The #1 Change Technique


Rowing technique

 

Are you leading change in an environment with significant resistance? Are you placing the blame for the resistance on “them”? Do “they not get it”?

 

Of all the change techniques available to us, the most fundamental and pragmatic approach is to bring the impacted stakeholders of the change into the problem space.

 

How many times have you seen a large change or transformation get strategized, designed, built, and then deployed with little to no impacted stakeholder involvement? These approaches are often sold with rationalizations like…

 

1) We don’t have the talent to deal with this complex a problem.
2) We need outside perspective, not the same old way of doing things that our current employees built over the last several years.
3) If we acknowledge this change now by engaging our employees, we’ll lose control of the messaging and people will resist.
4) Its a competitive advantage to not let people know yet. We’ll include them when we are ready.

 

Secrets kill change.

 

You can mitigate resistance by…

 

1) Including the appropriate level and number of your impacted stakeholders in the understanding of the problem.
2) Designing the change solution based on some but not necessarily all the input of the impacted stakeholders.
3) Making champions out of the star impacted stakeholders who demonstrate a passion for change and “the new way”.

 

Bring your impacted stakeholders into the problem. Define “change success requirements” and you will lower the resistance.

 

 

Decide Fast, Learn Fast, Win Fast


Ready to Unleash Your Transformation? Focus on Decision Making.

How many time has this happened to you? Its Monday morning, and you just logged into your weekly staff meeting when you get an urgent call from senior management. They want you to call them immediately, join their conference call or maybe even come to their office to discuss why your company cannot move faster with your projects, change, strategy execution, technology, process improvements, etc.? At least 3 times this month? It happens everyday, and it happened again today. The pace of your change needs to be faster. It will happen again tomorrow! So, what do you do? For starters, I propose you start with your decision making.

A company can only move as fast as they make decisions. The effectiveness of decision making is like the speedometer for your project, change initiative, strategic endeavor, etc. If decisions are slow, your transformation will be slow. If decisions are fast, your company will be able to move forward faster. Decisions create actions that translate into tasks for people in the company to complete. No decisions, no actions, no tasks, no completion.

DecideFastLearnFastWinFastIn Leading Successful Change, authors Shea & Solomon propose to change an organization you need to change behavior. They elaborate further to describe 8 levers of change, one of which they describe as decision allocation. Simply put, think of this as “who decides what, and where?” There are models available to help you structure the decision making process. I personally prefer the DACI model: Driver, Approvers, Contributors, Informed because it is simple and emphasizes accountability in the role of Driver to make the decision happen.

Before we go rushing off to “just make more decisions, faster”, lets consider some drivers behind slower decision making. When companies lack action, they are indecisive. Indecision can be caused for may reasons including but not limited to: not enough information, too much information, and unclear roles and responsibilities. Said another way, people hesitate to make decisions because they fear the decision will not have the required quality demanded by the company.

This balance of speed vs quality can be challenging. Consider the classic 2×2 above to assist with guiding actions to improve your decision making. If you find yourself with fast decision making, but low quality, focus on learning faster from your low quality decisions. If you find yourself with high quality decisions but too much time to make them, focus on deciding faster by embracing more risk.

Make no mistake, if you make decisions faster you improve your company’s ability to move forward faster. Have you heard the old saying “Win Fast, Fail Fast“? While it is very applicable in this context, I prefer “Decide Fast, Learn Fast, Win Fast”. If you make decisions faster, and they truly lack the quality you desire, engage your learning capability and dial your learnings back into a new decision to ultimately win faster.

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Gamification of Change: 4 Principles


20130119-151135.jpgImagine one day you walk into your bosses office, and she tells you that she needs you to lead the newest and biggest change initiative in the company. It’s brand new, it’s sponsored by the CEO, the board is behind it, and there is no one better than you in the company to lead the team. All the opportunity you could hope for, along with all the risk!

Where would you start? Clearly this opportunity has many challenges including the validity of the strategy / initiative, funding, schedule, scope, politics, and adoption by the stakeholders. In this post, let’s focus on that last piece adoption.

In this new role, how will you win the hearts and minds of the employees so that they embrace the change and become devout evangelists not energy-sucking vampires? Let’s consider the use of gamification to increase adoption of the change. I propose that your change management efforts are ripe for Gamification.

Wikipedia defines gamification as “the use of game-thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts in order to engage users and solve problems. Gamification is used in applications and processes to improve user engagement, ROI, data quality, timeliness, and learning.”

Gamification has several attributes that make it perfect for your change management efforts.

It’s social. Change management efforts require thorough stakeholder analysis and comprehensive communication plans with well designed messages to address the stakeholders. All of these are required to make your initiative “become social” within your enterprise. With the advent of social media, you get a simplification of this work. Leverage social media capabilities in your change management efforts, and you are one step closer to gamifying your change.

It’s competitive. In social games there is a degree of winners and losers. A little healthy competition is frequently a good thing. However, within this context, the competition is less about “I win, you lose” and more about “We all are making progress against the goals of the initiative and racking up some points along the way!” Are you providing the opportunity for everyone to win a badge through your change? Does everyone get to accumulate points, extra rounds, extended time?

It’s rewarding. Everyone likes to win, why not give everyone a chance to cross the finish line a champion? When everyone wins a badge, a round, a race, or trophy they are a champion for a moment. After all, leading change, is not about everyone crossing the finish line at precisely the same time, it’s about building and sustaining momentum thereby moving your stakeholders closer and closer to the finish line. Reward them along the way! If it’s not clicking yet, give Foursquare a try to see if you can become the mayor of somewhere!

It’s fun! When is the last time you said to a colleague in work “Wow, that change project was a blast!! What an expereince!” Why not? Why don’t we aspire to the same experience you have playing Temple Run or Angry Birds. How might you and the team you are leading feel if their change project was just a little more like Temple Run? Let’s make it more fun for our stakeholders!

Maybe you are leading a large change initiative now as a change / project manager or sponsor. Take a bold step and consider “how can I gamify my change project?” Get on your favorite mobile device and play a game, see how you feel about it and imagine that feeling in your stakeholders. Then, try it and let me know how it goes!

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Project Canaries


Yellow-fronted Canary (Serinus mozambicus)
Yellow-fronted Canary (Serinus mozambicus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On my way home today, I heard a classic song from my youth, Canary in a Coalmine by The Police. This song reminded me of a book that I have found to be insightful and a concept within Business Transformation that is worth expanding upon here.

The book is Corporate Canaries: Avoid Business Disasters with a Coal Miner’s Secrets, by Gary Sutton. The premise is that just like coal miners used to bring canaries into their coal mines as a form of early detection system for poisonous gas, there are corporate canaries that can serve as a similar form of early detection system for corporate death or failure.

So, on my ride home inspired by The Police, I began to capture some project canaries, or project level warning signs that can show a toxic environment within your project, programs, or portfolios. Here they are in no particular order:

  • The business should make business decisions and technology should make technology decisions.
  • If you don’t have the business defined, you don’t know your destination.
  • If you don’t have a schedule, you don’t know when you will arrive at your destination.
  • If you don’t have “one throat to choke”, you don’t have any accountability.
  • If you don’t have organizational roles & responsibilities understood, you can’t make decisions.
  • The project can only move as fast as decisions are made, and kept.
  • If you don’t communicate, others will define their perception as your reality.
  • If you don’t manage your budget, you don’t have control.

Think of these bullets as canaries in your project. Find the shelf for them to prop them up and watch to see if they keel over. Keep your eye on them as you traverse your project environment, organizational culture, and hallway passages.

What is Your Transformation Engine?


“In the future, the real core competence of companies will be the ability to continuously and creatively destroy and remake themselves to meet customer demands.”

Noel Tichy, Author of The Leadership Engine

Animation of a radial engine.

The concept of re-inventing ourselves is not new. There are countless examples of this mantra in history (think about the U.S.S.R, Germany, or China) and our contemporary culture (think of the TV show The Biggest Loser or the movie The Pursuit of Happyness). The concept rarely lacks lustre. The real challenge surrounds your willingness and ability to reinvent  yourself. How do you reinvent yourself? Your team? Your company? Your community?

From a transformation perspective, the challenge is to create an engine that will drive your change agenda to produce your desired results. To make this happen, a couple of key questions should to be answered to set you off in the right direction, including but not limited to:

  • Do you know where you are going? What are your desired financial results? What are your desired non-financial results? How do these two sets of results relate to each other?
  • How will you drive the transformation? Who serves as the gas pedal? Who serves as the brakes? How do you minimize stepping on the gas and the brake simultaneously?
  • Who are the brains of your transformation? Do you have enough? Do you have the right ones? Are they performing to your needs?
  • Where is the heart of your change agenda? Is your team engaged? Have you won the hearts and minds of the team?
  • Would you describe your transformation engine as “command, control, & authority”, “collaborative innovation”, or “priority driven teamwork”?
  • Are you unleashing the professional, personal, and emotional capacity of the team to maximize your opportunity for success? If not, why not? What can you do differently to make this happen?
  • As with any engine, what is  your fuel? Are you maintaining your engine? Is it working in concert with the other moving parts or are they out of sync components?

Behind every result, good or bad, there are a series of events. And behind those events are people making decisions, or not, that impact the future. If you know your desired results, you are one step ahead of most. With the benefit of understanding the desired results, your challenge is to identify the transformation engine and associated capabilities that will propel you to deliver your desired financial and non-financial results.

Talent vs Production by Herm Edwards


YouTube – Herm’s Message To Rookies.

In the United States, the NFL season is upon us, or not. I hope the owners and players come to a settlement, but that is not what I want to share today.

In preparation for the upcoming NFL season, the league held its rookie seminar to welcome the newest players into the league, a fantastic ritual to incorporate into any organization. At this year’s session (and apparently others), ex-NFL player and coach,, Herm Edwards addressed the players. The video is linked above. Herm Edwards happened to play for my hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles. While I recognize, I might be biased in my appreciation for him, he hits the nail on the head with this excerpted speech above. I hope the NFL / ESPN posts more of this comments.

Paraphrasing…”You were born with talent. You didn’t learn it. You didn’t go to the store to get it. It was given to you.” Very true words, in my humble opinion. While I am big believer in effort, and hard work, talent is hard to overcome, particularly at the NFL level of sports. Don’t misunderstand me, effort can make up for some lack of talent. I personally believe the harder you work, the luckier you get. However, this is not the point of this discussion.

Herm hits the nail on the head by differentiating talent from production. In the NFL, this is very apparent. There are many players who were drafted in the first round including even Heisman trophy winners who never lived up to their talent. They failed to produce. In the business world, you might say “they didn’t deliver” or “they failed to execute.”

Inspired by Herm’s comments towards the end of this video, don’t let your talent under-perform. If you consider yourself talented, make sure that you are delivering results. No one ever wants these things to happen, and as leaders it your challenge to make sure this doesn’t happen. At the same time, on the flip side, don’t let talent replace performance. Talent is important. We all want to surround ourselves with talented people, but managing a highly talented team, leading them to victory takes a different leadership style than managing a team with minimal talent.

Finally, as an individual, if you find yourself “basking in the glow” of your talent, but cannot explain your results, check yourself. As a leader of teams, hire for talent and pay for results. And remember, “you play to win the game”.

 

Do you have white knuckles?


How often do you find yourself holding on a little too tight? Do you have a “kung-fu grip” on your project, program, responsibilities, transformation, and/or life?

In a recent exchange with colleagues, we discussed this phenomenon. Enterprise transformations have pros and cons and tendency to cause white knuckles more often than not. One of the pros is the once in a lifetime journey that these endeavors provide, and one of the cons is the once in a lifetime journey that these endeavors provide!

Enterprise transformations are launched with the goal of rebuilding companies through significant change. You might think having the right goals, organizational structure, products, feasibility to meet financial commitments, partners, go to market strategy, etc. are the key to your transformation. While all these are vitally important to the end result of the transformation, I would suggest that to truly thrive in these environments, you look inside yourself and embrace your own personal change on the following 4 levels:

  1. Intellectual – What is your capacity to deal with complexity, unexpected challenges, first of a kind problems, thinking on your feet, etc.?
  2. Physical – Quite simply, how healthy are you?
  3. Emotional – How do you deal with adversity, ambiguity, self-confidence, self-doubt, self-awareness, conflict?
  4. Spiritual – What do you believe? Who do you believe in? What are your life philosophies? From where do you draw energy?

Do you know if you are holding on too tight? How? Do you know when you are squeezing the life out of your project, program, teammates, friends, family? Enterprise transformations will undoubtedly challenge your capacity across these 4 personal levels. What investments will you make to change your intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual capacity?

If this resonates with you, you may want to check out Noel Tichy‘s famous book “The Leadership Engine”. In this book he describes that each of us lead based on three concepts: Ideas, Values, and E3 (emotional energy, & edge). Noel’s model is very useful, and put into practice can help you understand your personal leadership model, which in turn will help you navigate the intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual growth offered via enterprise transformations.

No matter what leadership model, or personalization you inject into your enterprise transformation, recall that it is unacceptable for any one person in a transformation to acknowledge that the enterprise is undergoing drastic change, but not them personally.