Category Archives: Employees

Let Us Tell You a Story

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by Beckie Schretter and Gina Giannitelli
Carol, an employee with over 30 years of service, deeply loves her work and truly wants what is best for her organization. She believes in the mission and values of the organization and has deep connections with the patrons. The director, Bob, was hired several years ago to help increase profitability, but hasn’t been successful. When Bob presents a new revenue creation idea to board leadership, Carol publicly questions the mission and vision alignment of the idea. A few months later Carol is called into Bob’s office and is handed a letter explaining her
position is being eliminated due to financial pressures. She feels deeply betrayed, angry and concerned for the organization she loves. Bob avoids Carol in the days that follow. She grapples with whether she is the victim of retribution. She decides to write a letter to the board…

Are you wondering or even making up how this story ends?

At the ACMP conference, storytelling was a theme throughout book pictureseveral presentations. Research
shows you use more of your brain when listening to a story, far more than when you listen to a
slide presentation or read a written communication. As Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. describes “…
because you are having a richer brain event, you enjoy the experience more, understand the information more deeply, and retain it longer.” How can we use stories in change?

Use them to create the case for change, connecting the head and the heart. Stories provide a refreshing break from data filled presentations or memos. Research by Paul Zak shows stories create a tension that sustains attention, which leads to shared emotions. Shared emotions lead to mimicked feelings and an increased trust and willingness to take action.

Recognize and challenge stakeholder stories throughout the process. Researcher Brene Brown reminds us stakeholders create stories that drive behavior. She observed “the brain needs to know the story” and fills in needed details. Resilience is enhanced when people challenge the
truth of their own storytelling.

Storytelling inspires change and helps people move up the commitment curve. When preparing the case for change or drafting a stakeholder communication, consider what story could illustrate the point and grab attention. When leaders are reluctant to share information, remind them people will fill in the blanks with their own stories. When confronted with counterproductive behavior, ask questions and challenge the story driving that behavior. What is the story behind your change?

Tips for Creating a Change Capable Culture

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by Shannon Stautberg

While change is hard for any organization, investing time and energy into thoughtfully creating a change capable culture will help ensure your people are prepared to successfully transition to new ways of working. Some tactical things you can do to help ensure your organization is on the path to being change capable are below.

 Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Establishing regular and meaningful communication helps employees know what’s coming, why it’s coming and how it might impact them. A lack of communication can breakdown employee trust, reducing the likelihood that they will get on board with any change. Electronic newsletters, posting current information on office bulletin boards and hosting question & answer coffees with leadership are some of the ways you can keep the lines of communication open with your employees.

 Define and Communicate Roles and Responsibilities: People need to know what they are supposed to be doing before, during and (ideally) after the change. If one or more of your employees is unclear about what they are expected to do on a daily basis, this can quickly lead to frustration…frustration that can spread throughout an office like wildfire! Nip that frustration in the bud by ensuring each employee has been given a job description and that their direct boss regularly checks in with them to address questions or concerns regarding their role or responsibilities.

 Encourage Employee Collaboration: Establishing a culture that values collaboration as one of its hallmarks will help ensure your employees are open to and prepared for change. One of the ways this can be done is by establishing a well-structured mentor program that allows experienced team members to informally share lessons-learned with colleagues that are new to the team. Regularly recognizing employees that have effectively worked together to complete important projects or tasks is another way to promote ongoing collaboration. This can be done at team meetings or via organization newsletters.

 Build Trust by Caring for the Individual: One of the keystones to creating a change capable culture is trust in management. Leaders that sincerely care about the professional success and personal well being of their employees are much more likely to earn the trust of their employees. In addition to praising a job well done, it’s also important for management to get to know their team members – their aspirations, passions and interests. Being flexible with employee needs outside of the office, while still meeting the needs of the business, can make your team more likely to be there when you need them to go the extra mile at the office. The occasional bagels, donuts for the department can also help build good will. Employees that trust management are much more likely to be ready, willing and able to embrace the change that lies ahead.

While building a change capable culture does take time and effort, the return on that investment will be clear in times of change.

Culture, Learning, and Change Go Hand in Hand

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According to a Forbes article*, there are five keys to building a successful learning organization.

1. Remember that corporate learning is “informal” and HR doesn’t own it
2. Promote and reward expertise
3. Unleash the power of experts
4. Demonstrate the value of formal training
5. Allow people to make mistakes

This is a great list and directly applies to culture. It’s “how we do things around here”. It’s reflected in what people say and how they act on a daily basis. The cultures that display these five elements have an advantage when it comes to organizational change.

Remember that corporate learning is “informal” and HR doesn’t own it. This “informal” aspect of learning is an attitude that “I can learn something new every day.” These cultures use teachable moments. It’s as simple as asking a question real time or watching someone else doing the task right before you do it. That attitude translates to an appetite for change.8-constants-clipart

Promote and reward expertise – For projects, using Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) pays dividends. These experts are approachable and knowledgeable. Recognizing SMEs publicly, presenting them as role models and leaders demonstrates that having and sharing knowledge is valued.

Unleash the power of experts – It takes a village to drive successful change. Giving SMEs the support and resources they need to motivate teams, share their expertise, and develop others builds momentum and prepares people for an upcoming change.

Demonstrate the value of formal training – Most projects include formal training to prepare impacted employees for a change in their job responsibilities. To best prepare for a change, it’s critical that the management team places formal training as a high priority. Attendance should be required and tracked. After employees start working in new ways, sharing employee stories of how that training prepared users for the changes reinforces the value of training and communicates that implementation has happened.

Allow people to make mistakes – Anyone who has experienced a “go live” on new processes and/or technology knows there is no such thing as a “perfect go live”. It’s important to build the expectation that employees won’t know everything forward and backward day one. Recognize the learning curve inherent in the change and the likelihood that mistakes will happen as employees transition from old ways to new.

Creating a learning organization culture takes leadership commitment, a strategy, plan, and resources. In return, the organization and employees experience many benefits, one of them is being better prepared for change.

* 5 Keys to Building a Learning Organization by Josh Bersin 1/18/2012

Communication in a Digital Age

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The demographics of the workforce have changed over the last several decades. The ways that most organizations communicate with their people have not.

In 2007, a study showed that seventy four percent of business communicators said that communications within their organizations are done virtually the same today as they were years ago. (Deloitte, Survey of International Business Communicators, 2007). Even though this data is a few years old, it still rings true today.

That same study showed that three quarters of professional business communicators actually believe that their communication methods are cell phoneineffective or only slightly effective in today’s day and age. And sadly, most of them admit that they don’t even really understand the communication preferences of the more tech savvy members of the workforce.

Workers of all ages, if they’re technologically savvy, want to see a full range of communication types – not just your typical newsletter, posters or even email campaigns. If you make new vehicles available, people will use them. Not using technology is missing a huge opportunity.

Newer tech savvy workers want information at their fingertips, on demand. They are communal – they connect and form groups with software and virtual environments. They want to improvise and create networks on the fly to meet issues. And they are mobile, linking in anywhere at any time.

Technology can be especially useful for communicating and engaging people during times of significant organizational change. During change, people commonly seek to re-establish their own sense of support, understanding, and control.

People naturally seek community and inclusion during times of change so they don’t feel like they are going it alone. Social networking sites and controlled environments for people to connect can help people develop a sense of support.

In the midst of change, people crave information, often filling in the blanks so that they can fit themselves and their future into the new context. Wikis and other human intelligence aggregators help people develop deeper understanding.

When an organization is going through change, people look to regain what they perceive as a loss of control. They often think that change is happening “to” them. By networking and actively searching for information on demand, people feel like they are taking control of their situation which helps them navigate through change.



While technology can be an important communication tool, don’t forget that people still prefer to interact face to face with people. People can be engaged through face to face interactions much more successfully than any other way. What leaders do is still more important than what they say. And trust is still a foundation that can’t be shaken. But technology can be a tremendous communications tool. Used properly, it can help inform and share information, engage employees, create communities, and align leaders

The Future is Here, Are We Ready?

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Bob Dylan once said, “There is nothing so stable as change.” Change is all around us, impacting every aspect of business from our workforce and our technologies, to the world in which we work.
When I first joined the workforce a few decades ago, I was surprised by the number of people I met who had over 30 years of service with the same organization. They worked traditional business hours and then left the office (and their work) behind to return home to their families.

Today, statistics show that younger workers have an average tenure of only 3 years of service. And the traditional workday has given way to a world of 24/7 global connectivity where “the barriers between work and life have all but been eliminated.”
The makeup of our workforce is also changing. A 2012 Economic Intelligence Unit Study shows that by the year 2030, 50% of the workforce will be made up of contingent workers (e.g., self-employed, independent contractors, temporary workers).

Today, Millennials make up over half of our workforce and they have vastly different expectations than the previous generations. This changing workforce is on the receiving end of the shift in the balance of power. With all the transparency brought about by LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and other social media, employees have greater control over navigating their careers and fulfilling their goals of finding flexibility and purpose in life.

Not only is the workforce changing, but so is the overall job market. Some jobs are going away, while new jobs are on the horizon. According to a US Department of Labor report, “65% of today’s students will be in jobs that don’t yet exist.” Already, we have seen a proliferation of jobs that didn’t exist even 10 years ago, such as App Developer, Chief Listening Officer, Data Scientist, or Cloud Engineer. Are we ready for some of the new jobs that Fast Company predicts will be in place by 2025? Where will “Corporate Disorganizers” or “Digital Detox Specialists” fit into our future organizations?

These are just a few examples of how the world of work is changing. The question is: are we ready for all the changes that are coming at us at an ever-increasing pace? According to Stephen Hawking, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” So, how can we become more intelligent as business leaders and learn how to adapt to change?

It’s not enough to simply be aware of the trends. We need to take a more active role to understand these changes, prepare for their impacts, and in some cases, reinvent our organizations to get ahead of them.
Just as the floppy disc has given way to new cloud storage solutions, so too must our organizations evolve to meet the needs of our changing workforce. We should take a good hard look at our organizational structures, systems, and processes to make sure we are preparing for the future, versus perpetuating what might have worked in the past.

For example, how will we recruit, attract and retain employees in a world where ‘job hopping’ is the new normal? How will we modify annual performance review processes to meet the immediate feedback needs of the new generations? How will we manage all the information that is available to us without being crushed by its sheer volume and complexity? How will we leverage new technologies to train our workforce for skills that don’t yet exist? And how will we develop our future leaders in a world where the pace of change is more rapid than at any other time in history?

Even among these challenges, according to the Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report, Deloitte researchers found that the number one challenge facing business leaders in this “new world of work” is culture and engagement, (with 87% of organizations citing it as one of their top business challenges). “An organization’s culture—which can be loosely defined as “the way things work around here”—is increasingly visible for all the world to see.” How will our leaders create cultures that drive employee engagement in this age of changing expectations and increased transparency?

These are just some examples of the challenges that organizations are facing as the world around us changes. While this list of changes and challenges may seem daunting, as with many things in life, it’s less about what is happening, but more about how we approach and react to it.

The single most important thing we can do is have a mindset that welcomes and embraces change. Having a competency for getting ahead of change and managing it effectively will continue to be a source of competitive advantage. Arguably, those who view change as an opportunity will be the ones who succeed in this ever-changing world.

As Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.”

Change is here to stay. Are we ready?



[1] Global Human Capital Trends 2015:  Leading in the New World of Work, Deloitte University Press

[1] Global Human Capital Trends 2015:  Leading in the New World of Work, Deloitte University Press



Because I Said So

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People can choose to do things, or they can be forced to do things. In today’s job market, some organizations think that people will hop in line lock step and do what they are told “because I said so.” Since jobs are scarce, some employers figure people need to step it up or risk being replaced.

However, studies have found that people offer up only part of their effort when they are forced to do something. When people actually choose to do something, they can more than double their productivity.

I am not saying that everyone should be able to come to work and decide what to do and when to do it without any guidelines. It is, for goodness sake, a job. There are objective standards that people must meet in order to keep a job. But it is difficult, if not impossible to force people to be creative, be proactive, communicate with their peers, come up with solutions to problems, and basically care about the work.

We have two clients who have undergone the same kind of change recently. Both re-organized their Human Resources support with the use of an outsourced HR provider. And as a result, both organizations saw roles change and shifted some work that HR had been doing to managers in the business.

One organization is seeing the effects of a “because I said so” attitude right now. About two weeks before the work was transitioned, an email announcement went out to the organization saying that this change was about to happen. There was no training on the new system that was put in place, and there was no discussion about how and why this was happening.

A few months have passed since they were told to “just do it”, and managers are pretty disgruntled. They are stumbling around in the new system, they feel like they are being forced to do HR’s work, and they don’t understand why this work was shifted to them.

Managers are doing the work only when they have to and, even then, half-heartedly. What was meant to be a change that brought managers and employee’s closer together has become a wedge between them. Managers actively avoid situations where they might actually need to go do something for their employees in this new system that they don’t understand.

If things continue down this path, the benefits projected for the project will be hard to reach. The time that is being spent griping could be directed at making creative use of the new tools. For now, the organization is missing out on a huge chunk of the productive capacity of their managers.

The other organization had a completely different approach with completely different results. They explained why and how the move would benefit the business, employees, and managers. People were involved from the start helping to define how processes should work in the new outsourced model, and managers were trained on how to deal with issues that they had never dealt with before.

By the time the shift happened, managers were excited to jump into their new roles. Not surprisingly, they are humming right along and managers actually like the new way of working. The gains they were looking for from the change were met within the first year.

Our client that is wondering why forcing people isn’t working could learn a few lessons from the guys who got it right. They need to first acknowledge where they are – that people are cynical, frustrated, and checked out.

Leaders need to take the necessary time to explain why this is the right thing to do. Not in big meetings – they don’t engage people – but rather in small meetings in and more personal forums. Leaders need to connect with staff to overcome the cynicism that is draining the life out of the organization. It will take time, but the productivity gains will be well worth the investment.

Kate Nelson is a co-author of The Change Management Pocket Guide and is a partner with Stacy Aaron at Change Guides, LLC. They can be reached at kate.nelson or

Engaging Your Audience in Conversations About Change

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As a first-generation American, language has always been an important part of my life. English was my second of five languages — we spoke two languages at home and I studied the remaining three at school. Having lived in eight different cities (seven in the US), I’ve also been fascinated by how differently we can all speak the same language.

So naturally, when I attended the Change Management 2015 conference in Las Vegas, I noticed a recurring theme of language in the context of change management. How you approach a conversation, as well as the language and vehicles you use, can impact the success of getting your message across to your audience.

As Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Understanding your audience and speaking their language will help you as you work on a specific change initiative. For example, if the leaders and sponsors of your initiative are concerned about speed and quality, then it is important to use that same language in discussions about how change management helps achieve those objectives.

While this approach is beneficial in the context of a specific change effort, it can also be helpful in talking about the overall concept of change management. Many change management professionals have experienced resistance from sponsors and leaders due to a lack of clear understanding about what change management is. Given this, we were fortunate to have a general session one morning dedicated to the topic of how to create a compelling conversation about change.

During this session, we were challenged to come up with a metaphor to explain change management using language that might resonate with a potential sponsor. Here are some of the ideas we came up with at our tables using the prompt: Change Management is like…
A Marathon – Change efforts are often long-term initiatives with goals requiring a great deal commitment, training, and preparation. Change agents are like the volunteers at the race, providing help along the way and working to improve the endurance and health of the organization.
A Fairy Tale – Fairy tales generally start in one place and end in another. There’s always a journey and some challenges along the way, but change management provides the cast of characters to help you get to “happily ever after.”
Climbing a Mountain – Change management provides the right tools and the right commitment to get to the top of the mountain. Once you reach the top, you can see the new vision more clearly. But then, you have to sustain the change on the way down the mountain to ensure that employees are continuing to work in new ways and that the change is fully adopted.
WD40 – Change management helps create a smooth transition and reduce the friction that often accompanies change.
Preparing Your Family for a Move – Change management helps you understand where you are going, and provides a plan to help your people get there. And with change agents guiding the journey, your family can enjoy happy dinner conversations.
A Personal Trainer – Change management provides coaching and guidance along the journey to overall fitness. You may experience some discomfort during the process, and you’re going to have to sweat; however, the trainer guides you through the work needed to prepare your people to achieve success.
Flying a Plane – Change management helps you clarify your destination, provides a suitcase full of tools to help you manage the transition, and offers the expertise to help you avoid or smooth out any turbulence that may be encountered along the way.
A Midwife – In this metaphor, the organization is the mother and the change is the baby. You may be able to deliver the baby on your own, but not without incurring additional risk. Change management can help avoid a c-section.
Water on a Waterslide – ‘You can get down the slide without it — but it’s gonna hurt’. Change management helps achieve speed of implementation with minimal friction.

As you can see, we had a lot of fun with this exercise, and the responses were as varied as our potential audiences might be. The key takeaway is to take the time to understand your audience and do your best to speak their language so that your message will resonate. And mixing in a little humor along the way can help minimize resistance and keep your audience engaged in the conversation.

Training Trends

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Learners today are faced with many challenges, one of which is short attention spans. Thanks to the large amount of information available on the Internet instantaneously, Smartphones, and people’s busy schedules, an adult’s attention span can be reduced to mere minutes.

Keeping someone’s attention during training is extremely challenging when most trainings are hours, even days in length. In most cases, a normal attention span for an adult is approximately 15-20 minutes. What is one to do when there are several hours of material that need to be covered?

Here are a few things that may help you when planning your next training:

Learning Format. Many people fall into the routine of showing PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide. People have seen these bulleted slides over and over again. Fewer slides tend to be better. Make sure to mix up your fonts and use unusual colors. You want them to be enjoyable to look at. Can your slides can be read from the back of the room? There is nothing worse than being in the back and not being able to see what is on the screen. Want to mix it up? Try Prezi,, or Powtoon. These are only a few options, there are many more online that offer an alternative to the standard Power Point. The key is to have great visual impact and to capture the audience’s attention.

Social Interaction. Most adult learners prefer social interaction with the group versus being lectured to from the front of the conference room. At the start of your session, have an ice breaker so people can get to know one another. This will help during the rest of the training when you have small group discussion. Breaking up training by having frequent question and answer sessions is something a trainer can do to keep the attention on the material. Dividing into small groups where the adult learners can integrate their life experiences, new ideas, and use their existing knowledge is a win-win situation for the trainer and the attendees.

Break Time. Everybody needs a break. Be respectful of your students. Frequent breaks for the restroom, snacks (fruit, nuts, mints, etc.), a moment to stretch the legs, and also to check their email will be much appreciated. People are accustomed to being able to check in with their work emails many times throughout the day and also to touch base with family as needed. If you have a no cell phone policy during training then make sure during break times, people know they can check their phones.

End of Session Survey. At the end of your session, pass out a survey. Be prepared for honest answers so you can make your presentation better the next time. Many people have presented before and can offer helpful tips. Have an open mind about the change you may need to incorporate.
Keeping any sized group attentive for a significant period of time is a difficult task. Planning extensively, incorporating eye catching slides, having your students interact with each other, and allowing for breaks will help you keep your group engaged.

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Virtual Instructor Lead Training (VILT)

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When companies have employees in multiple locations that all need the same training, what is the best way to accomplish this? Virtual training is becoming an ever popular option. Gina Giannitelli, our expert in virtual training, offered some advice on the matter.

Gina Giannitelli’s experience stems from serving on the Talent Development Advisory Council and then more importantly on the Talent Development Strategy Team for Deloitte Consulting. In that capacity, she learned a great deal about training delivery strategies. Deloitte was making decisions on whether to invest in a bricks and mortar training facility, and when/how to deliver training virtually. Like many companies, they were seeking effective, cost conscious ways to develop their talent which was distributed across multiple geographies. They developed a whitepaper on Talent Development (after various industry research) and held a leadership summit to inform the talent development strategy. That included reviewing the best delivery approach for “Technical, Industry, Professional and Leadership” knowledge and skill development. After the strategy work was done, Gina later worked closely with a team of Instructional Designers on the AERS TD Management team to implement the strategy in that business environment. She learned a great deal about training design and delivery methodology while serving on the AERS TD Management team.

Do you feel that virtual training goes as well as face to face training?

I have to admit, I was cautiously optimistic the first time I delivered Change Guides training in a live-virtual environment. I was curious to see how it translated. Virtual Instructor Lead Training is certainly a different experience, but when VILT is done well I do believe it can deliver all the value of a face-to-face session. Some of the keys are keeping classes to an optimum size for interaction and driving interaction through the delivery approach. With tools like Go To Training, we incorporate technology enabled live-virtual interactions through polling, virtual whiteboards, quizzes, etc. But it is equally important, in my opinion, to have a skilled facilitator who can draw out participation. The VILT environment actually offers a unique opportunity for participants to share their partially completed Tools, something we don’t have the capacity to do in a technology enabled way during in-person training.

After your training, you send out a survey, do you feel the participants achieved the maximum benefit from their virtual training?

Yes, I was pleasantly surprised by the very positive feedback from my training session. I do think most participants received maximum benefit… but like any other in-person training, participants get out of the session what they put into it, so there is some variation. The participants who are engaged, who resist any temptation to multi-task and who share openly their challenges and hopes for the session certainly gain the most… just as with in-person training.

The virtual white board that you ‘pass around’ for people to write on during the online training is a neat way to keep people engaged, do you feel that indeed it does keep everyone engaged?

The virtual whiteboard certainly helps, and it is a technique I like to use. When you know you may be asked to take the whiteboard at any point, you are less likely to multi-task (which is always a risk in person, and more so virtual). This is just one of many VILT techniques that ideally would be sprinkled through a session. Others would include knowledge checks through virtual polling or quizzes. I also really like sharing screens so participants can show the class a tool they have started, like a Stakeholder Master for example. Even using animations on slides helps to keep people engaged virtually, because there is visual interest on the screen. All part of the toolkit for virtual instructors.

Of course you never know what all people are really doing during the training, checking email, leaving the room, surfing the web, etc. How much of an issue do you think this is for online training?

This is always a consideration for online training, which is why we as instructors spend time up front customizing the Change Guides in-person materials for virtual delivery. We work hard to keep it interesting, interactive, to talk with people about how they provide feedback, if they need a break… all those little things that add up to a good training session. I would reiterate that an experienced trainer is key, someone who is skilled at driving participation and conversation. I prefer VILT sessions where there is a nice balance of information coming at you through instruction, discussion, and hands on learning. Our Change Guides training uses this format which is one of the reasons why I think it can be successfully delivered virtually. If we were delivering 4 hours of straight “talk at you” instruction it would not be as conducive to VILT.

As a trainer, how do you feel about the idea of more web based training? When companies have multiple people that need trained and those people are all in different locations, it is certainly more cost effective to do a virtual training. Do you think there is anything lost by not having the face to face contact?

I love the idea of more VILT options, when it is a fit with the content and the participants! It is absolutely the way of the future for dispersed teams. I particularly enjoy teaching virtually when some of the participants already know each other… it creates instant community and really encourages interaction. Research has shown that VILT is great for technical and industry knowledge. In person training is often ideal for what can be called “professional or leadership” skills, softer skills, many of which are important for Change Management. But I think VILT is very compatible with our Change Guides materials, which provided a tactical framework and tools. I really like the idea of combining in-person and VILT delivery… this would be my “ideal.” But in cases where timing, cost, or geography make in-person difficult I think VILT is a great option!
Live virtual is certainly finding its place in the training world. You have to have a well- trained facilitator that can keep the participants engaged by using white boards, virtual polling, quizzes, etc. The students have to work hard to stay focused and be an active part of their virtual training. If both sides of the equation work hard, VILT can be a successful experience.

Do You Believe in Change?

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In today’s business environment, there’s no such thing as “steady state”.  Getting accustomed to making change happen quickly is an integral part of building and leading an effective organization.  Whether responding to customer demands, making course corrections when a strategy is running off the rails, or quickly integrating a new product or service line when the perfect opportunity drops in your lap, organizations need to change fast.

When it comes to organizational change, there are some things that leaders should know, and some common misconceptions that should be dispelled.  Here’s what you should believe, and what you should not believe.

BELIEVE:  Organizational changes happen when individuals within the organization change.  Organizations are essentially groups of individuals.  New processes, structures and rules can be put in place, but if people are not committed to new ways of thinking and acting, the changes are not likely to be successful.

BELIEVE:  The human reactions that occur during any given change are at least as important as any other aspect of implementing change.  People naturally and inevitably react emotionally when we ask them to think and act in new ways.  The behavior of the people who make the organization work changes as individuals move through their individual transition process and develop commitment.

BELIEVE:  The more involved people are in a change, the less negative their inevitable reactions will be.  People naturally support what they help create.

BELIEVE:  The emotional response people will have to a change intensifies as the speed of change increases.  If you want change to happen fast, you can expect there to be stronger resistance than if you are on a “we’ll get to it when we get to it” timeline.

BELIEVE:  The longer a group, individual, or situation has remained static, the greater the investment in the status quo and the greater the resistance to change.  The fact that people are proud of what they do and how they do it is a great thing – except when you want to change it.

While there are basic truths that leaders should believe about change, there are also some little-white-lies about change that they should not believe.

NOT BELIEVE:  Time takes care of everything.  People are able to think and act in new ways by moving through the human process of transition and developing commitment – not through sitting and waiting.  Without intervention, that process can take weeks, months, years, or may never fully happen.  (William Bridges, Managing Transitions, 1991 & 2003 William Bridges and Associates)

NOT BELIEVE:  Everyone who isn’t on board with a change has something wrong with them.  New neuroscience research confirms that it takes more physical energy to do new things than it does to do things the same old way.  And the natural human reaction is to conserve that physical energy. Resistance is a natural response to change.  (Rock and Schwartz, “The Neuroscience of Leadership”, Strategy + Business, Issue 43)

NOT BELIEVE:  The reasons for the change will be seen in a rational manner and will therefore be easy for people to go along with.  People are not singularly rational beings.  There is an emotional connection that people need to make to really commit to the new way.  (Lee Colan, Passionate Performance, 2004 Cornerstone Leadership)

NOT BELIEVE:  If communication is done “right” the first time, it is enough.  People generally need to “hear” a message anywhere from eight to ten times to really get it.  And “right” is different during a change process for each person.  While there are times that a company-wide meeting and presentation is what people need, there are also times when they need a one-on-one conversation with a boss or a roundtable conversation with peers.

NOT BELIEVE:  Change happens at or on a scheduled discrete event.  While new processes, structures or rules can be scheduled to start or take place on a specific date, people travel through their individual transition over some period of time.

Based on the facts and the fiction, it may seem that we should all throw our hands up and go home.  But luckily there are proven ways to manage change that can deal with the challenges that are presented with changing organizations.

According to a recent study by Prosci, the most important element of effective organization change is having effective and engaged sponsors.  Second is effective communication and third is involvement by employees.  Next, the fourth critical success factor for effective change is the use of a common easy-to-use methodology and language around change.  And rounding out the top five is the use of easy-to-use and well organized tools that support the application of change management.  (“Enterprise Change Management” Prosci Research, 2006)

Kate Nelson is a partner with Change Guides, LLC ( and a co-author of The Change Management Pocket Guide.  She can be reached at