Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.


New !! Model to understand Strategy Execution success

Outperfom model Gail SeveriniWhat comes after radio silence?

Something new.

It has been several weeks since I provided a blog post – I hope you have missed me a little and I hope the wait is worth it.

I am in the process of developing and publishing a new model to better understand Strategy Execution and what is required for success.

Here is the first public presentation, embedded in a presentation to The Conference Board of Canada’s annual Change Management conference on the topic “Is Change Management tactical or strategic?”.  Lots more coming.

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“Change leadership” is not THE silver bullet. The Silver Bullet series.

Seems like many organizations are looking for the secret to effective strategic execution―the one thing that will fix the so-called 70% failure rate. The problem is (and we all know it deep down), there are no simple solutions for complex problems.  In this series, I will look at the conventional “silver bullets” and explore why none work alone and each is only moderately effective in its common form.

“Change leadership” is a favorite clarion call among change practitioners.  And, don’t get me wrong, I too believe that “it” (once we can agree on what “it” is) is important.  However, I believe that by promoting change leadership as a panacea we are setting ourselves up for failure.  I realize that this is a bit of a controversial position to take―I may be asking you to think differently about what you know.  I will look at three points:

  1. “Change leadership” is not “leadership”
  2. Why is sponsorship regularly rated as the most important element for successful change if it’s not a silver bullet?
  3. The punch line

Note: the context for this discussion is “strategic” change or “transformational” change.  Our firm’s definition: “Transformational change is highly disruptive to the way people do their work. It generally affects a large portion of an organization, shifts the power dynamic, and requires changes in mindset and behaviors to be realized.” (1) This is very different than the more common incremental change.

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Leaders: What is the single most powerful technique to build commitment (and defuse resistance) for your strategy?

A question.  Actually a conversation of questions and lots of listening. Why? Because it’s not what you know that will engage your people – it’s what they know.

So, what do they “know”? What do they believe about this strategy / change initiative / project? If they trust you enough to be candid, you are likely to be surprised – perhaps shocked – and even enlightened.
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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



“The Top 3 Common Mistakes made on a change engagement”

This question, posted on LinkedIn, prompted some very interesting debate.  My full response follows. Perhaps, more important than “mistakes”, the dialogue points to great OPPORTUNITIES for leaders and organizations who seek to become masters of change.   

Firstly, there is an important  distinction between ‘change management’ (CM) and Organizational Change Management (OCM).  The question of “mistakes” resonates in both arenas.  For context, we break it down this way: continue reading here



Reflections on defining “Change Management” – Killer Value Proposition

Recently, in several global Communities of Practice, many different interpretations, and mis-interpretations, of Change Management have been debated. The breadth of definitions is quite incredible (from “Leadership” to “Implementation Metrics”) as is the depth of any single component (such as “Change Communication”). However, the “ah ha”, for me anyway, is that the past does not yield the Killer Value Proposition – that lies in the future: change is changing and Change Management must change.

All of us reached back – into our education, reading, experience. And there is a treasure trove of value there. But I cannot help thinking that the problems we need to solve – helping organizations anticipate, prepare for and optimize change – have changed. Not to be coy, but “change” has changed. Faster, deeper, etc. Added to the extraordinary and increased complexity of organizations today ….

I wonder if these conditions add up to making our old tools are inadequate – either alone or even, in some cases, combined. Certainly, in most cases, any ‘change management’ is better than none – but what would be optimal? Leadership + communications + training + + + +. Would that be enough?

I mentioned “Glimmer” (Warren Berger) in a previous post but just want to reference a quick quote: “What I’m hearing from top Fortune 500 executives is that they know how to make just about anything—but they don’t know what to make.”—Patrick Whitney, design and business strategy guru.

If the goal posts are moved from ‘implement this change’ to ‘develop an organizational capability to let go of the past, imagine and reach for the unknowns in the future, develop the fortitude to experiment ….’ What would we call this? It is more than ‘leadership’ and more than ‘management’ – it is culture + process change + + …. There is no single role in an organization today responsible for this – many roles have an important part to play, including every leader, but I am reminded of the story of “Whose job is it? (Everybody, Somebody, Nobody)” (available here https://gailseverini.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/who-makes-change-happen/)

If this is the kind of thinking required to move our economies forward then as change practitioners we too need to adapt. Using old, sometimes too familiar, names and catch phrases does not convey the value that needs to be driven. I certainly don’t propose to know the answer but I am intrigued to know if anyone else is thinking along these lines – what would you call this organizational competency?



New Year’s Resolutions 2010 – tips

Jan 1st 2010. Toronto, Ontario.  Wonderful.  There is nothing like a blank slate at the beginning of the year.  No mistakes, yet, to regret and 365 days of promise ahead. 

New Year’s Resolutions are drafted, firming them up today. 

Some excellent pragmatic tips from a UK coach here:  “Set yourself EXACT 4P goals you will WANT to keep and achieve all you aspire to!” http://bit.ly/6xIaTv

And a perspective on leveraging the thin edge of the wedge here:  “Deviation…New Habit” Leading from the Future Blog – http://shar.es/a94HG

 As an agent of change I continue to find it fascinating why we do, and don’t do, all the things we do, and don’t do.

Onward and upward in 2010.  Wishing you success and happiness.