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.

 

 

Create Purpose. Create Relationships. Create Engagement.


Purpose.com Pumpkinfest

 

Each of us have experiences within the context of the video below. We all volunteer, give back to our communities, or do things simply because we enjoy them. Said another way, we live our lives with purpose.

 

Our shareholders have a purpose for investing in us. Our employees have a purpose for working with us. And, our customers have a purpose for buying from us.

 

With this in mind, we are called to create the purpose for our teams in order to shape our shareholder, employee, and customer value propositions. While creating a purpose in your organization has many desirable effects, I want to focus on the correlation of purpose to relationships to engagement.

 

By creating a purpose, we create an opportunity for our teams to build a relationship with the company on a professional, personal, and even an emotional level.

 

  • Professional – A fair exchange of value for money exists. Your skills and role are matched.
  • Personal – A sense of pride comes through, where the employer offers value beyond compensation to include things like learning, attractive experiences, and shared beliefs/culture.
  • Emotional – In these situations, you likely work with people whom you consider some of your closest friends. Said another way, you likely have shared experiences in your work life that reflect relationships and experiences similar to high school or college.

 

Through purpose, you plant the seed of employee engagement that can grow to bear the fruit of professional, personal, and emotional engagement. Of course, you need more than purpose (e.g. values, culture, etc.) for the fruit to ripen, but it all starts with purpose. In turn, engagement of your teams ultimately translates into great products and customer service, thus fulfilling the stakeholder, customer, and employee value propositions mentioned above.

 

What do you do to create an environment to work together with a purpose? Start with purpose, and invest in employee engagement to position your team to delivery the best possible products and services to your customers.

 

 

Words + Actions = Trust.


How do you create an environment of trust in your teams? Whether you have a new team or a team that has worked together for many years, how much time do you spend as a leader building trust?

20120707-130627.jpg

Trust should be a competitive differentiator in your team. Of course! Who would debate that statement? However, easier said than done.

Think about the last 3-4 years and the erosion of trust in our society. What feelings do these words arouse in you: Enron, Madoff, Martha Stewart, Financial Bailout?

Our opportunity as leaders of change is to create teams that inspire trust with our internal (employees, managers, colleagues) and external (customers, suppliers, partners) teammates. Try some of these ideas:

  • Create your opportunity for trust with words, then follow with action.
  • Choose to believe in your teammates and tell them that you do.
  • Model trust. Be trustworthy. Do as you say and say a you do.
  • Seek opportunities to create trust in individual, small team, and large team settings.
  • Bring teammates into your planning / actions / tasks. Let them put a fingerprint on the work of the team.
  • Delegate. Sharing responsibility with others demonstrates that you at a minimum, want to trust them.
  • Be candid and dispassionate. Honesty in communications without emotional interference can be a powerful leadership technique.
  • Have courage to be more trusting of others than they might be of you. Allow yourself to carefully demonstrate trust in others that might extend beyond your current relationship today.

To the extent that you can create a culture of trust within your teams you position your customers to consume that trust. Remember, being a customer of a company is a good mirror to what it is like to be an employee of that same company.

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.

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.

So, what have YOU transformed?


Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City
Image via Wikipedia

At a recent networking event, a colleague of mine challenged me with a question that seems very appropriate to share at this time of year. “So tell me, what you have transformed?” Truthfully, it is a great question that makes one stop and think for a minute.

As we head into 2011, the employment headlines, American automobile sales results, and just about every other alert I get is telling me that 2011 is already going to be a better year than 2010. But let’s not leave anything up to chance.

If 2011 is going to be better than 2010, it will be because of what we do to make it that way. For those of us who are engaged in change management endeavors, business transformation activities, or just making things better in the future than they are in the past, ask yourself “What have you transformed?” And might I suggest that you be critical of yourself in the past and aim high in 2011.