’s “The Change Management Body of Knowledge” here.   My concerns remain – formalization and process-ization are not cure alls.

These are welcome but daunting challenges for those in the know

In many ways growth is harder than constraint.  Yes, cost cutting is painful – there are untenable and often emotional choices to be made.  However, growth is seductive.  It is exciting and we often enter this phase with uninformed optimism.

The reality is that growth strategies are high risk plays.  Seasoned leaders know this and prepare accordingly.  They take an energized and yet sober approach.

Changes around here

Over the past year my energy has been invested in a couple of places: in confidential analysis and publication for clients and in a couple of presentations, articles and chapters:

  • “Is Change Management Strategic or Tactical?” for The Conference Board of Canada’s annual Change Management conference. Available on SlideShare here.  This presentation soft launched the “OutPerform Model”.
  • “The Triple Threat: The Intersection of Enterprise, Execution, and Human Risk, and Five Tips for Managing Them” published in “RiskWatch” Thought Leadership in Risk and Governance” Fall 2014. Co-authored with Catherine Daw, SVP Management Consulting at Diabsolut Inc. Email me at gailseverini@symphini.com for a copy.
  • A chapter titled “Exploring the Relationship Between Organization Development and Change Management” for the 4th Edition of “Practicing Organization Development: A Guide for Leading Change”. This chapter was co-written with three incredible practitioners / academics: Tim Creasey, David Jamieson and William J. Rothwell.  So fun and, I believe, we are pushing the envelope of thought leadership regarding the alignment of these two critical domains. Email me at gailseverini@symphini.com for more.

I have also been privileged to work with a global insurance company serving as a Portfolio Manager in their Global Program Office.  This contract continues in 2014 and will dominant my concentration.  It is an exciting environment dedicated to proven industry practices and in expanding the application of thought leadership in strategy execution focused on benefits realization.

I will continue to share my learning and resources here and invite you to “conversations” through the comments section, via LinkedIn and in person.

What will be different?  Well, for starters, you will probably see an increase in project discipline emerge in my thinking.  This is a direct result of my recent experiences and acceptance of the “reality” that large organizations need a standard structure through which to execute global change.  While I continue to rail again the “project” as a unit of change (more on this in a couple of weeks), I am also resigned that this is reality for most.  My current work at the Portfolio level is an opportunity to bring perspective to this. I am committing to the Project Management Professional (PMP) designation and will be looking into Stanford’s Advanced Project Management program for the end of the year.

You will also see some changes here. I need to bring the Symphini website together with this blog and refresh both of them.  Hopefully this will be technically easy but those of you who have travelled down this road know that this is rarely so.

What else?  We’ll see.

What are you thinking about for 2015?  Are you making changes in your career? Investments in your professional development?  Please share.  I am interested to know what you are planning.

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Change Whisperer by www.gailseverini.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.


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