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.