Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

“You’re a little loopy when you’re hungry.” Working at the limits of change capacity

You're a little loopy when you're hungry graphicI always laugh when I see the new Snickers commercials—I admit it, I sometimes even rewind them.

They remind me that “You’re not yourself when you’re under the stress of change.”

Have you seen Robin Williams on your projects lately? This is the “Fourth and loopy” commercial where the usually very intense and focused coach is momentarily an incarnation of Robin Williams.

Very funny…because we can relate. continue reading here

Internal social media – engaging your organization – a status check (Part 2 of 2)

Are organizations leveraging internal social media today?

According to media reports, internal social media is beginning to get traction: “As social networks increasingly dominate communications in private lives, businesses of all sizes — from tiny start-ups to midsize companies like Nikon to behemoths like Dell — are adopting them for the workplace.” (1)

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Internal social media – engaging your organization – a status check (Part 1 of 2)

What if our organization was energized? If everyone understood the vision and the strategy and contributed enthusiastically to moving us forward? How would we talk to each other?  Maybe it would look like the best of our meetings – agreeing and disagreeing, compromising, collaborating, loud, messy even, but always vibrant.  It seems to me that internal social media should look like this and create this kind of traction. 

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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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Who are “the most fully, crucially adaptive human beings around”? And what does this finding mean for Change Management?

Seeing as the real punch line is why, let’s get the answer on the table: teenagers.  That’s right.

Let’s face it – we were all teenagers once so we should be able to relate to this. The October 2011 issue of National Geographic explores “Teenage Brains – Beautiful Brains” and got me thinking – not only about my own teenage years and those of my sons, but also why some people are more open to change than others.  This particular article considers a phase of human development from roughly 15 – 25 years old and sheds light on the importance of physiology and brain science, in understanding adaptability.
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How can you change your organization’s culture? Book Review: “Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture (1)

If you recognize that your organization needs either a wholesale culture change (as Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop expressed this week (2)) or tweaking in certain units, this book will provide you with an excellent framework and the language to discuss it.  The authors, Cameron and Quinn, are renown in this space and the book is an expansion of decades of academic research and field application.

The foundation, Competing Values Framework, sets out a 2×2 matrix with 4 different organizational culture types (Clan, Hierarchy, Adhocracy and Market Cultures) and the authors maintain that most organizations exhibit differing degrees of each.

The beauty of the framework is that it takes the intuitive (and sometimes not so intuitive) and makes it plain, gives it structure that can be measured and discussed.  As I peeked ahead to read the model, I could immediately recognize characteristics s of organizations that I have worked with.  Even rough plotting current and desired state values seemed intuitive and suddenly easy to talk about. Further reading illuminating much more meat on the model worthy of further study – the Management Skills Assessment Instrument and Organizational Change Assessment Instrument (OCAI) are simultaneously straightforward and comprehensive.

The book claims that the approach provides six advantages: practical, timely, involving, quantitative and qualitative, manageable and valid.  I have to concur – this book delivers. 

Evidence is emerging every quarter that our most established and revered organizations are only reactive to change – are not demonstrating the capability to evolve at the pace that the market is demanding.  In my opinion, these organizations are constrained by three factors: the vision of leadership, the effectiveness of their strategies and … the ability to change the cultures of these organizations.  The success of our economies and our communities going forward will depend, to large degree, on whether we accelerate our commitment to these areas. 

In correspondence with Professor Quinn I asked for authoritative online description of OCAI to share with you and he referred me to the Competing Values Company where you can access much more information.

Of note, the third edition, published by John Wiley, is due for release in Canada on March 9th 2011 and will contain a downloadable online version of the Management Skills Assessment Instrument and the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument.

Also of note, I think we can expect to hear the reference to “the burning platform” a lot more in 2011.  It would be appropriate to acknowledge Daryl Conner who coined the phrase following the Piper Alpha explosion to articulate the notion of choice between certain death (failure) and potential life (hope).  He was interviewed recently by Luc Galoppin and described this in his own words “Burning Platform: The Misunderstanding ” (Part 1 here and Part 2 here).


(1) “Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture”, Kim S. Cameron and Roger E. Quinn, John Wiley & Sons, 2006, USA.

(2)“Nokia CEO Says Company Is Standing on a “Burning Platform”, Mashable, Feb 9, 2011.

Other related posts:

Resistance: “it is easier to ‘change’ someone else than to change ourselves”

In Change Management Communities of Practice, project professionals often discuss what to do about resistance.  It often quickly comes down to how to re-direct, re-assign or even fire the “blocker”.

Why it is so much “easier” to get rid of someone else (a “blocker”) than to consider changing ourselves … ? It might be a stretch to learn to take on a difficult conversation with a resistor but that effort has significantly higher ROI potential than any of the other options. 

Do Leaders have to change? continue reading here