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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.

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.

The DO Phase – Executing Your Plan

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By: Annie Ayvazian
Once you have assessed needs and developed a change management plan, you are prepared to execute that plan. This involves developing your communication materials and preparing your organization to transition to the future state.
The “do” phase consists of 2 key activities: (1) launch communications and (2) transition work.

1. Launching communications: Now that you have developed your communication plan, it’s time to prepare content and materials to ensure people understand the project and why it’s important. This includes crystalizing key messages into an elevator speech, developing a communications network to champion the change, and providing answers to frequently asked questions.

2. Transitioning work: To effectively transition work, you need to identify the key activities required to implement the change successfully. This includes assessing readiness, defining training needs, and developing a workforce transition plan to prepare people for the new work and new skills required in the future state.

A Few Change Guides Tools – Click on the icon to see the tools.


Why is the “Do” Phase So Important?
The “do” phase is the phase where your planning turns to action and where you connect with the stakeholders who are impacted by your project. By crafting and communicating your key messages and determining the activities needed to transition work, you are preparing your organization to implement change successfully.

The PLAN Phase – A Critical Roadmap to Success

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by Shannon Stautberg
Every successful project starts with a common factor – a plan. Whether it’s the construction of a new house, the implementation of an enterprise-wide system or the creation of a piece of art, a plan is critical to a project’s success. The same is true for projects that involve change management. Getting people ready, willing and able to work in new ways requires a plan.

Planning change management activities requires you to do two things: (1) assess your needs and (2) develop a plan.

1. Assessing Needs: Identifying stakeholders, evaluating if leaders are aligned around a common vision and estimating how much effort will be required to help people understand and adopt a change are necessary to steps in defining the change management activities that should occur.

2. Developing a Plan: Developing a change management plan requires you to map out communications, leadership involvement and workforce transition activities. An effective plan also identifies who will perform these activities and when they should occur.

A Few Change Guides Planning Tools
Click on the icon below to see two of our frequently used “Planning” tools.

Plan Pie Highlighted

The Stakeholder Analysis defines the people who are critical to a successful change and
assesses their current and desired levels of support.

The Change Management Workplan lists the change management activities, estimating effort required and tracking progress.


Why is “Planning” So Important?

All too often, people make the mistake of skipping the “plan” phase. Instead, they jump feet first into doing the work they think should be done to get people on board with a change. While taking the time to engage in thoughtful planning does take time and resources, creating a plan is much more than an exercise. It’s the tactical road map to achieving the ultimate vision and goals of the project. Without a plan, you’re more likely to hit roadblocks and unnecessary detours. Don’t take shortcuts…take the time to plan!

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?

Manager Disengagement and How To Solve It

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Written by Luke Rees

Managers are currently the main factor determining whether other employees are engaged in their work. According to Gallup’s most recent survey,[1] managers account for up to 70 percent variance in employee engagement in the US.

What can be done to make managers more accountable to their employees, and also to ensure that they themselves are committed to seeing their workforce enjoy coming to work?

In a separate study from Gallup[2], just 35 percent of U.S. managers were found to be engaged in their jobs, and this cycle of dissatisfaction is taking its toll on productivity. Estimates stand in the area of $450 billion to $550 billion annually of how much money disengagement is costing the American economy.

It’s time companies instilled a more evidence-based culture of accountability, with managers setting the prime example.

Managers Often Fail To Recognise The Problem

Management require a skillset that is not as readily defined as other staff roles, hence why great managers are so rare. They include skills like motivating others, building trusting relationships, and making unbiased decisions for the good of their team.

Due to the elusiveness of these skills and the difficulty that lies in judging if someone has them, managers are frequently miscast. The majority promoted to management positions were typically high performers in their professional field. However, they have never been given formal training on how to take on a leadership role, and have therefore never been responsible for engaging others. In fact, they don’t even recognise the importance of employee engagement and how focusing on this issue can greatly improve productivity.

Make Your Managers Especially Great Communicators

Frank and frequent communication is the foundation of any strong relationship, and relationship-building is the key to management. Hence, the single most effective way for managers to improve their relationships with employees, is to create a culture of open and honest communication.

Simple as it sounds, this is not an easy task. To meet workers’ needs and to ensure each individual feels that leaders hear their opinions, companies need to establish working channels to gather feedback from all levels of the organization.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Hold regular employee-focused meetings and encourage all employees to contribute to the discussion.
  • Have an ‘open-door’ policy with regards to employee feedback. This doesn’t mean simply keeping your door open during office hours, but also actively interacting with employees and getting to know them personally.

Make Your Managers More Accountable  

Accountability is probably the main factor helping to make mangers better at their jobs. Self-awareness is essential for building an environment of trust and accountability, as emotionally and socially aware managers are generally able to build the strongest relationships with others.

To help make self-reflection habitual in your organisation, all employees should feel like they can give guiltless feedback when a manager is not pulling their weight. Manager feedback surveys,[3] for example, are a useful and anonymous tool for doing this. In a reverse of the performance appraisal, this survey allows employees to voice grievances anonymously, whilst creating a clear culture of accountability based on data insights.

Managers should be constantly thinking about how to improve the performance of others, and they do that best when they are held accountable to their own performance.






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