Friday, 27 November 2015

Your Customers Need You to Upgrade Even if Some Don't Know it Yet

I upgraded my smartphone this week. I didn't need a new phone for my current uses, but I upgraded because the nature of business communication is changing.

I primarily use my smartphone for calls, emails and texts, and as an alarm clock. More and more, smartphone use is eclipsing my basic needs. People are using them as their preferred business and education tool.

This trend was spotted two years ago by Soundview when they launched their on-line course division. I remember speaking with the CEO who predicted that most leadership development would soon be delivered via smartphone. To enable mobile use, my course, Building Your Change Capability, was filmed in bite-sized fifteen-minute segments that could be accessed anywhere at any time. Education is now mobile.

Statistics tell a compelling story of the expanded role they play in people's personal and professional lives:
  • Over 6.0 billion people use mobile phones  that's 87% of the world's population (Source: Global Web Index)
  • In 2015, the penetration rate of smartphones in Canada grew to 68%, representing a year-over-year growth of 24% (Source: Catalyst)
  • U.S. adults spend an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes a day using mobile devices (Source: eMarketer)
  • About 65% of information searches start on a smartphone (Source: Michaels & Associates)
  • 99% of mobile learners believe this format enhanced their learning, and 100% say they would complete more training in a mobile format. (Source: eLearning Industry)
  • By 2018, at least 70% of mobile professionals will conduct work on personal smart devices (Source: SailPoint)
This communication shift is important to my business and its customers. Part of what makes my change and capability solutions relevant is that they are delivered in formats that my clients use. They now must become more mobile friendly because this is where people's needs are going. To do this well, I must become more mobile savvy.

My first steps were to upgrade my hardware and change my behaviour. As I compared my new and old devices, it was clear that all specifications had been improved  power, connectivity, storage, image quality, screen size, camera features  to enhance the communication experience. Why did I wait this long to upgrade?

It was fascinating to hear the sales representative, Jerry, explain how he uses his smartphone; it enables all parts of his personal and professional life. I am next, I thought.

My learning curve has been amusing. My bigger, heavier phone felt like a brick the first time I made a call. Also, it peaked out of my front pocket as I left the store. Jerry said, reassuringly with a smile, "Don't worry, you'll get used to it."

Yesterday was day one of behaviour change. I started an on-line course on my smartphone. I also read the news and downloaded a F. Scott Fitzgerald book to read on my Kindle app. My new phone is becoming my preferred business and education tool.

The biggest takeaway from my upgrade experience is that we need to evolve with our customers, and ideally faster than they do. This is as true for the advertising agencies promoting customers' products in an increasingly digital world as it is for universities educating students located remotely around the world; relevance is defined by the people we serve. We must upgrade our mindsets, skills and behaviours, even if some of our customers don't know it yet.


Friday, 20 November 2015

Successful Change Requires Shared Ownership. Just Ask Gary Numan

Gary Numan is best known for his 1983 hit song, Cars. In the late 1970s, he pioneered an electronic 'New Wave' sound that dominated the airwaves a few years later. 

Since then he has released 18 new albums and continues to play concerts around the world.

This week a friend sent me a link to a crowdfunding site for Gary's new album. I was intrigued about why he chose this route since his last one, Splinter, had been critically and financially successful.

Gary explained that "with my new album I want you to be a witness to the entire process, from the very first note played, through every up and down as the days unfold...some days will be good, ideas will flow easily and I will be happy and excited. Other days will be awful, and I will be miserable...but this is the process."

I immediately signed up for the all-access package including a signed extended CD at the end of the experience. Supporting an artist I like and respect and getting an insider's view of how he creates music is an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

As I started receiving daily updates, I realized that this opportunity was much more than watching an artist create; it was an interactive endeavour where I was participating in the process. Today's post asked 'pledgers' to submit questions about the new album. I leapt into action hoping Gary would select my question to answer as part of a future Q&A post. I felt like I could be an input to his creative process. I thought hard about my question as if it mattered. 

So what does this have to do with change management? Let's say that Gary is a business leader who is responsible for a change. He says to the people who must implement the change that he wants them to be a witness to the entire process. From the very first step, through to the successful completion they will see all of it. Some days will be good where we make progress and some will will not where we will get stuck, but this is the process. 

Next, Gary provides daily updates on progress, sharing all the good and bad details. Then he asks them for their questions along with their names and where they are from. People do so eagerly, wanting to move their change forward. 

Gary, the business leader, has shared ownership of the change with his team and has engaged them in the process of changing, which has greatly increased the probability of its successful.

Sharing ownership of change is an essential success factor. To do so well you need to be:
  • Personally committed to the project  you still must be the most committed to the change of all contributors
  • Humble  you don't know all of the answers and you are keen to learn
  • Open to input  the best way forward is chosen regardless of who suggests it
  • Transparent about progress  especially when things aren't going well
  • Highly communicative  provide many updates and opportunities to share feedback
  • Generous with recognition  you couldn't have done it without people's excellent contributions
Close to 100 people had posted questions to Gary's pledge site within a few hours. I think the lesson for us all is how to create a following for the changes we are responsible for making in our personal and professional lives.

Perhaps it's a blend of our visible passion, commitment and ability to create something new with the opportunity to be an active contributor who is also responsible for the successful outcome. 

One thing is for sure: I believe I am a part of Gary's album experience. And as a part owner, I am all in.  


Friday, 13 November 2015

What You Read Shapes How You Lead

Years ago I remember a peer saying, "If you want to lead, read". I think this is true; reading builds people's knowledge, hones their communication skills and helps them create a compelling story of a better future, all important traits of good leaders.

An extension to this adage is that since readers are leaders, what they read shapes how they lead. Reading different resources broadens their critical thinking and leadership capabilities. Knowledge, perspectives and decision-making approaches are broadened through the understanding of multiple, and often contradictory, viewpoints. Conversely, reading from one resource narrows exposure to different ideas and limits their leadership capabilities. If they only read material from hammer manufacturers, then every opportunity and challenge looks like a nail.

The Change with Confidence Newsletter has been running for almost 2 1/2 years. Each month, MelTim and I each select two current articles or videos we find intriguing. Our goal is to expand thinking about change and how it impacts our lives. We provide brief descriptions and links so that people can view the ones that interest them. 

The November issue will be our 28th. I thought it would be interesting to map the sources of our selections to see if any patterns emerged. I wanted to test if our breadth of sources was aligned with our goal to expand our thinking.

It was encouraging to learn that we drew upon 101 sources for our 162 selections. The sites ran a broad spectrum from traditional to esoteric, from Business Insider India to the Barking Up the Wrong Tree blog

Our top 10 repeat sources were: Forbes (12), Harvard Business review (7), The Globe and Mail (7), C3Conversations (5), Fast Company (4), Huffington Post (4), The Atlantic (4), Big Think (4), BBC News (3) and The Washington Post (3).

It's good to know we are tapping into diverse sources of knowledge to expand our (and our readers') thinking on personal and business change. The assessment has reminded me that we need to push ourselves toward new knowledge sources to expand our leadership abilities. I will be sure to review where we have gone in the past so I forge new ground in the future.


p.s. Click here if you would like to receive our newsletter. The November issue will be out in a few days.

Friday, 6 November 2015

How to Gain Honest and Useful Feedback When Interviewing People About a Change

I am starting a type of  assignment that I really enjoy: interviewing people to uncover what is working and not working after a change has been launched.

The process required to uncover the 'truth' is both systematic and flexible: data gathering through conversation, pattern identification, hypothesis development and testing, and recommendation making. It's like building a puzzle where you need to create the pieces.

Conversations last between 30 and 60 minutes. In this time you need to stimulate interest in providing feedback, build rapport, ask questions, probe answers and take coherent notes. Time flies.

The best interviews are the ones that feel like conversations versus question and answer exchanges. They progress based on the interviewee's interests yet end with all questions being asked. 

As I was writing my interview guide, I wrote down these tips for gaining great observations, insights and actions that will make the change you are assessing more effective, embedded and valuable.

  • Create an interview guide including an opening welcome and closing thank you -- it ensures that you ask the same questions and don't forget to build rapport and show appreciation
  • Commit to anonymity of comments  opening the call by stating this pledge can increase the honesty and specificity of comments. Besides, sharing who said what is not relevant to your mandate and can be a distraction to stakeholders
  • Phrase each question in two ways, e.g. "What challenges are you facing/what can you no longer do that you could do before?"  one will better mirror the language patterns of the person you are interviewing
  • Ask interviewees if they have any questions -- it sets people at ease and builds rapport through the two-way exchange of information
  • The best final question is "What last thoughts do you have/what is one last piece of advice you have?"  often, the best information and insights are gained from this answer
  • Capture verbatim comments  they add credibility and reveal any emotions behind comments
  • Identify insights supported by verbatim comments  including the data behind your insights sets up a dialogue with the stakeholders about the validity of your conclusions 
  • Review questions with all stakeholders before the first interview  it ensures that you and all stakeholders are aligned
  • Invest 15 minutes after each call to organize your notes  this allows you to decipher your notes, compare the feedback with others and identify any emerging patterns
  • Make the interview enjoyable  they last longer and people will share with others that it was a good experience

Gaining feedback from people about a new way of working is an important element of the 'Making it Stick' phase of change. Discovering what is working, not working and how to make it better leads to improved implementation and outcomes. Effectively doing so can also build employee engagement and learning for future changes. Even better, it can become part of your culture of 'how we do things around here'.


Friday, 30 October 2015

A Murphy's Law Corollary: You Will Need a Plan B When You Don't Have One

Yesterday I gave a webinar hosted by the Change Management Institute. Everything was set for a great session until the power went out at my office three hours before the 12 noon start. Suddenly, everything was not as set.

I still had three hours, I assured myself. Even so, I assessed the situation. I couldn't get access to my presentation because it was trapped on my hard drive. Not good. I had sent a copy to the organizing team a week ago, but it didn't include my final changes.

My laptop was fully charged, but without internet access it was not of help. Not good. I needed a back up location to give my talk. 

Options included Starbucks, a local library and a friend's home. My friend's home was the only one that would be quiet and without distractions. Luckily she was home and open to hosting a webinar leader.

The power was still out at 11:00 am so I enacted Plan B and drove to my friend's home.I downloaded my older presentation from my Gmail account and was able to make the changes before participants signed into the webinar. The session began on time and went without a hitch.

After my adrenaline levels dropped to normal, I did a post analysis. With no Plan B I had added risk to my life and those of my partners. What surprised me was that I usually create a backup plan that includes contingencies for the 'what ifs' that can hamper a session. Why didn't I do so this time? 

Here are the steps I usually take:

  • Write the presentation at least two weeks beforehand (in case I get sick or need to manage unplanned commitments)
  • Schedule a dry run session the week before to test technology and content flow 
  • Ask "What could go wrong?" and identify a fallback solution for each answer
  • Have a backup source of connectivity (e.g. laptop) turned on and ready to be used
  • Email my presentation to me and my partners the night before
  • Load my presentation onto a USB memory stick as an additional backup

Next week I am presenting another webinar. I now have scheduled time to create my Plan B. Also, all future speaking engagements have similar preparation sessions booked in my calendar. I have vowed not to forget Murphy's Law again. 


Friday, 23 October 2015

What does 'real change' mean to you?

A Canadian federal election was held this week resulting in the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, securing a majority government win. 

I was curious throughout the election about the Liberal's campaign slogan: 'Real Change'. What does it mean? When I went to the Liberal's website (, I saw my question at the top of the page followed by their three platform priorities: invest now in our future; help the middle-class; and open, honest government. 

What followed were 105 policy topic panes that formed a matrix. Clicking on each one revealed the party's position on that area and a costing plan to fund investment. Citizens were invited to rate the topic's importance, from 1 to 5 stars. An average of all other ratings was provided for comparison, similar to book reviews on Finally, people had the option of adding the topic to 'myPlatform', a personal record of important topics or issues.

I was intrigued that voters were encouraged to engage with the policy areas. Rating them gave people a voice with a political party seeking to win their vote. It also gave the Liberals a read on people's interests. A co-dependent community was being formed.

Even more impressive was the sharing of responsibility for action by helping citizens create heir own political agendas. In his victory speech, Justin Trudeau referenced the important role people play in his politics:"I know that I am on this stage for one reason and one reason only: because you put me here...You gave me clear marching orders."

Based on the Liberal's actions, real change means:
  • A personally committed leader
  • A vision of the future that is different, better and compelling
  • Shared ownership with all
  • Co-creation (through participation and engagement)
  • Prioritization (3-5 not 10 priorities)
  • Investment (and a plan to fund it)
  • Room for adjustment (through two-way dialogue and review)
When discussing the definition of'real change' with a colleague, I wondered how it differed from 'unreal change'. She said, "Oh, there is a lot of that around." It seems that real change, as defined by the Liberals, means successful change. It would be good to get a lot more of that around.


Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Do's and Don'ts of LinkedIn Introductions

LinkedIn is an excellent social networking platform. As its 'join now' internet page states, you can "connect, find, be found; power your career; and learn and share". I can't think of anyone I know through business who hasn't joined and created his or her own LinkedIn profile.

One way to connect is through the introduction feature that allows you to introduce two people in your network who could benefit from knowing each other. It can be an excellent way to support your connections. 

This week, I caught up with someone through LinkedIn who I had met while organizing a speaking engagement. She said, "I take pride in my LinkedIn network and want to ensure that people like you don't get solicited as a result of the connections I have." My considerate acquaintance raised an important watch-out: introductions can be unwanted and become burdensome commitments.

To be effective and appropriate, LinkedIn introductions need to have a specific purpose, such as connecting someone who is looking for information with a person who has it. Recently, I introduced someone who was considering making a career change with a person who had made the same move. The specific purpose of the introduction was to share experience, perspective and insights. It was a great match. 

General introductions typically aren't effective and can be viewed as impositions. Since there is no purpose other than to meet, they lack a catalyst for conversation and relationship building. Also, they can be seen as inappropriate by the party who isn't interested in making a new connection. Many people are overloaded and don't have time in their busy days (and nights) to chat when there is no concrete reason to do so. 

Here are my do's and don'ts of making LinkedIn introductions: 
  • Do make introductions between people who needs specific information with those who have it 
  • Do realize that you are asking a favour of the knowledge provider
  • Do ask yourself if you would welcome a similar request from one of your connections before making it
  • Do send a note to the information provider asking permission to make the introduction  this is the only way to be sure that the connection is welcome
  • Do state the purpose of the connection in your introductory note
  • Do provide an overview of each person's background to help kick-start the initial conversation
  • Do end your note by saying you hope the connection will be of mutual benefit
  • Do follow up to see how the exchange went  this will help you assess future connections
  • Do keep a record of your introductions so you have templates for future ones – it will also help you build your skill in introduction writing
  • Don't assume people have time to meet new people
  • Don't make general connections just because someone wants to meet a person in your network – most will come across as prospecting requests that will damage trust and harm your relationships
  • Don't make connections where the person requesting it only wants a favour from someone in your network (a job, an introduction into his or her network, etc.) 
  • Don't make multiple connections with the same person in your network without confirming he or she has the time and interest for them – if not, it is an imposition 
  • Don't make introductions to people in your network that you don't know – your introduction will not be seen as authentic if you can't recall how you know them
Your LinkedIn network is a professional community that you build, support and benefit from over time. Making connections between people who you know is one of the best features LinkedIn offers. Treating your community with respect by how you do so will make it and your relationships grow even stronger.  


Saturday, 10 October 2015

If at First You Don't Succeed, Focus on Your Thinking

A priority this week has been helping our son Charlie practice driving. This was his second attempt, just like his dad and mom had done when he was his age (it's genetic).

As we were returning home from a practice session, I asked Charlie a question I ask all leaders who are repeating an unsuccessful change initiative: what will be different this time? Charlie's answer was one I have never heard before. He said, "I am going to approach the test differently. Last time, my mind was focused on getting through the test instead of completing the activities that would have resulted in a pass. I was reactive, waiting for the instructor to direct me versus observing the road conditions and driving the car. 

Charlie's different attitude changed how he practiced, from repeating specific tasks around the test area to driving in different locations under new conditions. He was increasing his breadth of experience and skill.

Most leaders focus on activities or tasks when leading changes that haven't been successful in the past. They try to 'fix' past mistakes (actions and tactics) instead of rethinking the change (mindset). This results in minor tweaks when different approaches are needed to gain the outcomes. 

Successful change requires leaders to align mindsets, actions and behaviours to achieve challenging goals. The hardest to influence is mindsets because beliefs and viewpoints are deep-rooted in people's minds and organizational cultures. Pronouncements such as 'This is my leadership style' or 'this is how we do things around here' are typical and signs of inflexible thinking that lead to marginal change and repeat misses.  

Here are a few questions to consider when attempting a change for the second time:

- What didn't work the first time?
- What has to be true this time to be successful?
- How can I look at the change differently (to avoid what didn't work and do what is required to be successful)?
- What actions and behaviours will deliver my new approach?

Charlie passed his driving test with flying colours. The instructor even asked him to honk the horn at onlookers who were standing in his designated parking spot. He was now a certified motorist!

During our family celebration, Charlie reflected that his new approach worked well. He focused on his immediate environment -- would he have an advanced green light, would the traffic be too heavy to turn at the first parking lot entrance, etc. -- and completed each task as requested. He didn't feel rushed and was less nervous than he had been during his first test. 

Based on Charlie's lead, I am now going to ask a different question of leaders: How are you thinking differently about the change this time around? The answers will be a good predictor of success.


Thursday, 1 October 2015

15 Ways to Get Your Peers to Support Your Projects

A friend told me about someone who just got a big promotion. Two areas were being combined and he was asked to lead both of them. Priority one was to create his mandate for change, one that he believes will transform the whole company. 

Ambitious leaders like this one usually pour all of their passion, thinking and resources into building their agenda and a plan to deliver it. It's good work that is quickly completed by their team. The output is positively reviewed by their boss and the team that created it, which communicates that change is coming and creates a sense of progress and feeling of momentum. 

From a change perspective, what's wrong with this picture? This approach, although positive, lacks an important element required for success: the support and buy-in of peers. Agendas are made up of projects that impact departments or groups outside of the leader's domain, especially the ones that will transform the whole company. If peers in other areas aren't supportive of the projects, the initiative is likely to be ignored, paid lip service to or blocked. All of the passion, thinking and resources invested in the projects fail to produce the promised results.

A better approach is to gain peer support when starting to plan the agenda. This provides the opportunity to gain input, secure buy-in and avoid people feeling like the projects (and change) is being done to versus with them.

An important truism of change is that people support the work they create. They gladly advocate for and implement their own good work. The goal then is to invite peers to shape your agenda so that it becomes a co-owned initiative. Not doing so can trigger another change truism: people resist things they didn't create, often referred to as the 'not invented here' syndrome.

Here are fifteen ways to gain support from your peers:
  • Explain why the project or agenda is needed – for the department and the entire organization
  • Meet with each peer to discuss how the project could further his or her agenda – record the answers, measure and provide updates on them (both rational and emotional benefits)
  • Establish goals that all peers will benefit from
  • Include peers in launch articles or videos articulating why the project is important to them and the organization
  • Align project timing so that it doesn't conflict with other major project launches – if there is a conflict colleagues' focus will be diffused and support will be less than needed
  • Ask peers for advice on how to build the plan and how to measure success – people ignore metrics they do not value
  • Be clear on how they can help the project be successful – e.g. endorse the initiative to their teams, participate on a steering committee, take part in a panel discussion, share resources, etc.
  • Thank peers for their support before it is given – they will be more likely to honour them
  • Invite peers to assign a representatives to the project to ensure their needs are met
  • Secure time on regular cross-area meetings to provide updates on progress
  • Personally brief peers face-to-face on changes to the plan that will affect them before they are announced – this is time consuming, but essential; people can handle the truth, but they can't handle surprise
  • Communicate successes gained by peer teams as much, if not more, than your own – success breeds engagement
  • Attribute successes, in part, to the support provided by peers – it wouldn't have been possible without them, which is true
  • Send notes of appreciation to the peer representatives thanking them for their contributions (cced to their managers and area leader)
  • Include peers in lessons learned reviews at the end of the project – this will set up support for future projects

Most agendas and projects require cross-functional peer support to be successful. Sharing the design, ownership and success of them with peers will ensure that everyone wins. 


Friday, 25 September 2015

Creating a Vision for Change: Fight the Good Fight

I've been a music fan all my life. It's the hobby I spent most of my money on growing up. Audiophiles would call me a 'completest,' buying obscure tracks to own everything that my favourite bands created. In my teens, I bought a 'Cheap Thrills' concert ticket subscription for Maple Leaf Gardens, the hockey arena that most big acts played. Music was a foundation of my life.
As a teen in the 70s, I listened to rock, progressive rock, funk, disco, punk and new wave, depending on the year. One band I completely missed was Triumph.In the late 70s and early 80s, they had a few rock hits on Top 40 radio and a solid FM following. They were often compared with another Canadian trio Rush.

Last week, I heard their song, "Fight the Good Fight", one of their biggest hits.

It struck me that the lyrics include many key messages that a leader needs to make when launching a compelling vision for change.

The best visions are 'lived' by leaders who believe in their teams' ability to create a better future. They appeal to the hearts and minds of their colleagues. Winning over hearts ensures personal investment and engagement; winning over minds ensures agreement with the need for change.

Here are the key leadership messages included in Triumph's 'Fight the Good Fight':

  1. There is a danger we must address
  2. The signs are clear if you look for them
  3. We are up for the challenge
  4. It will be worth our efforts
  5. I am completely (and personally) committed to our goal
  6. I am passionate about it too
  7. Believe in the vision like I do
  8. I need your help
  9. I am confident in your abilities
  10. This is the chance you have been looking for to be your best
  11. This is your role in our success
  12. It's your choice to commit
  13. Give it your best
  14. It won't be easy
  15. I am here to help you be successful
  16. You will know what to do
  17. Join me
  18. Let's show them what we can do
This comparison reveals an interesting insight: a successful vision for change needs to align with people's personal visions. Tapping into their needs, wants and desires is the best way to align their mindset, actions and behaviours with successfully making the change. 

Perhaps that's what makes good song lyrics too.


Friday, 18 September 2015

What is better: depth or breadth?

Two years ago, I attended an exhilarating networking session initiated by Kevin O'Leary at Optimum Talent. Twelve people from diverse industries and backgrounds were invited to share their thoughts on three questions:
  • How are you making a difference in the universe?
  • What is your passion?
  • What is your personal formula for success?
It was a powerful experience and I was blown away by people's stories and ambitions. One-on-one coffee meetings afterwards extended my feelings of inspiration and good fortune. 

Last week, I attended a two-year check-up session again hosted by Kevin. Most original members attended, with a few sending regrets due to schedule conflicts. 

Hearing people's updates was just as stimulating as the first session. Everyone had progressed and were working on new opportunities or challengesprogress always brings change.

I shared a question I have recently been asking myself: how do I maximize the number of people I can benefit from my change experience? It is inspired by a quote from John Baker, founder and CEO of D2L: "My eureka moment was recognizing that education was the best way to multiply my impact on the world." What was my best way?

I explained that I now share my knowledge through consulting assignments, my book, course and speaking engagements. For the next 10 or 15 years I could continue doing so and not maximize my potential to help others.

Someone suggested that I flip my goal on its head: Why not go deep instead of going broad? I could make a greater impact by helping fewer people in more meaningful ways. Another person supportively added that this approach reminded him of the 1,000 true fans theory where the goal was to cultivate ongoing relationships with 1,000 people who highly value your 'art'. After a speaking engagement, instead of having brief conversations with many people, why not have deeper conversations over time with a few of them?

This healthy perspective wasn't what I was expecting and sent me back to the drawing board. I have been discussing the benefits of depth and breadth all week. One friend said that breadth is less risky while another opined that depth has more possibilities.

Perhaps the best approach is to do both as opportunities arise. There will be times when broad communication is most helpful and others when in-depth, one-on-one discussions have greater value. If so, then spotting the opportunities is a skill I need to sharpen.

I wonder if most people have a version of the depth and breadth choice to make. It might define how they make a difference in the universe.


Thursday, 10 September 2015

How to Make a Case for Change Management

This week, a colleague and I were asked to provide an hour overview of change management including what it is and how it can create value for an organization. Here's how we structured our presentation:

What is Change Management?
Change Management is a term that has many definitions and is used in many ways. Simply, it's how you enable people to move from how they work now to how they need to work to achieve better results. Prosci's definition says it best.

How does Change Management Enable Business Results?
There are three main ways that change support increases the success of an organizational change:
  • Speed of adoption: How quickly people take on new approaches (minimizing resistance)
  • Utilization: The percentage of people using them (40 percent is the tipping point)
  • Productivity: Performance created by using them (and not reverting back to old ways of working)

There is a lot of evidence supporting change management's value to an organization. Two studies are cited the most: A Towers Watson Change and Communication ROI study concluded that companies highly effective at change management are three-and-a-half times more likely to financially outperform their industry peers and a McKinsey study estimated the return on investment of a big change project is 143 percent when an excellent change program was used and 35 percent when there was a poor or no program.

Comparing Unsupported and Supported Change Projects
Ehraman's comment about Murphy's Law holds true for organizational change: "Things get worse before they get better." As soon as change is announced, instability and risk are introduced. As people speculate about what the change means for them, distraction increases and productivity decreases. "Maybe we shouldn't continue this initiative if everything will soon change," I have heard many employees say. If not proactively managed, people become confused, fearful, competitive and lose focus.

When the change is implemented, productivity dips as people get accustomed to new roles, processes and behaviours. The objective of Change Management is to minimize the duration and depth of the productivity dip during the transition period and accelerate performance through communication, ownership and support.

Why Change Initiatives Fail
Most change initiatives do not fully deliver their promised benefits, nor do they meet their timelines and budget. Multiple studiesMcKinsey, Bain, IBM, Towers Watson, Panoramahave estimated that between 65 to 75 percent of projects are not successful. 

Understanding why these projects fail is a key input into creating an effective change management plan. The top two reasons are:
  • Lack of visible and active executive sponsorship
  • Failure to anticipate and effectively manage cultural change
Engaged leaders is a must for a change project to be successful. I have never seen a change be successfully implemented without leadership commitment. Also, every change has cultural implications. The leader who thinks that a change is "no big deal" to employees is in for a surprise.

How to Manage Change so it is Successfully Adopted
The last topic is how to manage change successfully. This includes how to plan, manage and reinforce the change. Although every change has its circumstances, there are approaches, practices and tools that work on all of them. Developing the plan involves selecting the ones that best enable people to move from how they work now to how they need to work to achieve better results.

Throughout the presentation we shared stories about projects we had worked on. Interestingly, everyone had experienced similar situations. It struck me that most people are well-experienced in changethey have seen both good and bad examples of how to adopt change. Harvesting that knowledge through active participation in the change is another way of demonstrating how change management can create value for an organization.


Thursday, 3 September 2015

Earned Awards are Better than the Ones You Buy

This week, our sons, Sam and Charlie, and I went to the Canadian National Exhibition, known locally as the CNE or the EX.

This annual three-week event is an explosion of rides, entertainment, games, food, agricultural fair and bazaar. For many, it is the last hurrah before school begins and summer ends. For many families, it is a tradition.

Like most of our family traditions, there are things we do every year: the kids magic show (even though the kid years are long gone), sand castle competition and food building.

Another must-do activity that ends our day is the balloon dart game. This is the one where you throw darts at inflated balloons, trying to pop them to win prizes. 

This year I noticed that the game's focus had changed. Instead of it being about the required level of skill to win different prizes, it was about the required amount of money to buy different prizes. The carnie running the game explained:
  • 2 darts for $5 gives you 1 small prize
  • 4 darts for $10 gives you 1 medium prize
  • 8 darts for $20 gives you 1 big prize

But what about the number of balloons we needed to pop to earn the prize, I wondered? As we discussed the options, the woman said she would give us 9 darts for $20. Each of us would throw 3 darts and both Sam and Charlie would get medium prizes. Sold.

We had fun throwing the darts and every one popped a balloon. Definitely prize worthy! The downside, however, was that it didn't matter. If we missed all of our shots we would still have received our prizes. I wondered how that would have felt.  

We spotted other examples of 'prize buying' at the EX. If you bought a hot tub you got a free cruise. The best, and saddest example, was at the Guess Your Weight or Age game; the biggest prize had a $40 price tag on it. It implied that if you were in a rush, you could skip the game and buy the prize. What fun is that?

Other industries can operate this way too. For example, 'pay-to-win' video games, like Farmville, sell prizes that you could earn through hard work and skill. In the professional development industry, some firms sell certification without demonstrated proof of knowledge or skill --"Our three-day program gives you a Change Management Specialist certificate". Bought awards are of little value.

Sam and Charlie had fun picking their prizes. It was a perfect way to end a day at the fair. When their friends came over that night, I didn't hear them say, "Look at what I won." I am glad they have the wisdom to make the distinction.


Thursday, 27 August 2015

What Your Reaction to Amazon's Culture Says About You

The New York Times' exposé on Amazon's company culture has sparked many responses including Chief Executive, Jeff Bezos', who sent a rebuttal email to all Amazon employees. 

There are three types of responses to the article: supporter, critic and neutral.

The supporters say that extraordinary results require extraordinary efforts. Amazon's excellent results are admirable and a product of hard work driven by its culture. As one writer said, you step back from the stock and say, "Boy. Whatever these folks are doing is working." This is a minority view.

The critics condemn the cultural norms described by ex-employees in the NYT article. For example, a blog post by Michael Hyatt outlines how these practices lead to poor team relations, sub-optimal performance and compromised lives. A burnout culture is bad for business and bad for employees. This is the majority view.

The neutral commentators state that people who chose to work for Amazon are fully aware of its challenging culture. They do so because the rewards are worth the 'survival of the fittest' work environment: working on groundbreaking projects, associating with smart people, building skills, increasing personal market value and benefiting from lucrative stock options. Working at Amazon is a 'fair warning' contract between two parties aware of what they are getting and giving.

The position you agree with says more about your work preferences than about Amazon's culture. Since your view is shaped by your past work experiences, it provides a window to how you view employment environments.

If you are a supporter, high performance ('results orientation' in HR speak) is what work is aboutthe "what" of work is the focus. Cultural behaviours, the "how," are followed because they aid efficient and effective interactions across the company.

If you are behind on your plan or off target, you must do whatever it takes to get back on track. If the cultural behaviours aren't working, taking on new ones is justified as long as they improve performancethe end justifies the means.

If you are a critic, high performance is only half of what work is about, the "what". The "how" of work is equally important. Cultural behaviours are followed because they are based on company values and beliefs, which are mandatory. High performance gained by contrary behaviours is seen as a partial success. 

If you are behind on your plan or off target, you must do whatever it takes within the cultural parametres to get back on track. If the cultural behaviours aren't working, better alignment of people to them is required.   

If you are neutral, achieving goals is what work is aboutthe "what" of work, like the supporter, is the focus. Cultural behaviours aren't necessarily followed; they are inputs for consideration that may lead to achieving your goals.

If you are behind on your plan or off target, you must do whatever it takes to achieve your goals. If the cultural behaviours aren't working, taking on new ones is a given.

Company culture is important to most people. Your views on Amazon's culture might help you better understand what type of culture is important for you.