Category Archives: Leaders

Using Agile Change Management in a Hyper Fast Growth Company

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by Shannon Stautberg
Picture This…
A fast-growing international company is doubling in size every year. That means new people, new processes, new customers, new business segments, new almost everything every few months. The speed of change at which this company is growing could rival even the fastest bobsled track! What does change look like in a company that is growing so quickly? Close your eyes and picture this…

 Newly acquired companies to be integrated
 New and expanding corporate teams
 New office space and changing seating assignments to fit new team members
 A growing workforce that requires more training and communication
 The continuous creation, or fine-tuning, of policies and procedures
 Ever-evolving marketing initiatives
 More efforts to utilize off-shore resources
 Ambitious goals set by the executive team
 Cross-functional teams striving to achieve those goals by working faster to try to produce more

Phew! Now that’s a lot of change. How do employees keep up with this pace of change? With a little help from the 5 C’s of Agile Change Management!

What is Agile Change Management? It is the adaptive and iterative planning and execution of change management practices that encourages flexibility and speed.

When most people think of the word “Agile” in today’s business environment, they automatically think of software development. The fast-growing company referred to here is certainly using Agile software development… but in such a fast growth environment, the company is a different place from month to month.
The principles of Agile Change Management apply to everything they do whether it is software and system focused or not.

This company is our client, and we’ve been helping them apply Agile Change Management principles to their projects for a while now – whether they are working on an IT system or not. As we’ve learned together, we’ve nailed down some key foundations of Agile Change Management that have been guiding our efforts. We call them, “The 5 C’s of Agile Change Management”.

The 5 C’s of Agile Change Management

1. The Change Conductor: While project managers and business leaders can effectively manage the work of
their teams to build and deploy solutions, ensuring the success of those solutions by making sure people are
ready, willing, and able to use them requires someone to serve as a Change Conductor. This is the person that owns the cross-functional people impact of the change. They make sure that for every solution (whether those are coming in small IT sprints, or monthly business changes needed to accommodate growth), there is an understanding of who is impacted and what those people need. The Change Conductor also ensures that those people have what they need to successfully use the new solutions that are coming their way. As with changes in a traditional environment, solutions are only useful if people are ready, willing and able to use them.

2. Cross-Functionality: To move quickly, the teams that build and deploy solutions, whether technical or not, should be made up of people from all parts of the enterprise in order to:

 Help identify and prioritize what is most important to improve
 Make sure that a change in one part of the organization is not going to have a negative impact someplace else
 Help ensure leaders are aligned with the solutions
 Help test the solutions to ensure they meet business needs

Working together across the organization helps ensure that potential conflicts are found quicker and earlier so that the team can keep moving fast.

3. Communication: It’s important for team members to recognize that change in a fast-paced environment is not a “one and done” effort. Fluid, open, two-way, and ongoing communication between the crossfunctional team and end users is essential to:

 Keep people who are expected to use the new solutions up to speed as things change from week to week
 Ensure that the team gets feedback from the organization quickly so that the solutions can be iterated upon
As long as people’s expectations are managed about how quickly things are changing, they are able to jump to each new solution as it comes to them. In fact, having such a fast-moving environment can be beneficial at times because people know that if they don’t like something today, it may very well be different

4. Course Correction: One of the greatest strengths of working in a fast growth business environment where change is a constant or following the Agile systems development methodology is that those situations allow for quick course correction. While quick course correction is a powerful benefit of moving fast, it can also be a big shift in thinking for some team members. Team members can easily get attached to the original solution, but it’s important for team members to be open to the fact that the original plan might not always work and may need to shift. Making those course corrections help make good solutions into great solutions!

5. Continuous Improvement: To continually inform the strategic priorities of a fast-growing company, it’s essential for company leaders and team members to maintain a commitment to gathering success metrics and end user satisfaction data to identify, prioritize and implement on-going improvements that will have a measurable impact on employee productivity and the long-term growth of the company.

If you have stories about applying Agile Change Management in either an Agile software development environment or a fast growth company, let us know – we’d love to hear about what you are learning! Email us at or start a discussion on the Change Guides LinkedIn group page.

Change Management & Agile Project Management-What We’ve Learned (a Retrospective)

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by Gina Giannitelli and Andie Wafzig

Project Management understands the role change methodology, tools and deliverables play in the overall project success– check!
 We will be using agile methodology to quickly develop and migrate by business area – newer territory, but still feeling good.
 Change Management will be expected to use Jira, an agile project management tool, for the first time. We will participate in sprint planning, daily stand-ups, and retrospective “ceremonies” – let’s discuss.

We knew the hallmarks of our change methodology, tools and deliverables would still apply. But, we also knew we would need to adapt to a more iterative approach. Looking back at the work to date, we found some lessons and tips to share.

Tip #1 –Time Investments Shifted
Very early on we realized we were investing time in ways we didn’t anticipate.

 Heavy Upfront Time Investment for developing, testing and revising our communication and training toolkits with our pilot group; efficiencies were then gained with subsequent rollouts

 Front-loading Strategic Resources became necessary to support the initial CM tasks mentioned above with the ability to taper resourcing once we got into managing execution of a repeatable cadence

 Managing Change Tasks in Time-Boxed Periods or Sprints, we invested in participating in Jira through sprint planning, daily stand-ups, reviews and retrospective ceremonies. Early on this felt like an ineffective use of our time and a duplication of our planning deliverables. With time and compromise, we shaped meetings to address stakeholder relevant topics first, and we agreed to leverage Jira reports to meet components of our stage gate documentation requirements.

Tip #2 –CM and PM Collaboration Takes on New Meaning
While adjusting to the Jira ceremonies was challenging at first, we came to crave the predictable meetings with the Project Manager, Developer and Business Analyst.

 Rigor and Routine Matter – Because of the iterative nature of the development process, we became very reliant on ceremonies and additional core team meetings to further our work; if a new requirement was uncovered for instance, we wanted to know if it was something that would cause resistance or excitement with the user group in order to understand how it might inform communications or training

 Checkpoints to Stay on Track – Regular opportunities to converse with the full core team(developers and the Business Analyst) improved our end product; we learned with time that requirements and testing sessions may provide helpful checkpoints with our Change Agents, allowing us to be more responsive to their unique stakeholder group needs

 Balance Big Picture with Current Priorities – Our focus on the ultimate stakeholder experience and their need to be ready, willing and able to change created an interesting dynamic: we often kept our eye on the longer-term view, planning back from Go-Live for stakeholder needs, while the Project Manager was focused on the current sprint.  This created a healthy tension that our PM acknowledged as very valuable.

Tip #3 – Responsiveness and Planning Each Play a Role
Early on our PM would tease us that we couldn’t put a timeline together, that there was no point in planning for months down the line. This was a paradigm shift for us, realizing we might get just a few weeks of notice for an impacted stakeholder group! As we lived through the project, both responsiveness
and planning have a role in success.

 A Dynamic Plan – Through pilot and early migrations we were able to determine our “clone” tasks, the predictable alignment, communication, training and adoption tasks that we expect to execute with each business group; this became our living plan document

 Stay Nimble – While we start each business unit from this “plan,” we have adjusted our approach in some way with almost each sprint / rollout; we must be rapidly responsive to the needs of the business unit, modifying and executing our approach in the matter of a few weeks. Also, with each business unit rollout there are discoveries that may lead to design changes and we must respond accordingly

 Continue to Look and Listen – Each sprint / rollout deserves fresh eyes. For instance, our early groups weren’t attuned to the agile approach, so shifts in details or dates caused concern; our communications and training need to respond to this need

What we have learned overall is that it is indeed possible to effectively manage change within the Agile project environment, however, it takes a willingness to invest time strategically, collaborate effectively, and react nimbly while maintaining a balanced focus on both long-term goals and short-term action.

Gratitude in the Workplace

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For our second article, several of our Consultants have written a short paragraph about how they have witnessed gratitude in their projects. We hope you enjoy the perspectives that they have shared.

 Shannon Stautberg – A small act of thanks can make a big difference! An unexpected gesture of gratitude toward employees that go above and beyond their typical call of duty, can improve team morale and contribute to a project’s success. While working with a client on the rollout of a CRM system, project leadership recognized the IT team was going to be burning the midnight oil to complete data conversion in time for go-live. To show appreciation for their hard work, the team sent Edible Arrangements to the homes of the developers that worked over the weekend. These sweet treats helped give them an extra boost of morale to help them cross the finish line and make the CRM go-live a success!

Gina Giannitelli – When I reflect on the clients and managers I’ve worked with who express gratitude… the look-you-in-the-eye, genuine type of gratitude, I see the impact on the team’s well-being and their attitude toward coming tasks. I feel more appreciated, more connected to the team, and in turn I’m more likely to go the extra mile for the best possible results. Research shows an increase in well-being (happiness) increases productivity, and this is good news for project teams and business everywhere. I remember sitting at one manager’s desk and noticing their reminder to themselves to say “thank you” that day… I was really impressed, because I’d seen first-hand the commitment that appreciation cultivated. Some of the best teams I’ve worked on, those that have driven results that get noticed, are teams where different disciplines (Project Management, Change Management, IT and business experts) actively appreciate what each brings to the team dynamic.

Annie Ayvazian – People want to feel that they are making a difference and that their efforts are appreciated. One creative approach is to show gratitude in a way that ties back to a higher purpose. As an example, one team I work with begins each meeting by inviting people to share examples of how they have supported the higher purpose that the team has established. By sharing these stories, team members reinforce that they are making a difference by supporting the higher purpose while also hearing appreciation and praise for their efforts. This is a simple and effective way to reinforce and reward the desired behaviors.

Andie Wafzig – Think of the last time you worked on a task or delivered a solution completely on your own. Personally, I can’t recall a time in my career where anything I accomplished was without collaboration and support from at least one other person; more often any deliverable or achievement was the result of many inputs. As an employee, it just feels good to be appreciated for your efforts and accomplishments. A simple ‘thank you’ email or name mention in a team meeting can mean the difference between feeling valued and wanting to perform at your best or feeling unappreciated and lacking enthusiasm for the next project. As a leader, you want the former filling your team. Acknowledging the efforts of your team, thanking them for their contributions and celebrating collective and individual wins can go a long way in retaining happy, high-performing employees.

Beckie Schretter – … “four in five (81 percent) employees say they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work.”1 When you are asking employees to create or go through a tough change, remember to include some Thanksgiving Spirit in your plans. Gift cards, thank you notes, snacks/candy/food and even simple praise can go a long way to motivate a change-wary team.

  1. Source: https//


Trust Me, Thanks Makes a Difference

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As I was researching gratitude, I came across this quote by William Arthur Ward, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Imagine how many opportunities we would miss if we never gave this present to those that deserve it.

Demonstrating trust often means showing an appropriate level of vulnerability. We give power to the person we are grateful for by putting ourselves aside for a moment. When we are vulnerable, we can also admit our mistakes; share the difficulties we have when making hard decisions; and be open to ideas that may be better than our own.

I worked with a leader who joined an organization mired in distrust and dissatisfaction several years ago. Because of some of the baggage left behind by the former chief executive, the new guy had to earn trust from the starting gate from staff members and customers alike.

He made tremendous strides building trust in a very simple way… gratitude. Simple acts of saying and showing thanks.

It would be easy and understandable for him to forget to say thanks. He was busy, just like we are all busy. It would be easy to just expect people to do their jobs and get on with it, but he figured out that showing someone a little appreciation now and then could mean the difference between a “punch the clock” mentality and a committed, engaged, and trusting co-worker, partner, or employee.

He wasn’t just paying lip service to the thanks he was doling out. He truly meant it and people could sense that he was the real deal. When he took the time to show some genuine appreciation for the work people did, the sacrifices they were making, and the extra effort they spent, the nature of their relationships changed; trust grew. Soon, that trust was visible in the quality and quantity of work outputs and loyalty of customers.

Many of us spend more waking hours with our co-workers than we do with our family and friends. Like it or not, you and your co-workers are in it together. You are a team. You are there to catch each other if someone falls. You are there to catapult each other over the wall. If one person in your organization fails, the entire organization suffers.

He figured out that he couldn’t force people to trust him. But he could act in ways that were trustworthy. And over time, trust was built. And trust builds on trust. If you trust me, I am more likely to trust you.

To anyone who works in an organization, be grateful for each other and trust one another. Make sure to say thanks, people will appreciate it and so will you when they say thanks back and place their trust in you.

“The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” – Charles Schwab

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

6 Tips for Addressing Everyday Organizational Knowledge Management Needs

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The goal of an organizational Knowledge Management strategy is to gather-up the information, resources and expertise that exist within the organization in order to store it for future reference, leverage it for speed to insight and make better, more informed decisions. The goal is to know what we know, know what we don’t know and perhaps get closer to identifying what we don’t know that we don’t know.

So how do we take this quandary and make sense of it within organizations? The following are 6 tips for addressing everyday organizational KM needs. These tips are not overly technical and you’re not going to need to break out your Gant chart. These tips are high-level and meant to serve as a basic introduction to building a Knowledge Management practice.

1. Find out what the main areas of expertise are within each department.

This is the ‘know what we know’ part of the riddle and in KM, we refer to this as a Knowledge Audit. The purpose is begin to piece together the pockets of expertise in your organization, by department and by role. Who do you have and what do they know? What do they do? What resources do they create? What information do they have that helps them perform their jobs? Do they know what their role says they should know? Do they know other things?

Despite the way it may sound, a knowledge audit can be conducted rather informally. It can be as simple as a survey with a pre-determined list of skills or knowledge where employees check-off the skills they have, skills they want to learn, etc. This can even be anonymous and aggregated by department, so the insight is more directional and less individual.

In fact, the more informal and directional, the better. Knowledge is very personal to many and can be very sensitive to discuss, let alone divulge. Many years ago, I worked as a consultant at NASA HQ in Washington D.C. It was one of my very first clients as a junior consultant and my assignment was to communicate the roll-out of a new system to all the mission directorates. My role was strictly informational and supportive. I was to meet with each mission directorate, give an overview of the new system and explain how they were to use it. Simple, right? You know the saying, “It isn’t rocket science!”? Well, when you are a 22-year-old management consultant and you’ve been tasked with telling actual ROCKET SCIENTISTS that they should go forth and enter their skills and level of proficiency into a system with a name that included the words ‘Competency Management’, you realize that some things are a lot harder than they seem or than they need to be. So, keep it informal and aim for collective knowledge, not individual competencies.

2. Identify knowledge gaps and risks.

A knowledge audit will not only tell you what areas of expertise exist in your organization, but also what may be missing. An understanding of a department’s knowledge depth, can be a critical data point when it comes to decision-making. For example, once when conducting a knowledge audit for a data science department, we learned that only one respondent had checked off a skill that happened to be critical to day-to-day operations for one of the company’s most highly profitable and innovative solutions. Imagine if that employee decided to leave the organization or fell ill for an extended period of time. Through the help of the audit, we could identify this gap, the risk of potential knowledge loss and mitigate it by transferring that critical knowledge to more employees.

3. Create a digital space for knowledge to live.

The fastest and most efficient way to transfer and store knowledge is to go digital. Most organizations are using digital tools such as email and file sharing. You do not have to have a fancy intranet or a dedicated web-based platform to have knowledge management. To keep it simple, store commonly used documents or reference materials in a shared drive and keep them organized
with a mutually exclusive folder structure. If the capability exists, give documents appropriate and intuitive tags or assign some metadata to them to enable searchability.

4. Transfer and Share Knowledge.

Organizational knowledge exists in two different forms; explicit and tacit. Explicit knowledge describes the stuff employees produce or create, such as documents, databases, emails, etc. It is easily codified and more easily stored and shared. Tacit knowledge on the other hand is somewhat more nuanced and difficult to identify. It often exists in minds of employees and is based on their experiences. A good knowledge management solution should aim to gather both explicit and tacit knowledge, where possible. Explicit knowledge likely exists on employees’ hard drives and in their email. An organized effort can be made to identify commonly used documents and transfer them to a shared space. Tacit knowledge can still be transferred from those who have it, to those who need it, but there isn’t always a tangible component to this type of transfer. Sometimes a tacit transfer looks more like a mentorship or a conversation to share experiences.

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel

The purpose of sharing knowledge is to grow and strengthen the collective wisdom of the organization and its employees. I once spent a two-week working on a client presentation, researching, writing, analyzing data, and creating charts and graphs, only to learn months later that the person sitting three cubes away had done a very similar presentation just weeks prior. Had I known that person or what he was working on, I would have asked to leverage the learning from his presentation. But in most organizations, it’s not possible to know every employee, across every office location. So instead, organizations deploy a KM solution to avoid redundancies and boost speed to insight for their customers.

6. Recognize people and progress

Lastly, when working in knowledge, we can’t forget that knowledge is only knowledge if there is someone to know something. Knowledge is personal. It doesn’t exist without people and their minds, their experiences, their decisions and their perceptions. A good Knowledge Management solution should include a healthy dose of employee interaction, inclusion and recognition. In a great many organizations, employees are used to storing documents on their hard drives, retaining knowledge in their brains and emailing information back and forth. It is important to understand the current state of your organization’s knowledge needs and make incremental improvements over time, while always paying close attention to the people and recognizing progress.

Knowledge Management doesn’t have to be as overwhelming or ambiguous as the name may infer. It can be as simple as understanding who you have, what they collectively know and how you can best share their knowledge with others and vice versa.

A Good Knowledge Management Strategy Can Help Bolster a Successful Change Initiative

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By Andie Wafzig

It has been said many times – “change is constant”. But for something so common in organizations today, change surely can elicit a myriad of discouraging reactions and responses ranging from fear to doubt to dismay. So, what might be the missing link that can help make a constantly changing environment or organization feel less volatile and even more agile? In a word, knowledge.

I was recently at an amusement park with my five-year-old son for the first time. In the first ten minutes, the size of the crowds and the extreme height of the rollercoasters had my anxiety on alert. We rode some kiddie rides a few times and then decided to walk around to other parts of the park. As we continued to walk, we came across more and more people with soaking wet clothes. Looking toward the direction they were coming, we quickly found the source – a giant, twisty-turny water ride, complete with a looming drop and the consistent, collective screams of ride goers as their log boat teetered on the top of the hill and plunged into the pool below. Much to my surprise came the arm tugging, pointing, jumping up and down and cries of “please, please, PLEASE” from my son. My stomach lurched. No way! This isn’t a kiddie ride. We came for the kiddie rides! He probably isn’t even tall enough. If he is, he will surely hate it, or be scared or heaven forbid fall out. I don’t want to walk around in soggy clothes the rest of the day. I don’t even like thrill rides anymore – I’m a mom!

To make a long and slightly wet story short, I gave in. He was tall enough. I came for the kiddie rides, but he had different expectations for the day. He loved the ride! He wasn’t scared at all. He (thankfully) did not fall out. We barely got wet at all; as it turns out, the soaking wet patrons I’d seen before were likely coming from other, more adventurous water rides nearby. And for the biggest surprise of all, the thrill-seeker in me hadn’t died with my age or my mom-status. I had a blast and we quickly hopped in line to do it all again.

So, what gives? Why the quick rush to fear and judgement?

In the absence of information, fear and doubt always find a way into our thoughts and, if we’re not careful, into our decision-making. This is as true in our personal roller-coaster-riding lives, as it is in our professional lives as employees, managers and leaders. The one way to combat this rush to judgement during times of change is to gather all of the facts, understand what is and what isn’t and grow your knowledge base in order to make more informed and ultimately, better decisions. In organizations, we call this Knowledge Management.

The Gartner Group defines knowledge management as “a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously uncaptured expertise and experience in individual workers.”

More simply put, Knowledge Management is a practice that aims to make sense of all the information and knowledge that flows in, out and through an organization. And it is becoming more and more critical, in today’s world of big data and rapid decision-making.

As a leader, if you don’t know what your organization knows, it can be hard to make a simple decision, let alone plan for the future. In order to innovate or try to stay ahead of your competition, leaders first must have a good grasp on the current state of their business. And, we’re not talking solely about what the numbers say, rather what is the individual and collective wisdom within the organization that can help you assess organizational capability or readiness? When faced with change, how quickly can your organization mobilize, make decisions and implement a new solution?

Let’s come back to the amusement park for a moment. With the proper information, the experience could have been much different. A quick web search would have equipped me with more information than I could possibly have needed to prepare me and my son for the day ahead. Knowledge and insight would have taken the seats at the table that doom and gloom were vying for.

In an organization, however, there is rarely an all-encompassing web search option that can answer any or all business-related unknowns. More likely, an employee’s options for finding an answer to a question are limited to their own knowledge and that of their closest peers and co-workers. Yet the need for information and speed to insight continues to grow. This is why organizations turn to Knowledge Management solutions – to identify the knowledge needs of the organization and connect people to the right resources, at the right time in order to make better and faster decisions.

With a Knowledge Management practice in place, an organization can better address all of the nuances that often accompany a change implementation. And, the people involved and impacted by the change will have a smoother transition from current state to future state, when organizational knowledge is shared and leveraged.

Training is Part of Learning

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To learn, people need to be prepared to acquire new knowledge and skills. They need to go through some type of training or skill building. And they need to practice and retain what was learned.

The best learning takes place when people have a mindset that is ready to learn. Until people understand the need to learn something new and want to be a part of a new future, it is hard to get people to act differently.

It is not uncommon to try to “force” people to comply with new ways of working by throwing them into a class and expecting that they will soak up the information and come out the other end of the class transformed.

Sorry, but it doesn’t happen that way!

Have you ever sat in a training class that your boss made you go to thinking, “This is complete a waste of time? Why am I even here?” Sadly, it is much more common than it should be.

To get people ready to learn, start by explaining why the learning needs to happen, how individuals will benefit, and what people’s new roles will be. Allow people to talk about the change and what will be expected. Give people some foundational information to get them started; like an overview or short CBT before dropping them into a boot-camp or a long training program. This gives people the chance to think about what they are about to learn before they jump all the way in.

Just as important as being ready to enter training, people need to have the right experiences while they are being trained.

This may seem obvious, but people should feel like they have safe environment in which to learn. Trying out new behaviors can seem risky in front of peers, bosses, or staff. If people feel threatened or unsafe, little learning will happen.

People need to feel like they are actively engaged in the learning process – not just being directed. And they need to believe that what is being learned is immediately useful. Practicality and relevance are critical to getting people to commit to learning.

Lastly, learning is not truly accomplished until new skills or knowledge have been retained and applied. Too often people go to a seminar or training program and think, “This is great! I can’t wait to use this back at my desk!” Then a month later, they look back and realize that they are not doing anything they talked about in the class.

People need to be able to integrate new ideas into what they already know if they are going to keep – and use – new information. People retain more if they get immediate practice. And reinforcement should be part of the learning process to ensure that what was trained is applied appropriately.

An organization teeming with learners is destined for a great future. Because strong minds fuel strong organizations.

Common Questions in Training

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Common Questions in Training
By Beckie Schretter

Did you know Change Guides has certified scores of change management professionals in our principles, methodology and tools through the Change Management Certification class? The best part of teaching these classes is learning from each other as we share well-earned wisdom throughout the three days.

Here are some questions that often come up.

1. What tools are required for every change initiative?

There are no mandatory tools; however, there are 4 tools I use on virtually every change project to establish a firm foundation.

 The first tool is the Stakeholder Analysis tool which captures the impact the change will have on each impacted group. Capturing concerns focuses us on finding answers to help facilitate the transition.

 The second tool is the Change Management Communication Plan which lays out the communications needs to drive change for each stakeholder group. My favorite idea is to link communication objectives to the Change Guides Commitment Curve.

 The third tool is the Change Management Workplan to keep track of the tasks and next steps required. Managing these tasks ensures they get done in a timely manner.

 The last tool is either a Change Readiness Audit or a Commitment Assessment to get feedback. Do these tools multiple times throughout the project to get trend data on change readiness.

2. How can we best address resistance?

When participants understand resistance as feedback it alters how we talk about and approach perceived resistance. We begin to strive for understanding, asking what is underlying the resistance. This understanding
allows us to start address those needs.

3. What do you do when leaders are not aligned on the change initiative benefits or priority?

First confirm the leaders fully understand the change vision and benefits. Consider interviewing your key
executive sponsors and leaders using selected questions from the Leader Alignment Interview tool to gather data that will help facilitate an alignment conversation. Engage the executive sponsor by inviting him/her to the
meeting to help clarify expectations. Also, use the Leader Involvement Plan to share agreed upon messages or to take aligned action.

4. Can Change Guides Tools work on transformational change such as culture, new leaders or M&A changes?

The Change Guides tools work on all types of organizational changes because you can choose and adapt the tools for each unique situation. For example, when going through a culture change, the Systems and Structures Action Plan helps teams address those infrastructure areas where employee behaviors are most rewarded.

5. How can we succeed when the change management is starting so late in the project?

The closer a project is to implementation, the bigger the productivity dip and the slower the project benefits will be realized… and the deeper the frustration from stakeholders. Get focused on the critical stakeholder paths first and prepare for some remediation after the go live. People will appreciate your change efforts regardless.

Feedback for Leaders

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Leaders are the most important factor in the success or failure of an organizational change. An effective change manager will almost certainly need to give leaders feedback from time to time. If you are afraid to shape the most important lever in creating successful change (or, in other words, if you are afraid to give leaders feedback), you are compromising the potential success of the change.

When leaders are not doing or saying the right things about your change, it is time for feedback –honest, direct, and fair. There are a few things to remember when giving leaders feedback.

First, it is important to keep in mind that leaders almost always want to be supportive of change, act as champions for change efforts, and guide people toward their vision. But they just don’t have time or they don’t know how! Getting specific can be really helpful.

Clarifying small yet powerful activities that leaders can and should be doing to demonstrate support for the change is always helpful. Think about creating a simple Leadership Involvement Plan or document that outlines what leaders can be doing and when. The kind of things that can be discussed with a leader and included in a Leadership Involvement Plan are ways to:

Get involved in the change – being visible so that they can lead by example; attending project meetings, process reviews, and workshops; hosting or kicking-off a project event; and making time to attend executive training.

Communicate about the change – identifying and telling people how the change strategy or vision guides their group’s work; following up to ensure their communication is understood; holding “brown bag” lunches with your team to surface and resolve concerns or issues.

Reward people for doing the right thing – encouraging people to get involved in project activities; rewarding involvement in the change with public recognition or thank yous; maintaining regular contact with full-time project team members.

Walk the talk – including change-related objectives in their personal goals and objectives; offering up resources and support to the project team; dealing with resistance head on; expecting a learning curve and productivity dip during changes to new processes and technologies.

Second, leaders are people before they are sponsors, champions, or business people so being compassionate and understanding is imperative if feedback is going to be well received. Just as we need to help people in the organization get ready, willing, and able to behave differently, we need to help leaders make that same transition to behave differently in their role as a sponsor. We can’t expect leaders to magically commit to a new set of ideas and behaviors before they themselves have fully thought through what it means for them, how they will be valued under the new environment, how supported they will be, and more.

We know that when people need to change the way they work, they try to reestablish understanding, support and purpose. Leaders experience change just like everyone else does.

When things change, people feel like we are thrown into a fun house and it takes a few minutes for us to learn how to walk and navigate on sloping floors and with floor to ceiling mirrors. Leaders experience this same disorientation and need for understanding.

People seek support when they are in the midst of uncertainty and change. Somehow, everything seems a little better when people feel like they are not all alone. Leaders are no different and need support. In fact, leaders tend to have an even greater challenge in finding support because they may have fewer or no peers, or they may be reluctant to reach out to others.

People also look to reestablish their purpose during times of change. They often feel like their old purpose is threatened or might become irrelevant when their surroundings are in flux. Purpose is especially relevant to leaders since people who have worked their way up a ladder tend to define themselves and their value as people in terms of their jobs more than others. They need to believe that they will be successful and they will be valued.

Next time you are involved in a change and it looks like leadership is not stepping into the role required of them, don’t be afraid to offer feedback. Leaders are people too. They are not perfect, and should be open to suggestions for how their actions can either help or hinder the change. Be specific, and be compassionate.

Make it a Journey, Not an Event

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Many times during a change, impacted workers feel removed from project work. Communication is formal and one way. Project teams assume that awareness communication followed by training will result in workers adopting the change in step and on schedule – Wrong!!

As Change Leaders, we know that workers embrace change when they feel part of the transition, have opportunity to engage, and ask questions. Workers need time to make sense of the change for themselves, adapting to the future state and their role in it.

So, the challenge doesn’t usually lie in knowing what to do but convincing leaders and fellow team members that it’s worth doing. Below are a few ways to discuss the importance of feedback with leaders and fellow project team members. They should know that the time and effort required to bring workers on the journey is an investment worth making, resulting in a smoother go live and thereafter.

Feedback helps surface resistance. Resistance is inevitable during change. It’s a natural reaction when we don’t understand or agree. If ignored, resistance can be like a cancer, small at first but continually growing until it’s a major issue. It’s much better to find it early before it gains momentum, causing drama, setbacks and doubt.

Feedback is a gift. When it comes to changing processes, systems and people, you can’t know it all. There are so many things that trip up even the most well intentioned project team. Project success is jeopardized when concerns and issues aren’t surfaced until after go live. Implementing something others believe won’t work stalls momentum which can be expensive and difficult to regain. By making adjustments based on feedback along the way, the likelihood of acceptance and adoption increases.

Gather feedback from impacted managers and workers by including some of them on your team as SMEs. Hold feedback sessions with the broader impacted group so they can see the plans and be able to ask questions in a safe, informal, environment. Listen to their concerns and suggestions. It doesn’t have to always be their way but if you listen, acknowledge, provide an answer and sometimes adapt, you earn credibility and bring them along on the journey.

Lastly, remind leaders and fellow team members about who is left once they move on. The workers must be the ones who believe in the changes, internalize it and sustain it. Without them embracing the change, there usually isn’t much of a change.