Wednesday 18 January 2017

How to Convice Leaders that Change Management is Worth the Investment

The evidence is conclusive: excellent change management increases business outcomes of change initiatives. Why is this so difficult to communicate to business leaders?

Change management return on investment (ROI) is a popular topic at conference workshops and on LinkedIn chat groups. People are keen to demonstrate the investment case for change support so they can secure the resources to provide it. How can we prove that change management is worth the investment?

This is an important question because many leaders need to be convinced of the financial value of change management. It's more difficult to justify compared to technical guidance because it has fewer tangible measures. Leaders typically understand technical support is required to successfully install a new system, but may not feel that leadership coaching is essential or even necessary throughout the transition. "We have managed without it in the past; why should we spend the money to provide it now?"

The challenge is not about lack of data. Many acclaimed and credible organizations  Bain, Gartner Group, HBR, KPMG, IBM, McKinsey, Oxford University, Prosci, Towers Watson  have studied business transformations for decades. Most proclaim greater likelihood of achieving desired outcomes and higher ROI when people are well-supported through change.

So what's the issue? Statistics by themselves are not convincing. They are data points that lack context or examples; numbers alone rarely influence thinking or behaviour. Also, generic data can raise questions and skepticism about its relevance to a business' circumstances  does the data reflect my industry, geography or business environment?

Last week, a colleague and I tried a new approach when conveying the value of change management. We used a simple narrative, metaphors and statistics to build the business case. The story began with why transformations fail and destroy value. An iceberg metaphor (inspired by Torben Rick) conveyed the striking research. High-level statistics were positioned above the waterline and contributing factors placed below it. 

We shared examples of initiatives that had struggled and what we had done to realign them. We also inquired about past initiatives that had failed and why. The illustration and statistics guided the discussion without leading it.

Moving to the value creating side of the equation, we used a mountain metaphor to convey statistics advocating change management support. The tallest mountain represented the higher ROI gained from excellent change management programs. Below the peak were growth-multiplier statistics to reinforce the higher ROI. 

A smaller mountain provided a ROI comparison with organizations that had poor or no change support. Finally, a statistic on the importance of leadership sponsorship to success completed the change management support picture.

We shared stories of successful initiatives and what made them so, and heard about the company's past successes and how they had been achieved. The discussion progressed to how these benefits could be consistently achieved in the future. 

By themselves, statistics do not make persuasive cases. Painting pictures around them through simple metaphors and stories brings them to life so they are more tangible and relevant. The best investment case is the one that the person you are trying to convince helps build. Pictures and stories give them the tools to do so.


Monday 2 January 2017

What three words will guide you to success in 2017?

This is the fourth year I am using Chris Brogan's "My Three Words" exercise to help achieve my goals for the upcoming year.

This is how it works: select three words that will guide your actions and behaviours toward achieving your goals for the year. Keep them visible, like taping them to your laptop or monitor, to ensure they are considered as you make decisions throughout the year – is this decision aligned with my three words and the goals they support?

This simple exercise has kept my goals top-of-mind and on track, increasing the odds of achieving them. They have also encouraged me to reconsider choices I have made hastily or without fully considering the consequences of them. 

Looking at the words I selected over the years provides an accurate summary of my ambitions over time including some consistent themes and new directions:

Excite the people I work with to help them accomplish their goals
Create new mindsets, approaches and tools for managing change
Focus to minimize distractions, either time wasters or low-value activities

Choiceful in my decisions to align with my goals
New change support offers and different ways of providing them
Flexible scheduling so I leave room for unanticipated requirements and opportunities

Purposeful in everything I do to fulfil my purpose of helping people and organizations be more successful by working in new ways
Groundbreaking change support offerings and different ways of providing them that move me out of my comfort zone
Global clients and perspectives for breadth and universality 

Some words have worked better than others. Last year, "excite" led me to taking on the most speaking engagements I have done in the five years of leading Change with Confidence. It was the best format to maximize the number of people I communicated with and expanded the number of industries I have worked in. 

On the ineffective side, "focus" provided little value. It helped me realize that knowing I was unfocused wasn't enough to trigger an action to refocus me, something I have corrected for this year. 

I have been considering my 2017 words over the holidays, replacing or refining ones that don't have the power to guide me. All of them will help me write my second book, which is a big goal for this year. Here they are:

Aspire to aim higher, moving beyond what I have accomplished before (I am best out of my comfort zone)
Prioritize my time and activities to keep me on my path and avoid detours
Permission to speak the truth as I see it because that is the best value I can provide

I am ready to succeed.

The "My Three Words" exercise is an excellent way to kick-off a new year: assessing last year's words helps you evaluate your accomplishments and shortfalls; selecting your new words builds inspiration and motivation; and following them keeps you on track by heightening the implications of the choices you make. 

So what do you think? What three words will guide you to success in 2017?