Saturday 30 April 2016

The Business Case for Change: Moving from 'What' to 'How'

I have noticed a shift in how the benefits of a change initiative are being discussed. The conversation is moving from 'what' they are to 'how' they will be achieved.

A business case demonstrates how the anticipated benefits of a change justify the investment required to implement it. Benefits can be either gains (increased sales) or the avoidance of losses (retention of talent). These are compared to investment costs include time, money and people resources (capabilities).

Since funding approval is based on the business case, there is a bias to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs. The pressure to do so is highest when multiple projects are competing for limited resources; the better the business case, the more likely a project will get approved. 

I remember supporting a sales function reorganization that was competing for investment. One of the benefits cited was a six percent increase in sales created by transferring regional key account teams to the head office. Looking back, it doesn't make sense that an internally-focused change would realize a large, market-driven benefit. 

It's not surprising that research firms have documented poor benefit realization. The Project Management Institute (PMI) reported that 20 percent of surveyed organizations had a high level of benefit realization maturity. Also, McKinsey noted that 56 percent of large IT projects delivered less value than predicted. 

It is exciting to see change investment discussions focusing more on how benefits will be measured and reported. It extends the project timeline well beyond the change and raises the bar on delivery. It also requires internal and external service providers to demonstrate how benefits will be realized. 

Some progressive external service providers are bundling post-change support into their offer. Capital finance advisory firms are adding post-merger acquisition (PMI) support to their private equity mergers and acquisitions services and technology firms are doing the same with their installations. Delivery support is now a competitive differentiator.

Here are some tips to ensure that your changes deliver on their business cases:

  • Identify all benefits and the metrics that will measure them before the project starts
  • Include all stakeholders in benefit identification and estimation – if someone doesn't support a source or an estimate, they won't support the measurement of them
  • Include external and internal data sources
  • Select metrics that are already being reviewed by the leadership team – they are known and hold validity
  • Assign a senior owner to each benefit
  • Agree on timelines for when benefits will be realized
  • Establish benefit realization governance with the leadership team including reporting and review timing
  • Develop a risk assessment and follow-on contingency plan for each benefit
  • Pressure-test the change management plan to ensure people will have the mindsets, actions and behaviours required to achieve all benefits
  • Gain leadership agreement that the benefits case will be reviewed if the change scope is adjusted
The business case is an important element of change success. Balancing the 'what' and the 'how' increases the role it plays in strategy and implementation; it better defines the path that an organization must take to fully reap the benefits it needs to be successful. It also increases confidence they will be realized.


Saturday 23 April 2016

How to Jump-start Performance by Resetting Team Behaviours

Teams, like families, adopt patterns of behaviour based on preference, familiarity and habit. Some are positive and lead to effective and efficient interactions. Others are counterproductive and impede optimal results. In aggregate, they define the ground rules for how a group of people get things done.

Examples of open and closed team ground rules are: only ideas are challenged, not the people who have them; everyone’s opinion must be heard before making a decision; the leader’s view is never to be challenged; and information is shared on a ‘needs to know’ basis.  

Group behaviours are most evident in meetings. It's fascinating to observe a team for the first time. You can identify its unwritten ground rules by what you see, hear and feel. How time is spent, what is said or not said and the emotions telegraphed through body language are all clues that point to established protocols.

Roles that people play are also a form of permissible behaviour. These are accepted character types that people take on. Common roles are the advocate (what do I like?), contrarian (what don’t I like), mediator (where are we aligned?) and navigator (where are we heading?).

The longer a team is together, the more established are its ground rules and the less likely they will change. In addition to not improving over time, they may become less productive if circumstances change; challenged by new situations, issues can intensify and opportunities can be lost.

Resetting team ground rules is a way of jump-starting new mindsets, actions and behaviours to achieve better results. Usually, the refreshed ways of working foster better communication, more effectively use time and yield superior decisions. 

Here are the steps to resetting your team's ground rules:

1.   Get agreement from all members that the resetting exercise is worth investing in
2.   Identify current behaviours that support and hinder the team being effective and efficient
3.   Discuss and agree on new behaviours that will contribute to better results
4.   Review the ‘start, stop and continue’ behaviours on one list to check for alignment and make any final revisions
5.   Agree that everyone has permission to uphold the new ways of working
6.   Read the new ground rules at the beginning of team meetings – it is easier to follow them when they are fresh in people's minds
7.   Measure the team's demonstration of each behaviour at the end of each (or periodic) meetings, from 1 to 5, where 1 is poor and 5 is excellent

There are two easy approaches to selecting new behaviours: develop a list from scratch or review a master list of productive behaviours and ask people to select the ones they value. Agreeing on a few priority new behaviours is more beneficial than a long list of desirable ones.

Here are examples of productive team behaviours: 
  • Agree on objectives or outcomes up front
  • Voice any disagreements or concerns during the meeting
  • Listen to people’s opinions without interrupting them
  • Discuss the pros and cons of every option
  • Provide and accept honest feedback
  • Withhold judgement or comments when 'brainstorming' ideas until all ideas have been heard

A team's ground rules affect the outcomes it achieves. Resetting how people interact will identify what they do well, don't do well and new behaviours to help them do better. The exercise will build people's skills and boost performance. It may even feel like a fresh start.


Saturday 16 April 2016

The Number 1 Change Success Factor: Expectations

I asked two leaders for their views on past change initiatives  which ones were successful/not successful and why. Both were at the same level, had similar tenures and identical access to change support.  

The first leader declared that most changes were moderate successes. Times had been tough, competition was fierce and people had to work double-time to deliver results and adopt changes to how they operated. The other pronounced them to be mostly failures. The initiatives fell short of the goals regardless of the substantial resources that were dedicated to them. How could two leaders have such opposing views of the same events?

Varying views of change success is common when leaders aren't aligned on the objectives, outcomes and circumstances around an initiative. Without dialogue and guidance, their expectations are based on personal assumptions instead of facts. Past experiences, including those at other companies, frame their expected outcomes. Different knowledge and past experiences lead to different perceptions.

A challenge of differing expectations is that every leader believes their view is right and all other ones are wrong. Although the most accurate view is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of opinions, inconsistency of perceptions tends to round down the overall assessment of outcomes; the more varied they are the lower the overall view of success.

To avoid the fallout of varying perspectives on change success, it is essential to set expectations of leaders and their teams at the beginning and throughout a change initiative. 

Here are some ways to align expectations with reality:

  • Make sure the scope matches the resources available to achieve it  if not, the odds are you will fall below some leaders' expectations regardless of the good work you do
  • Schedule leader reviews of your change plan at key milestone points to ensure the assumptions underlying it are still correct  the plan (and expectations of leaders) must be updated to reflect current realities
  • Meet regularly with each leader to update them on progress made and gain their feedback  they may hold outdated perceptions that might not be caught in leadership team reviews 
  • Ask leaders for help if you fall behind  participation leads to greater understanding and valuation of outcomes
  • Conduct a formal project review before closing the project  it reminds leaders of the agreed-upon outcomes and provides evidence that they were achieved
  • Hold final interviews with each leader to record their views on the level of success achieved  this will solidify them in leaders' minds and record them as reference points for the future 

Managing expectations of a change initiative aligns people on objectives, process and outcomes and minimizes personal biases. The more aligned people are on past successes or failures, the more aligned they will be on what needs to be done to secure a successful future.


Saturday 9 April 2016

How to Provide "the Right Amount" of Change Support

One of the challenges of providing change management support is that it requires people's time. Preparation activities  briefings, training, coaching  take people away from their roles and current responsibilities. The more change support they get, the less time they have to complete their tasks and achieve their goals. 

It's a fine balance between too much and too little assistance. If you provide too much then people get stressed and may choose to self-select out of activities; if you provide too little then people won't have the required mindsets, actions and behaviours to successfully adopt new ways of working.

I worked with an organization that was overloaded by its agenda. A long list of priorities spawned a large number of projects, many of which had insufficient resources. People were struggling to keep up with their work. Most went from meeting to meeting, apologizing for being five minutes late because of travel time. It was part of the company's culture.

I learned quickly that change activities needed to be integrated into people's realities. They must be targeted to individual needs and be easy to digest. If not, attendance will be inconsistent and transitions be flawed. The change plan that people will follow is always better than the 'perfect' one that they won't. 

Here are ways to minimize the time you take to prepare people for change:

  • Be clear on leader time commitments, gain agreement on them and schedule the activities in their calendars
  • Up front, be clear what each person needs to do differently for the changes to work
  • Provide only the support each person needs  nice-to-have activities or attendance is a luxury most businesses can't afford
  • Co-create the support plan with a few people who will go through it  their feedback on activities will avoid scope creep and ensure relevance
  • Schedule training as close as possible to when the change will be made  recency of learning affects application of new thinking, actions and behaviours. Also, refresher training requires additional time and money 
  • Incorporate activities in existing meetings  minimize the number of new meetings that people need to attend
  • Consolidate training into as few meetings as possible  An 180-minute session is more effective and efficient than two 90-minute ones held on different days
  • Adjust time requirements based on pilot sessions  shorten sessions if less time is needed; lengthen them only if outcomes can't be achieved

The main goal of change management it to prepare people to successfully take on changes with the least amount of disruption. Minimizing the disruption of people's schedules leads to greater participation, better preparation and less risk to operating results. Providing people with only the change support they need when they need it is a good start.


Saturday 2 April 2016

Why Every Leader Needs the Charisma Factor

In the late 90s, I read The Charisma Factor by Robert Richardson and Katherine Thayer. It decoded how famous charismatic leaders motivate people to follow them and devote themselves to achieving their goals.

The authors define charisma as the "ability to touch the hearts and minds of those around you to move them into action." Charismatic leaders "create the enthusiasm, excitement, and motivation others need to jump into the game and begin playing at their best." 

At the time, charismatic leaders dominated business headlines. Jack Welsh was declared "Manager of the Century" by Fortune Magazine and Steve Jobs, after rejoining Apple, passionately described market dominance as "ours to lose." Legions of aspiring leaders consumed self-help books to helped them emulate their heroes. 

Since then, charismatic leadership has been challenged. Daniel Goleman has written about the dark side of charisma where a leader's 'charismatic authority' inspires people to passively do the wrong things. Chris Bones' book, "Cult of a Leader," has drawn parallels to broader cultural themes of celebrity infatuation and consumerism "that imbue leaders with powers over and above those of ordinary mortals." Also, Tracey White's blog about followership has questioned the individual leader's ability to solve many of today's complex challenges. Lone wolf charismatic leaders have lost their shine.

Charisma still plays an important role in leading change. This is especially true for empowering cultures where everyone is viewed as a leader, regardless of rank or role. The charisma factor helps communicate the importance of people's work. It also motivates others to devote themselves to efforts beyond their job responsibilities. These contributions help break down organizational silos and build greater awareness of how business areas are dependent on each other. Also, with greater collaboration comes greater recognition of people's work, creating a virtuous cycle of contribution and reward. 

Here are highlights from Richardson's and Thayer's research on how to be charismatic:

  • As a charismatic leader your primary purpose is to inspire the best in others
  • To have a magnetic leadership presence you must first maintain an optimistic view of yourself, your leadership, and your goal 
  • Logic doesn't work well in getting others to take action because logic isn't universal. Each of us has his or her own personal 'system' of logic.
  • As with all human beings, what they think about affects their attitudes
  • If you can direct the thoughts of others, you can direct their emotional state  guide their emotions and you guide their actions
  • Charismatic leaders infuse strong and productive emotions in others by first displaying them themselves
  • As a charismatic leader, your passion displays the importance of your objectives to others causing them to want to go where you are leading  passion is the catalyst for generating interest or enthusiasm
  • Passion is precious because it is lacking in most people's lives
  • People must be in the appropriate state of mind before they want to do something  feelings always proceed actions
  • A charismatic leader's role is to simply assist others in feeling better, more resourceful, inspired, and motivated so they are able to do their best
  • Once you know the desired outcome, you decide on the state(s) your listeners need to be in so they will want to take that action
  • Begin every interaction with the emotions you want them to instantly feel  create for them a "habitat" of feeling confident, powerful, inspired, or excited

Most organizations are overloaded by the number of changes it must make to stay relevant and successful. A leader's ability to motivate and focus people is an important skill to provide direction and inspire action. Leveraging the power of charisma is one way to incite people to "jump into this game and play at their best."