Tag Archives: change guides

Assessing Effort to Manage the People Side of Change

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For years, people have asked us how we “scope” consulting work on projects. So we finally decided to create a tool that captures how we decide how much effort will be required to manage the people aspects of a change. The tool is called the Change Management Effort Assessment.  The tool will be included in the upcoming second edition of The Change Management Pocket Guide.

Sure, we would love it if you ran out and go the book, but you can think about these same ideas on your own to assess how much effort will be involved in managing the people side of an organizational change.

Of course, like any tool, it is not a magic bullet. But it provides the process and the critical considerations to define how much effort will be required to plan and execute an effective change management strategy.  When deciding how many resources to apply to a change management project, it is important to consider both the degree of the change, as well as the expected difficulty of managing the change.

The degree of the change is an assessment of how broad the change will reach, and how different the new ways of working are from the current ways. The things to think about when assessing the degree of the change are: how many people are impacted by the change, the severity of the gap between the way things are done today and the way they need to be done in the future, and the extent to which there are other projects or changes going on within the environment that will add complexity to the change.

The difficulty of managing the change includes many factors that make changes more challenging to manage. They include things such as the involvement of unions or legal issues, the volume and frequency of communications that will be needed, the level of training that will be required, and the degree of changes in performance measures and HR structures that will be needed to support the change.

Situations that involve a “low degree of change” and a “low difficulty of managing the change” naturally require less resources than situations that have higher degrees of change or more difficulty in managing the change. Based on the results of the assessment, managing change could be an activity that is managed by a team member along with their other project responsibilities, or a full change management team that is dedicated to managing the people aspects of the change.

Of course, every change is unique. A change that impacts 30,000 people around the world by asking them all to change one small thing that they do on a weekly basis has a high degree of change, and is very complex (think about the language and time zone issues, the different leadership structures that need to be involved, etc…). At the same time, a change that impacts only 50 people but changes their entire jobs from top to bottom also has a high degree of change, and is very complex (think about the changes in compensation and benefits that might result, the potential for letting some people go, etc…).

Don’t forget to use what you know about the organization, the change, and the people involved. But using a Change Management Effort Assessment will help you get a good head start on defining how much effort will be needed to manage the people aspects of the change.

If you want to see our version of a Change Management Effort Assessment, check out the Change Guides website (www.changeguidesllc.com) to find out when you can get a copy of the upcoming Change Management Pocket Guide.   And let us know how it is working for you!

What Kind of Person Manages Change?

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Change is tough for organizations, and helping people navigate through change takes a special kind of person.  There are of course leaders that need to champion and sponsor change.  But there are also people that need to actually manage the change and help people in the organization work through the transition.

There is a lot of hard work involved in helping people in an organization change the way they work.  So what are the characteristics of great change managers?

  1. They’re empathetic. The ability to continuously ask and answer the question “what would I want and need if I were in their shoes” is a critical skill for an effective change manager.  Having empathy and understanding what others are experiencing and what will help build commitment is the core of managing change. When it comes down to it, anyone who has a good strong sense of the golden rule (“do unto others as you would have others do unto you”) has the basic stuff to be a good manager of change.
  2. They’re good communicators. That may seem obvious, but it is really an important skill for successfully managing change.  Good change managers communicate simply.  They interpret complex messages and distill them down to simple, easy bits.  Effective change managers tailor their message to their audiences, and they use lots of different communication vehicles well.
  3. They are naturally influential and generate informal authority.  Effective change managers naturally draw others to them.  They don’t need formal authority to have influence over others and they are able to leverage their networks to make things happen.  They are persuasive and likeable.
  4. They have courage. It is not always easy being on the front lines of an organizational change.  Change managers are often times put in a position to be “representing” the interests of the people impacted by change with the people who are creating change.  That can put the change manager in situations where they need to say and do things that are unpopular.  They may need to tell leaders and or associates things that they don’t want to hear.  Change managers need to be willing to call things like they see them, even if it is unpopular and not typically expected in an organization.
  5. They are discreet and maintain confidences.  Change managers can be put in positions of having sensitive information.  During focus group meetings, interviews, or just hallway conversations, it is not uncommon for people to share specific information about specific individuals with change managers.  If a change manager divulges information that they have agreed to keep private even once, they lose credibility and trust.  It is imperative that change managers know how to keep a secret.
  6. They’re organized.  Some people assume that managing change is mostly art and little science.  But managing change usually requires tremendous exercises in logistics and orchestration.  Being organized is a critical skill for effectively managing change.
  7. A bias for action.  Change management has a bad reputation among people who think managing change is only about asking questions and analyzing people.  Managing change is both art and science.  While questions should be asked and assessments made, real change comes when action takes place.  If someone doesn’t actually do something with the results of assessments, the exercises are moot.
  8. They get their hands dirty.  Change managers can be speaking to executive committees in the morning, and stuffing envelopes in the afternoon. Good change managers are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get stuff done.  Anyone who is not able or willing to dig into the nitty gritty (editing a poster, developing talking points for leaders, editing an agenda for an important meeting) is not going to be as effective managing change as someone who is.
  9. They are subject matter experts in the field of organizational change management.  They understand the human and organizational dynamics of change, as well as the many methodologies that describe ways that change can be managed.  In addition to general change management understanding, great change managers have experience in several different change environments to see how change unfolds.  Having “stories” to share is always helpful when managing change.
  10. They are personally comfortable with ambiguity and change.  An effective change manager can navigate through ambiguity relatively well, and is more comfortable than others working in a changing environment.  Being part of a change project is by its very nature an environment of change.  But it is also true that most changes are not linear, stable activities.  There are ups and downs, periods of acceleration and periods of deceleration.  People who are not comfortable with the ebbs and flow and the ambiguity of change (scope changes, a new leader that enters the picture, changes in direction) will have a tough time effectively managing change.  An effective change manager quickly assesses a shifting situation and adapts to the new environment.  And they don’t get upset or anxious about it.

Changing for the Workforce of the Future

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Can you imagine fully half of the people who work for your company being either contractors, temporary workers, or freelancers?  That may very well be the future we face.

A 2012 Economic Intelligence Unit Study shows that by the year 2030, 50% of the workforce will be made up of contingent workers.  The U.S. contingent workforce is made up of self-employed individuals, independent service firms, entrepreneurs and temporary workers. By 2020, 40 percent of American workers, or nearly 65 million people, will be contingent, and shortly thereafter that percentage is expected to rise to 50 percent.

Others confirm that the use of contingent workers is already on the rise, and will continue.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as reports from the Staffing Industry Analysts, a research and advisory firm focused on staffing and contingent labor, have demonstrated that the number of contingent workers has been increasing year over year for a few years.  And in June 2011, over 34% of the 2000 organizations surveyed by the McKinsey Global Institute said they plan to use more temporary labor in the next five years.

The trend is clear.  But are organizations ready for it?

Work in the future will be more collaborative, flexible, and goal oriented.  Temporary workers will need to be sharp, and stay sharp, to keep their jobs.  An organiztaion with more and more people flowing into and out of it will need to be radically different than today.

A current client of ours is working on a large project that requires a lot of consultants.  A full time staff person spends over 80% of her time giving out and tracking computers that are given to consultants.  Can you imagine if half of their workforce was contingent?  If the task of managing assets is so cumbersome now, the process and technology implications of a 50% contingent workforce would be astounding.

We have several large clients that are working on becoming more “digitally enabled” in order to meet the needs of their customers.  But with all we have heard from clients about embracing technology to meet the needs of future customers, we have not heard any talk at all about how to be more digitally enabled to meet the needs of their future workers.   The shift to more temporary workers will change how an organization works with its people in profound ways.

Current technology certainly makes workers more “plug and play” ready.  But it will need to make significant strides to meet the needs of a future more transient workforce.

Our clients will have to re-think how they manage people, how groups form and disband to tackle work, how people are on-boarded and rolled-off, how corporate cultures are built and maintained, how they attract and evaluate temporary workers.

They will also need to embrace technology and new digital technologies in an entirely new way. More digital maturity can help organizations build stronger connection to their staff… especially temporary staff.  Not only allowing access, but also targeting communication, facilitating relationships between roles, connecting people to other people and ideas.

Organizations that will win with workers of the future will be more mobile, and will be more agile by providing more personalized or customized needs for each temporary worker.  They will flex based on the work, the location, the worker, and the required interfaces with other people within the organization.

If you are thinking about where your organization will be in 20 years, think about your customers, your products, and your markets.  The demands they place on your organization will certainly challenge you to change.  But also think about your staff.  You might be surprised at the magnitude of change that meeting their unique needs challenges you to also.

Organizational Muscles to Manage Change

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We have been working with several large organizations lately that are trying to build their internal ability to manage ongoing change.  Change is the new normal for many organizations.  Managing how people adapt and adopt change is something that many are seeing as a critical competency.

Change Management is the discipline of helping people in an organization get ready, willing, and able to work in new ways that are required by a change.   Many leaders that see a long string of changes ahead of them are looking to build an internal Change Management competency.  They, in effect, are trying to build their change muscles so that they can handle the seemingly endless series of changes headed for them.

Organizations that build a Change Management competency do a few things.

First, they foster leadership sponsorship for employing Change Management.  Leaders at the highest levels know what Change Management is and why managing change will help them change more successfully.  And they are committed to making Change Management a strong capability in the organization.  They are willing to stand up in front of the effort,  to put money where their mouth is, and walk the talk.

Second, these organizations use a common methodology and model  for managing change.  Having a common Change Management framework across the organization builds a common language that shapes the way people think and talk about change.  A common model also introduces methods and tools that can help people in the organization actually do the work of managing change.


Third, organizations that have a Change Management competency have a broad based understanding of the value of Change Management throughout all levels of the organization.  Everyone has a baseline understanding of why people make the difference between successful organizational change and unsuccessful change, and why managing change is important.

These organizations also each have a strong and capable Change Management team.  A group of people in the organization who are focused on supporting the organization as they begin incorporating Change Management into their projects and change efforts helps the new practices take hold.  The Change Management group has highly capable team members, clear roles and responsibilities, and an appropriate or organization structure.

Lastly, organizations that have a strong Change Management competency reinforce effectively managed change.  When projects succeed because teams have helped people in the organization engage and adopt new work, they are celebrated and rewarded.  Leaders eagerly to put effective changes in the limelight, and the organization learns what successful change looks like.

If you see change coming at your organization like a speeding train, don’t hide.  Instead, develop a change management competency.   That way, you can face change head-on now, and you will be ready for all of the changes to come in the future.

Fact and Fiction about 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.

FACT:  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.

FACT:  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.

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

FACT:  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.

FACT:  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.

FICTION:  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)

FICTION:  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)

FICTION:  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)

FICTION:  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.

FICTION:  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 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. Pay attention to the facts, ignore the fiction, and make your change successful!

Organizational Learning… It’s Not Just for Hotel Ballrooms Anymore

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Truly exceptional organizations facilitate continuous learning and
transformation.  In order to bring about effective organizational change, individuals within an organization needs to be ready, willing, and able to work in new ways… over and over again!  That means that the individuals who make up the organization continuously learn and transform.

Organizational learning is tricky business these days.  People are busy.  Budgets are tight.  And adults are not really programmed to learn in the same ways that most of did when we were in school.

Adults at work learn in lots of different ways.  There is of course experiential learning that takes place every day through interactions, mentoring relationships, and on the job activity.  But there are also crafted learning experiences like training and workshops that are critical components of a continuous learning strategy.

Continually educating the workforce so they can work smarter, leaner and faster can be very expensive if we think about learning from our traditional viewpoints.  Everyone in a classroom.  Days away from the job.  The dreaded hotel conference or ball room.  These models can still work, but there are other options.  With geographically dispersed workforces, as well as ongoing demands of our jobs, looking at virtual options for learning only makes sense.

One concern that comes to mind when looking to virtual forms of learning is the loss of the benefits of interactions with a trainer and classmates.  With live virtual events (“live” meaning that the training takes place with a live teacher and classmates, “virtual” meaning that the group does not sit in the same physical room but shares an electronic or virtual room), the benefits of live training can be paired with the benefits of virtual training.

When facilitating organizational change, there is almost always the need to help people learn new ways of working.  Being creative about the way training is delivered (in one shot or broken up into small bits over time, in one location or from disparate locations) can reduce resistance to training and even improve the effectiveness of the learning.

If people in your organization need training to be effective at whatever change
you are trying to implement, think about how to best deliver that training so that you can meet the demands of the learners as well as the change.

Building an Organization that Can Change Again and Again

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You don’t need a lot of research to show you that change in organizations is an ever increasing phenomena.  New technologies, new products, new competitors, new regulations, new people with new values and experiences.  Every day, organizations try to stay one step ahead of their competitors by changing to meet the needs of their customers either cheaper or faster or both.

Not too long ago, many started recognizing that change within organizations needed to be proactively managed.  Those that were forward- thinking started working explicitly to help the people in their organizations get ready, willing, and able to work in new ways that were required for future success.

Those that hoped people would just “get with the program” or “do what I said because I said so” have lived (and died) with the results of low productivity, engagement, and performance relative to their more enlightened competitors.

For the organizations that have worked hard to manage the people aspects of change explicitly, the rewards have been forthcoming.  But change is speeding up.  As soon as one change is “complete”, it seems another is starting up.  Just paying attention to managing the people aspects of organizational change will not be good enough as time goes by.  The organizations that thrive in the long
term need to develop an organizational change competency.  Change needs to become part of an organizations culture and DNA.

Given the pace of business change today and in the future, building a change management competency is going to be a clear competitive advantage for organizations of the future.  Organizations that are really good at helping their people move from thinking and acting in existing ways to thinking and acting in new ways that are required for the organization’s success are the ones that are going to beat their competition every time.

For lots of years, organizations have viewed change as an event.  Implementing an ERP system.  Reengineering processes.  Redesigning an organization.  Spinning off a division or merging with another entity.  Some have grinned and bared it just waiting for the pain to stop.  Others have learned to muscle through with less pain, but memories that are less than fond.  And still others have gotten pretty good at managing these kinds of change events.

Organizations range from having no change management focus or skill at all, to complete integration and competence in managing the people side of change.

What does it take to build an internal change management competency?  Some organizations are building change management functions or centers of expertise (such as Motorola).  Having a team of people who are dedicated to focusing only on the human elements of change ensures that it is not forgotten.

Other organizations are developing and adopting common tools and techniques that can be used across an organization to manage change.  For example, Johnson & Johnson has their “Change Integration Process” and General Electric has their “Change Acceleration Process”.  The use of a common language and approach to manage the people aspects of change speeds up the process of managing change and instills a mindset that helping people navigate through change is important.

If you don’t want to create your own model for managing the people aspects of change, then adopt one that’s out there already that fits your organization’s level of sophistication and experience.  Start letting people in the organization know why managing change is important.  The act alone of teaching staff about a change management process and tools sends a powerful signal to employees that
the people part of change is important.  And build the skills, tools, and common language to help people start doing the work.

Change management is the next frontier of business improvement for organizations of all sizes.  Just as Six Sigma and Lean started with big companies and “trickled down” to smaller organizations and became a real competitive advantage for some, effectively managing ongoing change is starting to trickle down.  If you can be ahead of the next guy by building an organization that is capable of managing people during change, you won’t be sorry.

Priority #1 During Change: Leadership Alignment and Sponsorship

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Studies over the years have continued to confirm what you may have already suspected… the greatest contributor to successful organizational change is leadership.  In a studies of hundreds of companies and their change efforts, “Strong Executive Sponsorship” was cited three times more frequently
than any other contributing factor to successful change  by Prosci (Best Practices in Change Management) in both 2005 and 2009.

If your organization is currently undergoing or contemplating a change, the focus should be on leadership.  There are two elements of leadership that should be fully understood and addressed:

  • Alignment – the extent to which leaders are “on the same page” about what the change is, why it is important, what it will mean to the organization
  • Sponsorship – the things that leaders are actually doing to demonstrate their support for a change such as contributing resources, attending key meetings, and encouraging others to work with the project team

Understanding the degree of leadership alignment and sponsorship around the change and identifying and addressing leadership issues will position the change for success.

Collecting information about leadership alignment and sponsorship that you need doesn’t have to be a big deal.  A few candid discussions and well conducted interviews can do the trick.

Where are We Going? A Team Needs a Shared Purpose

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We recently started working with an organization that is the victim of it’s own success.

A few years ago, this organization was in a phase of explosive growth.  Customers were knocking on their doors, recruiting could barely keep up, and earnings grew and grew.

While growth skyrocketed, they were challenged to field the calls as the phone practically rang off the hook, hire people fast enough to meet the demand, and not mess up their product in the meantime.  They developed new products on the fly when customers asked for new things.  They grew their customer base.  Their headcount ballooned.

Activities that were once done by a small group of guys who could work in a conference room were being done by hundreds of people in several departments and locations.

But, as the saying goes, what goes up must come down.  Actually, they are still kicking some serious you-know-what in the market.  But growth has slowed with the
economic downturn, competitors have cropped up that are giving them a run for their money, and the leadership team has realized that they have become disconnected from the business and each other.

The executives have been so focused looking down to meet the needs in front of them, that they have not done a terrific job of looking forward to the future (where are we going?), or sideways (how does what I am doing link to what you are doing?).

In the rush of the boom times, the executives started to view their peers as barriers rather than as enablers or supports.  They spent as little time together as possible, and when they did get together they became frustrated with each other and got hung up in tactical
details of their business.  They operated in silos.  They developed some level of
frustration with each other.  And they started to think that this group just didn’t trust each other.

While their business results are far from terrible, they are certainly not what they used
to be.  Leaders realize it is time for a change before it is too late.  If this organization is going to thrive in its next phase of maturity, it needs to figure out what the heck it wants to be, and how the executive team is going to take them there.

As the executives have been thinking about how they plan for and execute a long range plan that will take their organization into its next phase of growth, it has become clear that they are all coming from different places.  It was no wonder they aren’t operating well as a team.  They don’t even have a common definition of what it meant to win the game.

The fact that they all have different expectations about what it means to win and what role each of them and their organizations should play in winning, reinforces siloed behavior and erodes the interpersonal dynamics in the team.

If I think we win our game by scoring lots and lots of goals, but you think we win by making sure the opponent doesn’t score more goals than we do, we are coming at the
game from a different mindset.  If we are both be on the field but playing with a different strategy, then we are doing things that we can easily mis-read as either undermining or incompetence.

A group of really strong people with a shared purpose can lead an organization almost anywhere.  A group of really strong people with different ideas about their shared purpose can lead an organization pretty much nowhere.

This group doesn’t need trust-falls or hand holding.  They just need to agree on a few basic questions.  What do they want to be?  What customers will they serve and what products will they offer?

When the executive team can answer those questions and agree to stick to their decisions, they will see that the next phase of growth and maturity for their organization can be just as exciting and enviable as the last.

Change is a marathon, not a Sprint

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We have a client that is smack-dab in the middle of a significant change effort. The team is getting tired. They feel like they have been beating the drum forever. They can’t understand why people don’t just GET IT and CHANGE.

But change is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s easy to get mired in the details and lose sight of the success that is slowly building.

When stepping back and looking at what they have actually achieved since getting started, the situation looks a litlte better. They still have a long way to go, but progress is progress. Every step counts.

Take time to focus on what is going right. Remember that persistance is a key characteristic of a great change leader. If things are not going well, then update the plan. Find a way to work around obstacles.

And for all of those things are going well, even if a litlte slower than you would like, keep at it!