You can’t push spagetti up a hill

spagettiOne of the biggest misconceptions among leaders trying to drive change, is that by  telling people ‘we’re changing’ and outlining the changes, you’re on your way to change. Ta-da!

Sadly many leaders – living with the P&L, the board or the boss breathing down their neck on margins, CAGR, COGS or whatever measure their business lives and dies by – forget that the other 99.99% don’t understand where the business is today. And if you don’t understand where your business is starting from.. how on earth can you comprehend how changes will impact your business, your team or your job?

The building blocks of any company – its strategy, its operating model, its structure and how it makes money – need to be fundamentally understood by every ‘change agent’ in the company. Ideally every employee, but hey, let’s think critical path for a moment. Anyone who leads a team, a function or an organizational unit needs to understand how the business operates today. How it’s doing – financially, operationally, organizationally and most importantly of all, competitively. By establishing a starting place, you help employees understand a need for change, a context for change, and as change starts to occur, a framework for why certain levers are being pulled (whether that s a RIF, an acquisition, an organizational change or even a new piece of technology), and what goals are being impacted. If you understand where you are, and where you’re trying to get to.. the journey gets a lot clearer for everyone in the car. Without that understanding, it’s all just road, trees and ‘are we there yet?’

Without an understanding of the car you’re trying to drive, what it is, where its going, how it’s doing and how it works (why you need accelerate up the mountain pass), you might as well be pushing spaghetti up a hill. Without this, how much spaghetti gets left on the road, and who sorts it out when you get there….well that’s a whole other project.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Organization design isn’t about boxes

org chartIn every role and at every client engagement I’ve ever worked on, at some point, someone starts talking about ‘organization redesign’. Often times this is accompanied by some frantic white-boarding, red ink all over the organizational chart and new names scribbled into boxes. 1-2 hours in a conference room and *BAM* new organization. Hit send on an email and -BOOM – you’ve just blown up your company achieved a whole new level of effectiveness. Right?

(this is usually where I want to bang my head repeatedly on the desk)

I recall being invited into a business development discussion with a senior executive for a telecommunications company who cut through the niceties of our discussion to tell me ‘I need a new organization design by tomorrow at 2pm’ and that ‘if you can’t give me that, then get out now’. I smiled and collected my collateral, wished her well and left the building. Now I’m sure I could have promised her the world, taken her money and we could have scribbled in red ink on the org chart for a bit and she’d have been non the wiser. But organization design doesn’t work like that.

Sure, you can move the boxes around, move the names … but to what end? How do you know this new “design” is going to drive improvement in productivity, effectiveness or customer service? How is it going to make your sales team better? Your delivery guys more collaborative or your failing function suddenly work? Unless someone died, you can’t guarantee any improvement by simply moving names around.

Organization design or redesign is really about understanding where the work occurs, where it should occur and who should be doing it. Where your customers or clients align and how best to serve them. How to help employees communicate better and removing roadblocks in day to day operations. Which means putting down that org chart… and looking at the actual work processes.

Since most of us don’t have our work processes documented, never mind mapped out… well that means . well.. mapping it out or at least understanding what everyone is actually doing with their time. What work is done, why its done, whether it needs to be done and if so, who should be doing it. There honestly isn’t much point in moving around boxes unless the work moves too…. which means having an understanding of the work first.

Once you understand the actual work of a function or a part of the organization, then you need to question what work can move, what work can go away, and what work needs to be added. What responsibilities need to change? And why? Only by answering these questions can you start to get to the building blocks of your new organization chart. Factor in spans of control, levels of seniority, personal aptitude (don’t chain your best sales person to a bunch of project administration), industry and expertise specialization.. and suddenly your org chart starts to actually build itself. No red scribbles needed.

Sure it will take more than 1-2 hours, but then if you’re going to blow up your organization, shouldn’t you have clear expectations about what it will achieve and why change needs to occur?

And yes, I do wonder what that executive at the telecommunications company did to her org chart overnight. One thing for sure.. it probably didn’t improve anything.

 

 

Posted in Change management, Organization Design | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The first step of change is acknowledging where you are

startOne of the biggest challenges with executing a change program is working through the first step of change. No, it’s not the audience assessment, building the business case, figuring out an acceptable (and achievable ROI) or conducting an impact analysis.

The first step of any change – organizational, technological or even personal – is acknowledging where you are today. Not where you think your organization is, what your biggest fans say or your perception based on a conversation you had 6 months ago.. but where you actually are starting from today.

All too often people start their change process from an imaginary place. It might be a place where ‘nothing works’ or ‘everyone’s unhappy’, or even more worryingly ‘everything’s fine’. And I can guarantee that every single one of these statements is untrue at every single organization today, right now, yes siree. No company is that black or white. No, not even at Apple.

How does this happen? Why do people tend to ‘imagine’ their starting place of change?

You wouldn’t start a diet without first measuring your weight? How would you know your progress? So why we do it with change programs is often down to executive perception of where the company actually is based on their exposure, feedback from ‘their guys’.

Executives will often filter out the noise in order to focus on one or two things which are troubling, or rely on a few individuals at the higher levels of the organization to ‘keep it real’ for them. Conversely, mid level managers can find themselves overwhelmed with negative feedback, disparaging comments and ongoing complaints to the point where nothing, it seems, will ever get better. The truth of the situation typically lying somewhere in-between. Therefore it’s essential that the change team asks the right questions, to the right groups of people to understand where ‘here’ actually is for an organization. What is our starting weight before we go on our diet?

Many change practitioners might all be rolling their eyes and thinking ‘readiness survey’, but to actually monitor where you are as an organization.. I invite you to break your survey monkey crutch and conduct some focus groups. With real live people.  Yes it takes more time, yes its a pain to ask for an hour from people who could be selling or accounting or delivering or whatevering. But a real live focus group – over the phone or in person – will tell you more about where your company is actually starting from, than any beautiful PDF graph.

Why? Well just as people without a weight problem don’t tend to compulsively weigh themselves, so people who are fairly happy, engaged and busy in their role don’t tend to fill out readiness surveys.  Readiness survey respondents tend to be people who have been dying to find a way to get their feedback ‘up the chain’. Like it not, if you don’t have any big burning issues, you’re unlikely to take the time to check of boxes saying ‘everything is ok’. But if you have problems to share. Injustices to highlight. A work situation you dispise..a readiness survey is your opportunity to go crazy. Let it all out. And while you, the change practitioner might collect a lot of meaty, ugly ‘wow we need to fix this mess’ comments, you’re likely not getting a balanced perspective  of the entire organization.

And if your picture of where you’re starting your change from (and hence your baseline for measuring how far you’ll be changing) is skewed more negatively than the norm, your results are also likely to be skewed.

Focus groups based on random selections of groups of 10 people might take more time, but you’ll hear not only about the problems with your HRIS, but also how well the team works to continuously improve their processes.  How long it takes to generate a report, but also how fast the leadership is able to make a decision when armed with that data.

Really understanding where you’re starting from means understanding how big your problems really are, and what they are. Maybe you don’t need to lose 80lbs. Maybe you only need to lose 40.  And understanding this, your change team can really understand the priorities of the change program before creating a single deliverable.

Posted in Change management | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Who do you think you’re talking to?

wahWe’ve been there. The presenter who you dread takes the stage or joins the webinar, and suddenly your email inbox has never seemed so inviting. You tune out the noise and use the time to catch up on email or refill your coffee cup, only returning to the meeting when the droning stops and you’re onto slides which don’t make your head hurt.

If you’ve never been in this situation, then I’m afraid, you’re the person that’s being ignored. Whether its your fancy build slides, your 80 pages of data or the words coming out of your mouth… you’ve forgotten who you’re talking to.

The reason I assert this? For 20 years I’ve run into the following 3 mistakes on a weekly basis.

The eye chart: If you’ve ever worked in IT, engineering, or finance you will be intimately familiar with the ‘eye chart’. The size-6-font-size that enables a presenter to fit everything he or she wants onto a single PowerPoint page, but requires a microscope to read. If you don’t care enough to make sure your audience can see the data you’re communicating.. then you shouldn’t be communicating it. Period. Use words. In big font.

Exec-speak: I’ve worked with people at every level of an organization, and its clear that in order to progress in your career, you need to successfully transition from English to ‘Exec-Speak’.  Use words that no-one understands, acronyms that aren’t explained, and terms that don’t make sense and you’re on your way. You know when you’ve achieved career success; no-one understands a word of what you just said, but you’re too senior for them to ask you to explain it.  And no, it’s not that you’re operating ‘on a different level’, it’s that ‘synergistic engagement with end users’ isn’t a term that most people use to describe ‘sales’. Speak like a human being. Please.

 What about me? People really do want to know whats going on. What’s coming up. What just happened and why. But most of all, people want to know ‘what does this mean to me?’  and ‘what do I have to do as a result?’. These questions aren’t new, original or even surprising, but are so often ignored its remarkable. As humans we’re inherently selfish and while everyone loves some news.. ultimately, we only really care about how it affects us. You can tell me that gold bullion just got delivered to your office, the company made $200 billion last month or that you just won the Noble prize… but all your audience really cares about is ‘how does it affect me?’. Give them an answer… even if they don’t like it.

In summary: Make it readable, understandable and relevant to your audience. Then you can play with the fancy fonts and crazy build slides.

Posted in Communications, Internal comms, Leadership | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

It ain’t what you say, its how often you say it

consistencyThe change sponsor. Many a leader has raised an eyebrow at this role, most accept it as a ‘figurehead’ position and very few do it right. I can count them on 1 hand from 20 years of change work.

Leaders are time constrained. And since all of the change methodology states that you need an ‘executive sponsor’ for your change initiative to be successful, you’re already in a challenging position. After all, having an executive sponsor shows commitment from leadership. That investment has been made. That change is necessary, and that the leadership believes in the importance of X.. therefore here’s why you – the employee – should embrace it too.

(Every change kickoff meeting ever just flashed through my head)

Big rush of enthusiasm from your sponsor. Big promises about belief and total engagement. Right until the end of the kickoff meeting…. At which point, an executives ‘sponsor role’ becomes #78 on his or her to do list. And while being ‘time constrained’ as an executive is acceptable to other leaders, the disappearance of a sponsor is huge blow to the potential success of any change initiative.

But its only one person, how much difference can it actually make?

Lets use a non work example for context.

Lets say you offer to take your significant other out for a really fancy meal. The best restaurant you can think of that you know they’d love. You talk about how much you both need it, how much you’re looking forward treating them, and how much they’re going to enjoy it. You even talk about how you’ll both need to eat light during the day in order to really appreciate the wonder that will be this meal. You’re really excited and even print out the menu there and then.

Then the next night you work late. You don’t mention the ‘special dinner’ for a few days. A week goes by, and still no word. Then another. Your significant other doesn’t ask, since they’re assuming that maybe you’re going to surprise them one night. A month goes by and still no mention. Your significant other is now writing off what you said as ‘hot air’, is nurturing a small resentment or has forgotten about your idea altogether.

Then, out of the blue, you mention the fabulous meal that you’re going to take them to.

How much does your significant other believe you? Just how big is that eye roll?

Now what if you’d done it differently. Maybe told your significant other that the waitlist was long, but that you were on it. Talked about approximate timing in order to set expectations. Provided some reminders, and assured them that it really was going to be worth it.  When you finally mention dinner is ‘on’, they know they’re in for something special, they’re ready and primed for a great night out. And even though its been a long time, its meant some sacrifice in order to achieve, hey, they’re ready.

How do they feel now? Warm. Cared for. They trust you. Glad that you suggested it. Excited that it’s finally time.

The role of a sponsor is to provide leadership, to show confidence in the initiative and to highlight the importance of the change. It’s also to provide consistency and generate trust by ‘showing up’. Showing up to inform employees of progress or warn of delays; to set expectations; most of all, to continuously and consistently show your support and belief in the necessity and certainty of the change.

An executive sponsor who shows up big for the kickoff then disappears into other priorities until go live is actively working against your change initiative.. even when he or she isn’t aware of it.  Its better to have a less senior sponsor who’s consistently involved.. than a C suite sponsor who never shows up after the kickoff.

It ain’t really what you say, its how often you’re around to say it.

Posted in Change management, Leadership | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Employee calls aren’t a deposition

depositionI once worked with a C suite executive who wanted to schedule ‘Ask me anything’ sessions with his employees. Sounds good doesn’t it? The idea indicated openness, willingness to be transparent, the opportunity to really hear what was on the minds of his employees, and in return, offer up his honest opinion.  No written agenda, no slides, just him, a phone line and his employees. There was just one small problem.

He wanted the questions screened a week in advance. Preferably two. 

Not so much ‘ask me anything’ as ‘ask me anything, then give me and my communications person a few weeks to come up with good answers and potentially filter out anything which we don’t want to talk about’.

When I coached him on the need for questions to be ad hoc and ‘literally anything’ in order to send a strong cultural message (and seriously, a C suite executive who reports to a board should be confident in his ability to deal with anything thrown him), he balked. No screening, no call.

There probably were a myriad of reasons why. He had specific messages he wanted to share, he wasn’t terribly comfortable being concise while thinking on his feet, a latent desire to ‘control’ the conversation, or perhaps just a laziness and comfort with using talking points. I’ll never know.

We worked around it fairly ingeniously while maintaining the sham of ‘transparency’ (stop reading if you still believe in Santa Clause). Questions were submitted by IM (“due to the large numbers of people on the phone”); a manager wrote them up on a whiteboard for the executive to read, and he literally pointed to the questions he was willing to answer. He was then able to read off the question he had ‘just received’ and answer smoothly and with confidence. Employees believed they were ‘in conversation’ with an executive, and the executive felt fully in control. No surprises.

Slick

And it was a very slick event. But personally I’d have preferred a few more ‘ums’ , pauses and even some admitted skipped questions. After all, employees aren’t stupid, and that layoffs, a failed software implementation and a lack of salary hike didn’t come up as questions must have stuck many as ‘slightly odd’. Listening to the recording after the event, the executive sounded so smooth, so polished, so ‘not floored’ by any question, that the event lacked the authenticity that he, in person, actually possessed. It sounded as staged and prepared – to me – as any town hall he’d ever hosted. He may as well have run slides and held his talking points.

Employee calls aren’t a deposition

I understand the desire among executives to avoid yet another conversation about salary, and no-one wants to be put on the spot if  plans are in progress for downsizing or budget cuts. But in engaging employees, there seems to be a sweet spot between ‘honesty’ and ‘full disclosure’. Employee calls aren’t a deposition. An executive doesn’t have to have all the answers, or share all of the information he or she has to hand.

The true skill of the engaging leader, finding that sweet spot of response vs. denying the question is out there altogether.  So while your executive might feel like he ‘escaped’ by avoiding the tough questions, the fact that he’s not answering or addressing them, says way more than the words which did actually come out of his mouth.

Posted in Internal comms, Leadership | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

3 epic change failures

failureUnless you’re about to embark upon a massive ERP project, or you’re a regular subscriber to HBR, you rarely hear about specific change failures. Real, measurable, negative ROI change failures. And for good reason. Change initiatives that don’t stick (which is to say, most of them), are usually shuffled under the carpet as quickly as possible, the stench of failure exiting along with the consultants or staff responsible. While the project team might do a ‘lesson’s learned’ and those on the receiving end of the failure certainly feel the pain, rarely do you hear about massive investments that result in ‘jack’.

I’ve been part of both change successes and change failures. Every consultant or person working today probably has. And while it’s easy to focus on why a new program or initiative was successful, not very many people are eager to dissect their change failure for public consumption.

But I want to. So here are three of the worst I’ve come across in the last 20 years.

1. Hiring ‘the expert’ isn’t a guarantee of success. So your project went out and paid uber dollars for an expert who’s done this a million times, helped sort out failures in the past and has a storied history in X. .. the thing you’re trying to do? Guaranteed success? Well, hiring an expert will help you guard against major mistakes, but the success of any change effort largely depends on the 99 people standing behind the expert. The people actually doing the work. One of my clients hired ‘the.guy’ for their specific technology, and their implementation came in $20M over budget, stopped production and ended multiple careers. Including ‘the guy’.

2. Strategy, Process, People, Technology: There’s a reason every consulting company focuses on these four pillars. Change needs to consider all of them… from a reorganization to a RIF, from an expansion to a change in customer needs. Why do people skip 1 or 2 of these? Consider them ‘not part of their scope?’ Because they skip to the sexy, ‘going to solve everything’ technology investment leaving the rest to chance. After successfully helping to implement a ‘shared services’ center, I returned 4 months later to find employees in their cool new open plan office with their cool new technology, all doing exactly the same job they’d done before.. nothing ‘shared’ whatsoever. Leadership hadn’t followed through on their proposal to realign rewards and performance expectations so employees had drifted back to what impacted their reviews. The ROI of the project? Zero. Ah that was $14M well spent.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate: I started a new job the day my new employer launched a new sales tool. 5,000 sales personnel had received an email that morning letting them know that change was occurring, the old system was shut down and that they should proceed with the new tool. A training presentation was attached. Unsurprisingly the sales teams just opened up Excel and started inputting sales into spreadsheets. Adoption = zero. And despite a ‘change rescue’ plan, extensive training and 4 months of effort, the technology was retired and the old system re-implemented. Most companies are this bad, and most understand the need to communicate. But don’t underestimate the ‘runway’ needed to achieve change, especially when what you’re changing forms a significant part of someone’s job. They say it takes new parents 9 months to prepare for their new-born baby. I’d say that’s about right for any ‘change initiative’.

Posted in Change management | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I don’t believe in “social media”

thumbs upI’ve heard this comment from too many executives to count. And sure, when I first heard it, I was probably nodding along. After all, Facebook was great for sharing updates with friends back in the UK, or showcasing a particularly flattering photo from an event. But for business? Are you insane? What would we share? Executive headshots and open positions? Hardly gripping stuff.

Four Square, Twitter, Linkedin, Google +, Instagram, Reddit, Vine, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr… heck there’s even a site called VK (I bet you’ve never heard of) which apparently gets 80 MILLION visitors per day. Yes, per day. And that’s just the US centric networks.. factor in India (Orkut), China (Pengyou and Sina Weibo) and South America (Windows Live, Orkut) and you’ve got the entire world talking to each other, sharing information and collaborating.. and no, it’s not all selfies and cat videos.

Today approximately 60% of all businesses (worldwide), are using social media as part of their business (source: HBR 2014), and for many companies, part of this is marketing, part communications, part branding and for most, it’s about including your company in the ‘conversation’. Simply put if you’re not on social media, you’re not part of the conversation. Unless someone starts that conversation about your company…. and here’s hoping it’s not the guy you just fired or that customer you just tried to stop leaving their service contract (*ahem* Comcast).

The use of social media for internal communications and employee engagement varies massively depending on the business. Zappos is famously ‘engaged’ with its employees via social media, ditto many other consumer companies where customer service rather than product differentiators lure your customer in (Dre’s Beats headphones are cool, but their customer service is OUTSTANDING and 100% completed in the social media spotlight).

But for IP heavy, service driven or innovation led companies, public social media is the bogey man, something to be heavily guarded against. Leakage is a real and tangible business risk (who hasn’t seen the photos of what may, or may not be the iPhone 6?). These companies either batten down the hatches and institute a communistic ‘thou shalt not mention us whatsoever’ policy for employees or invest in a company controlled ‘social network’ such as Yammer.

The smart guys know that the social media muscle has been built by most employees. We’re so used to reaching out, asking questions, answering and commenting that not to do so when we’re at work, seems .. well.. strange. As a communicator I often got asked where the ‘Like It’ button was on our intranet (thankfully, now we have them), and we’re regularly inundated with photos that people want to share of themselves, their teams, their projects and places they’re working. Our employees are begging for an interface, a tool that lets them replicate the ease of Facebook, with the content sharing of Twitter and Pinterest to help them connect with each other. And no, it’s probably not to share cat videos.

So while you might not ever ‘Facebook’ Mr. Leader, I encourage you to recognize that about 99% of your current and future employees do. They’ve developed the habit of easily sharing, commenting and communicating with each other… why wouldn’t you want to enable and encourage that kind of collaboration during the workday?

Posted in Engagement, Internal comms, Knowledge Management, Social Media | Tagged | Leave a comment

Signs your Internal Communication needs a refresh

newsletterBack in the 80s and even the early 90’s, internal communications used to consist of a company meeting when everyone trooped into the largest meeting room available, and those who couldn’t fit, simply stood outside and hoped to catch a murmur of what was going on. The CEO was someone you might see on the annual report, and memos were printed out and distributed on people’s desks. Every once in a while, glossy (or not so glossy) newsletter appeared in the coffee/ break room or cafeteria, and initiatives were announced via posters, managers and *gulp* PA systems or tvs.

PAs? Printed media? Face to face meetings? Wow how times have changed. And while some companies still enjoy the luxury of a glossy brochure and have the budget for a face to face meeting, this rest of this scenario is a distant memory for most employees today. Many of us have never met the majority of our coworkers, the notion of a ‘face to face’ is via Skype or webcast, (or for execs, the annual ‘retreat’ to the golf course), and printed newsletters? We’re too ‘eco-friendly’ for that and how on earth would it still be ‘news’?

The generation which started work just as the concept of ‘electronic mail’ exploded, is now 40-50 years old.  Employees who’ve never known anything except email communications are now just getting promoted to manager positions, and don’t think twice about the virtualization of their teams. Communications are multi media, multi vehicle, on demand and allow for ranking and commentary by employees. Video is pervasive (either static or via webcam), and interactive, collaborative tools that facilitate ‘co-working’ are the new norm. Leaders blog and webcast, podcast and Tweet.. and for many employees, the CEO or is as approachable as their team lead (and sometimes more communicative).

If you didn’t understand any of the terms in the above paragraph or you’re rolling your eyes at the ‘socialization’ and ‘fun’ elements of this type of communication, it might just be time to revisit your internal communications.

The purpose of internal communications (IC) used to be to inform employees what leaders were thinking and decisions which had been made. Employees learned about new HR policies and maybe whether they were getting a bonus (or getting laid off). IC was top down, one way, formal and based on the old ‘command and control’ structure.

Today IC has a new purpose. Engaging employees, generating connections within and across the company, trying to generate and reinforce a unified vision among employees, while involving every employee in its realization. Creating brand ambassadors who can spread out in the marketplace, help generate revenue and customer confidence via their willingness to go above and beyond their job description and working hours. Yep, you can’t get any of that with a newsletter.

If you think that Facebook and Twitter, Linked In and Yammer were fads that you had to endure, or that employee feedback was just something you needed to gather once a year, I need to alert you that times have changed. These media are here to stay and your employees are using them, with or without you. They’re using them to chat, to share news, to inform and to work together across offices, across countries and sometimes, across companies. And if they’re public tools, your employees could be unintentionally leaking IP and confidential information like a sieve. Without governance, interactive tools and a plan, 80% of your IC is probably already occurring outside of the control of your IC team.

Lunch is now something most of us eat on the run (or at our desks), we no longer print out memos to read them and our offices no longer feature large auditoriums or conference  rooms for ‘company wide meetings’ . Times have changed.  And if your IC hasn’t… it’s definitely time for a refresh.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Communications, Internal comms | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

25% of your change plan is missing

change planI was reviewing a change plan today and while it fulfilled all of the obligations of a change plan – line items for identifying ‘change agents’, involving them in testing, training and of course, lots and lots of communications – all I could notice were the holes.

After all, only 60% of your change activities ever make it onto the plan.

What rarely makes it onto a plan, are the non specific change activities. The unplanned things that you identify -on the fly- that need to happen to keep things moving forward. The stuff that you didn’t think was really ‘change’ activities, but which winds up eating up your time anyway.

What do I mean?

Lets take the example of one implementation I was supporting some time back. We had involved the plant managers in our design, they’d dutifully process mapped their areas, worked to identify opportunities for improvement and agreed at the need for change. We’d created our change plan as the technical teams worked on configuration and establishing production environments.. everything was full steam ahead.

Until it wasn’t. The speed of change was too fast for our plant managers. Who upon leaving their process redesign sessions and getting back to work’ realizes the enormity of the change. The impact on not only their day-to-day jobs, but all of their staff, their productivity, the performance of the plant.

“We just don’t have the time” “we need to allow more time for people to change” “it’s too much too soon” “I’m not so confident we can pull this off’

If only they’d opened their mouths. If only we’d asked.

Instead sponsor meetings were cancelled, leaders stopped ‘showing up’ in meetings (even when they were present), feedback and approvals slowed down and deadlines passed us by with no movement or urgency. We knew that the team was disengaging, but we didn’t know why.

Until one of our change team found themselves in the office of a plant manager at 6pm on night. And stayed until close to 9pm. She sat back, asked… and listened. She didn’t come armed with an agenda, and she hadn’t even booked a meeting.. just made sure to be around his office when she knew he’d be slowing down for the day. She sat, they talked about small things, inconsequential stuff unrelated to work, until it was safe to suggest that things were slowing down.. and why that might be….

He talked, she listened. He worried allowed, she listened. He weighed the options, she listened. Apart from keeping the conversation going, and on encouraging him to be frank, she didn’t say much at all. 6 months of worry unpacked itself. They agreed that they needed to do this more often. Which they did.. every week, for over a year, right through go live  until he didn’t need a sounding board for his worry anymore.

This huge time commitment, deeply impactful change activity never made it onto the ‘change plan’. In fact it went unrecorded anywhere. It wasn’t communications or training. It wasn’t ‘awareness’ or a roadshow. Just two people sitting in a room, chatting and figuring out where the pot holes might be, and how the plant manager and his employees were feeling. Week after week.

So as you review your change plan and double-check the timing on all of those activities and deliverables, be aware of the ‘unanticipated’ coaching and handholding, conversations and discussions that you’ll probably need to do in order to actually make change happen. The stuff that won’t make it onto the plan. Add a few more hours. Call it ‘change management’.

 

 

Posted in Change management | Tagged | Leave a comment