Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Powerful Change Strategies from Monopoly's Makeover

In January, Hasbro invited people to choose the next set of Monopoly game pieces through an online voting campaign. The company presented 64 figurines to choose from including the eight already in play.

After 4.3 million votes were tallied, five traditional pieces (Scottie dog, top hat, race car, battleship, and cat) and three new ones (T-Rex, penguin, and rubber ducky) were selected, retiring three from the game (boot, wheelbarrow, and thimble).

Change is no stranger to “the world’s favourite family game.” Over the years, new pieces have been introduced (1937, 1942, 1999, and 2013) and rules modified. Also, a multitude of special editions have been launched including localized and themed boards, special dies and a 'no-money' electronic banking format. Over 300 versions of the game demonstrates that Monopoly moves with the times.

Hasbro's approach to modernizing Monopoly is a master class in change management practices to help people adopt change with the least amount of disruption. Here is a list of strategies that helped them manage their latest transition: 

Provide opportunities to co-create the future
Hasbro reached out to game players with the goal of assessing its current pieces and deciding what, if any, changes were needed. "Only time will tell if fans will decide to stay with the classics, keep a few favourites or pick an entirely new line up of tokens," said Jonathan Berkowitz, Senior Vice President of Marketing. The open crowdsourcing approach was balanced by strategic oversight. The set of piece options was determined by the company as was the decision to colour the new pieces gold. Co-creating change is the best way to align strategy and execution.

Engage people to maximize participation
The company leveraged its long and evolutionary history, sharing stories about each piece and what it represented at the time it was introduced. Promotional materials added excitement and passion by encouraging people to "save their favourite piece." Collectives were quickly formed through social media to encourage voters to lobby for their best-loved pieces: Singer Sewing Machine Company rooted for the thimble, Ace Hardware got behind the wheelbarrow, and Zipcar defended the race car. Rallying around common beliefs leads to spirited support.

Be clear on how decisions on what is changing will be made
The election process was simple. The eight tokens receiving the most votes would win. After voting closed, scores were shared under the banner "the global Monopoly community has spoken." Knowing that the Scottie dog was most popular with 212,467 votes and the rain boot came in last with 7,239 added transparency and legitimacy to the process. Hasbro also provided commentary, such as the boot being voted off first, to provide context for the data. Clearly communicating decision rules increases trust and acceptance and decreases frustration and resistance.

Honour the past
Hasbro is proud of Monopoly's past. It highlighted the game's popularity around the world and loyalty people feel toward it. After announcing the winners and losers, Jonathan Berkowitz empathized the emotional connection people have with their favourite pieces. "We were a little bit surprised that the thimble got among the lowest votes because it's been in the game for so long. Personally, I've always especially liked the boot token." For nostalgic fans, the company is offering two special editions before the new one is released: Monopoly Token Madness includes the eight current silver tokens and an assortment of eight golden new ones, and Monopoly Signature Token Collection includes the full set of 64 contenders. Celebrating the past lets people give tribute to their accomplishments before applying themselves to create new ones. 

Raise expectations for future changes
Change is a continuum that must be managed. Building a culture of perpetual change encodes it into people's mindsets so they can anticipate and prepare for it. After reminding fans of past changes, Jonathan Berkowitz expressed openness to new ones to come: "We want [our fan base] to continue to weigh in with ideas." Managing expectations around change helps people be their best when faced with it.


These strategies apply to any organization going through change. Co-creation earns people's participation and making the task personal inspires engagement. Honouring the past helps people pay homage to it before moving on to create the future, one that is guided through clear direction and realistic expectations.

"The next generation of tokens clearly represents the interests of our fans around the world and we're proud to have our iconic game impacted by the people that feel most passionate about playing it." By following these strategies you might be able to say something similar about your organization.

Phil


Friday, 24 February 2017

6 Little-known Ways to Enable Culture Change at Toronto Police Service


Transforming culture is the hardest change an organization can make. It also is the one that produces the greatest benefits.

Every organization has a culture – a collection of mindsets, actions and behaviours that define how things get done and how people interact. Changing them is difficult because they are hardwired into all aspects of the organization. Also, these norms are constantly reinforced by stories told (good and bad), visual symbols seen, and rewards and punishments given. They don't change easily.

Culture change is definitely worth the effort. It can eliminate unproductive behaviours, build capabilities, and realize outcomes currently not possible. It also can increase people’s engagement, create personal meaning in their work, and enable achievements they can take pride in. 

In February 2016, Toronto Police Service formed a Transformational Task Force with a mandate to "develop and recommend a modernized policing model that is innovative, sustainable and affordable." Recently, the task force published its final report: Action Plan: The Way Forward, Modernizing Community Safety in Toronto.

The report identifies cultural change as being central to implementing all recommendations. It also notes the size of the task given the highly regulated, procedure-driven and, as some stakeholders have said, "restrictive and inflexible" nature of emergency service organizations.

Wendy Gillis' Toronto Star article, Neighbourhood Policing at Centre of Toronto Force's Plans for Change, explores the types of cultural change needed to adopt a recommended "neighbourhood-centric policing" model. Officers will be dedicated to specific communities for a minimum of three years and will have a mandate to partner with communities and support agencies to co-develop solutions to issues. 

The officers will be more empowered to make decisions to customize service-delivery based on the needs of the community. They will be selected based on their interaction, collaboration, partnering, engagement and empathy skills. Importantly, the ability to demonstrate these capabilities will be a key part of their career development including evaluation, rewards and promotion.


The report identifies cultural change as being central to implementing all recommendations. It also notes the size of the task given the highly regulated, procedure-driven and, as some stakeholders have said, "restrictive and inflexible" nature of emergency service organizations.

Wendy Gillis' Toronto Star article, Preparing for the Changing of the Guard, explores the types of cultural change needed to adopt a recommended "neighbourhood-centric policing" model. Officers will be dedicated to specific communities for a minimum of three years and will have a mandate to partner with communities and support agencies to co-develop solutions to issues.

The new model requires significant changes to how officers operate and are managed. They will be more empowered to make decisions to customize service-delivery based on the needs of the community. They will be selected for these roles based on demonstrated supportive skills – interaction, collaboration, partnering, engagement and empathy. Importantly, demonstrating these capabilities will be a key part of their career development including evaluation, rewards, and promotion.

Here are six ways Toronto Police Service can enable the culture change needed to implement task force recommendations:

Set expectations for cultural change success
The report acknowledges that culture change takes time. Be more specific. It will take at least a year to define current and future mindsets and behaviours and build awareness of them across the 8,000 members and external stakeholders.  The new ways will also need to be integrated into training programs and people management processes. Year one will show few gains on their performance scorecard even if they execute perfectly – culture change is a multi-year initiative.

Include members of all key stakeholder groups on the implementation team
Full participation will ensure breadth of planning, reduce risk and enable faster transition. This includes the police union that has been critical of the report's findings; engaging now will reduce resistance and save time later. As Alok Mukherjee, former Toronto Police Board Chair cautions, "Unless the association agrees, you won't be able to do it.” All partnerships need to begin on the implementation team.

Align HR processes with the new culture before building it
People's behaviour is guided by their managers and the rewards they give. Launching culture change that conflicts with how incentives are earned leads to resistance and preservation of the status quo. Force-wide hiring profiles, training, goals, assessments, rewards and promotion criteria all need to be in sync with the new culture before building begins. HR processes consistently aligned with future expectations send a powerful message that leaders are serious about transforming the organization.

Clearly define leaders' roles and provide support to fulfil them
Leaders' behaviour define an organization's culture. Since people emulate their leaders, being clear on the mindsets, actions and behaviors they need to demonstrate to their teams is an important early step. 

The report states that transformation is the Toronto Police Service Board's most important priority for the next few years. Board members will provide support through "resources, advocacy, advice, and priority setting." Being clear on how they will do so needs to be a key part of the change management strategy. They will need support to fulfil their roles including knowledge, skill building, feedback, and coaching. Plan and resource for it.

Design and schedule leadership review meetings now
Progress reviews are essential to ongoing transformation management. The performance scorecard designed to facilitate them looks comprehensive and complete. Define the ways of working around using it now, before time pressures risk deprioritization and cutting corners – how it will be discussed, how much time will it require to properly do so and what process the team will use to follow up on advice given are important decisions that will impact the quality of reviews. A bonus tip: secure an early spot on the Board's agenda to minimize risk of shortened time slots or member fatigue.

Begin with pilot tests to refine thinking and demonstrate value
Translating recommendations into effective implementation plans requires pre-testing. Small trials provide feedback on what does and doesn’t work and uncover practical adjustments to achieve desired outcomes. Pilot tests also produce positive results observed by stakeholder group members. Testimonials from these people can make believers of skeptics and create demand for quicker roll-out of the program.

Successful culture change is a requirement for any large transformation. It aligns people's mindset, actions, and behaviours to enable adoption of new ways of working. It also builds capabilities and creates outcomes that could not be achieved within the status quo. As Chief of Police Saunders said in the report, "the members of Toronto Police Service are the organization's greatest assets." Building a new culture will enable them to create their recommended future.


Phil

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.

Phil




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:

2016
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

2015
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

2014
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?

Phil

Saturday, 17 December 2016

If "Change" was an Employee, How Would You Rate Its Performance in 2016?

At this time of year, most employees are completing their annual performance self-assessment. They are highlighting accomplishments against their yearly objectives (the "what" of their performance) and the organizational values, capabilities or behaviours they demonstrated while achieving them (the "how"). They also are explaining shortfalls and identifying development needs to increase their performance in the future. 

Once completed, their manager will do their assessments with input from people who have worked with the employee. They will then assign a performance rating that is calibrated with other people's assessments. Finally, the manager will review their performance assessment with the employee to agree on what is documented and the development plan for 2017 to enable greater performance. Final comments would be shared, setting up the employee for future success.

Although some companies have abandoned standard performance appraisals, most still see the benefits that annual assessments can provide, including increased self-awareness, recognition, greater motivation, capability building and increased contribution.

Few organizations complete an annual assessment of their ability to take on change. Most continue using established practices without conducting an enterprise-wide assessment of them. By not doing so, they fail to realize the benefits that are gained from how they assess their employees. 

What would it be like if an organization took an employee-style approach to assessing its ability to adopt change? It could look something like this: 

Self-assessment
The leaders and team members accountable for the change initiatives of the year would assess how well they implemented their changes based on early outcomes gained and other pre-defined measures of success (e.g. timing, costs, etc.). They would also explain shortfalls and identify capability gaps that need to be filled to increase performance in the future.

Business Feedback and Assessment
The leadership team would do the same assessment with input from their teams (especially those who are impacted by the changes). They would then assign an overall performance rating.

Calibration
The performance rating would be compared to last year's assessment and external benchmarks of companies with similar operating conditions. The rating would be adjusted up or down based on these comparisons.

Review Meeting
The leadership team would review their performance assessment with those who were accountable for the change initiatives to agree on what is documented and the change capability development plan for 2017 to enable greater performance. Final comments would be shared, setting up the organization for future success.

If done well, a performance review process like this could increase organizational awareness of its ability to change, provide recognition for work well done, better skills and increase motivation for taking on change through greater engagement and contribution. It would definitely underscore the importance that change and the capability to adopt it play in driving performance against strategic objectives.

Peter Drucker's adage "what gets measured gets managed" still holds true. If an organization's ability to take on change is an essential enabler of achieving strategic objectives, then assessing and improving it annually is a smart investment. 

If "change" was your employee, how would you rate its performance in 2016?

Phil

Monday, 14 November 2016

Building Change Capability in 5 Minutes or Less

I have noticed two advances in how change capability is being built in organizations. Both acknowledge and try to address the ever-increasing number, size and speed of changes people are experiencing at work. Both foreshadow how structured learning is adapting to meet the practical needs of today's learner.

The first is the broadening of skills. Investment is shifting from education to help adopt specific organizational changes to those that also assist navigating the dynamic and often unpredictable work environments that impact these changes.

The new skills help people to operate at their best regardless of the type or amount of change they face. Focus is on sharpening abilities to understand, diagnose and direct limited resources in light of both short and long term goals. They include abilities to deal with ambiguity, search for and try new solutions and be resilient after setbacks. 

Developing these new capabilities improves learning by:
  • Providing ways to assess any situation (teaching someone to 'fish' in any pond)
  • Encouraging continual refining and improving approaches to change
  • Creating a culture that enables reinvention and maximum performance regardless of external factors  consumer expectations, competitive threats and regulatory modifications  that arise. 
The second advance is the shortening of learning experiences from full-length courses to bite-sized modules. Similar to on-the-job support that jet mechanics access to guide their diagnosis and solve problems, the learning "objects" help people think through and complete specific tasks or address challenges. 

Learner preferences, shaped by internet use, are influencing formatting and delivery methods. Youtube-style videos are becoming the norm. They use engaging illustrations and narration techniques to communicate information in five minutes or less. Also the learning modules are available in multiple formats so they can be accessed anywhere at any time, using a variety of devices.  As Patty Woolcock of the California Strategic HR Partnership summarizes, "The Future of learning is three 'justs'  just enough, just in time, just for me." 

Shorter, targeted skill-building experiences improve learning by:
  • Enabling just-in-time support to drive outcomes
  • Focusing on crisply communicating only the most important elements of knowledge, skill and behaviour that produce results
  • Increasing interest and engagement levels to encourage multi-use access

Change capability building is changing for the better. People's skill sets are broadening so they can better manage their dynamic work environment. Also, access to support is expanding so it is available when, where and how people need it. 

Both advances have been developed with the learner and their challenges in mind. My hope is that figuring out how to continuously and quickly improve capability support as people's needs change will be the next welcomed change to come. 

Phil

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Isn't change really about good conversations?

I recently read an insightful article about Bogaletch Gebre, a scientist and activist who has positively changed millions of lives in Ethiopia. 

For 17 years, she has helped to nearly eliminate harmful traditional practices solely through facilitating community conversations. "When you listen to them, they listen to you...and individual change becomes community change," says Ms. Gebre. Her approach has been so successful that the United Nations has adopted it to control the spread of HIV.

Corporate change is also enabled through conversation. Dialogue is the catalyst of change management, whether people are discussing what a change means to them or leaders are assessing an initiative's progress: change happens through people interacting. Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, describes the outcomes of these exchanges as people changing their states through the influence of others. This is how most people decide to take on new way of doing their work.

Many changes falter when people don't have the right conversations. Siloed thinking, limited information sharing and rework are signs that the right people have not been engaged to gain alignment, support and collaboration. This results in delays, higher costs and frustration.

If change is created through conversation, how do you ensure the right conversations are being held?  Here are some guidelines to help you do so: 

  • Include time for two-way communication at every forum, from the launch to the post assessment
  • Increase the amount of time allotted for dialogue – people learn more through conversation than listening to a presentation – 50/50 is a good target
  • Invite people at all levels to participate in implementing a change – these activities promote interaction, sharing of perspectives and collaboration
  • Mandate that every team discusses what a change means for them and what they need to do to make it successful – these are the most important conversations to prepare people for change
  • Review process changes with cross-functional teams that manage them
  • Share assumptions behind plans and decisions with those who will be implementing them – they may be wrong 
  • Ask leaders to validate that their teams are ready to take on a change by holding conversations with them

There is a lot we can learn about change beyond the corporate world. As Les Robinson observed, "Every great environmental campaign, revolution or social change started with a conversation. Out of that conversation these people decided to work together, with a hopeful attitude, on things they care passionately about." 

The power of good conversation as an enabler of change is clear. Change management is about ensuring the right ones happen with the right people at the right time. Doing so with a hopeful attitude is even better.

Phil



Sunday, 25 September 2016

6 Change Management Trends to Be Aware of


Being aware of trends across different types of organizations broadens your thinking and deepens context for what you are trying to achieve. This is true of change management. Often, the best strategies, tactics and solutions are found outside the industry in which you participate.

Here are six trends I have observed across industries and public institutions.

Managing multiple changes while delivering short-term results is business as usual for all 
It used to be that change was an event and now it's business as usual. Leaders and their teams are tasked with leading and participating in multiple changes and delivering their annual objectives. Adding to the complexity, change agendas can suddenly be reprioritized due to internal or external circumstances, increasing work and reducing performance.

Leaders need to ask the question, "how do I prepare myself and my team to stay resilient as we continually adapt and deliver results?"

Organizational agility is the 'Holy Grail' of effectiveness
Most organizations want the ability to move quickly and easily, ready to respond to external opportunities or threats. 

Many organizations aren't set up for flexibility, unknowingly encouraging static thinking and rigid behaviour in the interest of consistency and efficiency. Examples of barriers to agility include strategy happening at a point in time and not being revisited; changes to implementation being viewed as addressing mistakes and increasing risk; and rewarding completion of static plans and projects. 

Organizational agility is a mindset enabled by structures, roles, processes, technologies and behaviours. It is only attained through adjustments to how people work.

Leaders are expected to play a greater role in change
Leaders have always been expected to lead change. What is changing is how "leadership" is defined. The "tell me what to say" style of management exhibited by some leaders is rapidly declining; all successful leaders must be fully engaged and personally commitment.

Proactively, organizations are being clear about the leader's role in change and investing in capability development to help them excel in it.

Disruption is desired, little understood and feared
Many leaders want to disrupt their industries to gain competitive advantage. The reality is they are more likely to be disrupted by new competitors, especially if they lead large organizations that offer higher-end products driven by innovation.

Most leaders are not aware of the definition of disruption by Clayton M. Christensen and recently expanded upon by Joshua Gans. Acquiring knowledge is the first step to gaining perspective on disruption and how it can support or jeopardize an organization.

Behaviour-led culture is back as a primary enabler of performance
There is a transition from a process-focused approach to change to a behavioural one. The belief that changing behaviours is the way to change people's mindsets is coming back into popularity. Cultural behavioural norms are being assessed and new ones are being considered.

An interesting twist is that organizations are tagging behaviours to specific strategic objectives like growth and effectiveness. 

Consistency through centralization continues to be popular
Organizations are continuing to centralize their strategies, decision making and processes in the interest of alignment, consistency and efficiency. Power is shifting from business units to the central body to align groups and measure and benchmark performance. 

In this environment, influence without formal control is essential to plan and implement cross-area changes.


Identifying trends and considering how they impact your organization can broaden your perspectives and give you ideas on how to achieve your goals. Knowing how change management is evolving is one way to increase your agility as you lead change.

Phil 


Thursday, 1 September 2016

Is 'disruption' getting in the way of being disruptive?

I have been trying to figure out why the word 'disruption' triggers a consistent response from most business professionals I speak with: silence. I have observed this in one-on-one conversations, team meetings and large workshops. Are people pondering how they could disrupt their businesses or are they immobilized by the thought of being disrupted?

'Disruption' continues to be a hot topic in the business media. For years, major sites and publications have profiled industries that are being disrupted by new competitors with innovative products and operating models  entertainment (Netflix), e-commerce (Square), shaving (Dollar Shave Club), etc. 

A term coined by Clayton M. Christensen, 'disruptive innovation,' refers to a new competitor providing simpler, more affordable and accessible products or services to consumers who couldn't afford the more costly and complex existing offers.


His theory explains how established businesses become disrupted because their operating models are built for higher margin and bigger scale markets. New competitors take market share by servicing the more price-constrained consumers.

Some companies (Google, Amazon, Apple) have chosen to disrupt themselves in order to grow their market or defend against new competitors. As Facebook's 'Little Red Book' proclaims, "If we don't create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will."

Many leaders use a broader definition of business disruption: any large change that blows up how we currently do business. Forbes' definition provides clues to why this definition is emotionally charged: "disruption takes a left turn by literally uprooting and changing how we think, behave, do business, learn and go about our day-to-day." 

Perhaps the perplexing reaction to the term is caused by a fear of not knowing how to disrupt their industry. Disruption is seen as something that will be done to them versus an opportunity to be seized. Another reason could be that fundamentally changing your business model carries a risk of jeopardizing short-term performance.

I no longer use the word disruption with my clients because it doesn't inspire productive conversations. There are many substitutes – evolution, transformation, reinvention  that stimulate ideas about how to do things (mindsets, actions and behaviours) differently to achieve better results. 

Here are some tips to enable new thinking about your business:
  • Select an executive sponsor who is open to new ideas
  • Create a cross-functional team with a mandate to think differently
  • Hold in-person meetings away from your offices
  • Make it safe to challenge existing strategies and assumptions
  • Provide the team with stimuli from other industries
  • Commit to pilot the best ideas to test and learn from them

Semantics is an important enabler of change. A term that resonates with one culture could fall flat in another. Some words, like disruption, don't spark opportunity, creativity or courage in most. 'Choose your words carefully,' is an adage that applies to change. The best term to motivate 'game-changing' improvement is the one that inspires the best innovative thinking.

Phil

Friday, 12 August 2016

Company Purpose and Values Should Be 'Built to Last'

A friend gave me a 1996 Harvard Business Review article Building Your Company's Vision by James C. Collins and Jerry l. Porras, authors of Built to Last, the classic business book. It identified the elements of an organization's identity that should change over time (vision, goals, strategies and practices) and those that should stay the same (core purpose and values) based on their research on long-term successful companies. My friend said, "Phil, you write a lot about change, why not write about what shouldn't change?" Profiling the findings from this article seemed like a good way to honour his request.

The article is an interesting read twenty years after it was published. The authors' main insight is that successful companies don't alter their core ideologies  core purpose and values  regardless of what happens in the dynamic environments in which they operate. 

An organization's purpose should be fixed. This is its reason for being. It defines the company's intent and why it exists. An unwavering purpose guides goal setting and strategies to achieve them. It also is a source of motivation for leaders and their teams to help them through tough times and difficult transitions. A common purpose to create value for its stakeholders  consumers, customers, community, etc.  can make challenges and discomforts justifiable and endurable.

Google has remained true to its purpose or mission since it was formed in the late 1990s. "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" has guided Google's vision and strategies, driving innovation and continuous improvement in everything they do. A Google executive shared that they take their mission very seriously and continually strive to anticipate future needs to be true to it.

Core values also should remain materially the same over time. They are commonly held beliefs that act as principles to guide decision making and behaviour. They are also foundations of a company's culture; as Hubspot believes, " Our Culture Code is the operating system that drives Hubspot." 

Tony Hsieh, CEO at Zappos, created its 10 core values to formalize the company's culture and make sure "everyone was on the same page." They are woven into all management practices including the hiring and firing of employees, regardless of job performance. They define what the company is about and how its employees think, act and behave.

Values can be reworded or modernized, but in essence remain constant standards of conduct. At key inflection points, like a merger, companies can assess if adjustments are needed to reflect the behavioural norms required to achieve the company's purpose, vision and goals.  

IBM revisited its values through a company-wide online input process. Tens of thousands of employees shared their views on values and behaviour. Common themes were identified from the feedback that were used to update IBM's original values. "Customer service," "excellence" and "respect for the individual" became "dedication to every client's success," "innovation that matters for the company and the world," and "trust and personal responsibility in all relationships." The modernized versions translated the core values into relevant and relatable behavioural norms.

Given that most elements of business are constantly changing, it's refreshing to affirm that consistent purpose and values can be a source of strength and advantage. They provide common understanding of why the organization exists and how people operate within it. What shouldn't change is definitely worth writing about.

Phil


Friday, 29 July 2016

Which is the best driver of change, new thinking or new behaviour?

I visited Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario last week. At the local museum, I read about Francis Clergue, the entrepreneur who founded the area's steel, paper, and railway industries in the early 1900s. His motto was "To think is to act." His business philosophy recalled an age-old change management debate: What is the best driver of change  new thinking or new behaviour?

There is a school of thought aligned with Mr. Clergue's modus operandi: Changing how people think changes how they act and behave. If an organization's new purpose or strategy makes sense, people will adjust their actions and behaviour to support it. 

Communicating why a change is necessary and how it will benefit the business and its employees is an essential starting point of a large transition. Most employees have an opinion on how an organization should be run and sharing facts about the need for change makes room for consideration and agreement. People are more likely to support a change if it makes sense and the consequences of not doing it are known.

An example of this approach is a leader communicating the benefits of a new technology for the business (consolidation of databases; better analytics; greater efficiency; etc.) and employees (user-friendly navigation; prepopulation of data fields; mobile access; etc.) to get their buy-in and support. People are more likely to attend training and learn new processes because they know the system will be good for the business and its employees.

The "thinking to acting" approach is insufficient for successful change. There is no guarantee people will be motivated to change their behaviour just because they think they should. Also, people may not know how to align how they act with the change and therefore either do nothing differently or act in new ways that unknowingly hinder it.

The opposite approach is the reverse of Mr. Clergue's motto: "To act is to think." Getting people to act in new ways that support the change will, over time, change how they think about it. When people experience the benefits of doing things differently that are in line with the change, they will change how they think about it. Edgar Schein, Professor Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management, authored this approach: "Put in place small behavioural changes that lead (people) bit by bit to think about things differently." 

Specifying the actions and behaviours that people must follow for a change to be successful is an important part of transition. It defines what they must do to take on the change. It also enables measurement of how they are progressing and identifies who needs extra support or is resisting the change. 

An example of this approach is a leader who wants to increase collaboration among functional teams by asking people to do three things: offer help to solve problems owned by other functions; on every project, include a representative of each function that is impacted by it; and participate in a rewards program where people nominate peers in other functions who have helped them. People start to value collaboration when they see the benefits of it firsthand.

The "acting to thinking" approach is also insufficient. People often are resistant to change when they don't know why it is needed. If a change doesn't make sense, taking on activities or behaviours to support it can seem like a waste of time, or worse, a way to fail. People may choose to not change their behaviour because they think they know best or don't want to risk doing something new just because they have been asked to do it.

So, new thinking or new behaviour, which is the best driver of change? If I had to pick one I would choose behaviour. Since both are insufficient enablers, a better question is, "How can you best enable change?" Changing both how people think and behave provides the rationale and guidance needed to successfully adopt a change. As another historic figure, Abraham Lincoln, wisely said, "As our case is new, we must think and act anew."

Phil

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

3 Things Change Leaders Must Communicate Really Well

Leadership is about setting a destination and marshaling resources to get there. As organizations implement change, leaders must ensure employees have everything they need (mindset, knowledge, skills, processes, roles and confidence) to progress along the path to get there

<a href="http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business">Business vector designed by Freepik</a>Active and visible executive sponsorship is the number one contributor to the success of change initiatives. Leader communication is the best vehicle to demonstrate their commitment to changes necessary for short and longer-term performance.

When helping leaders understand and master their communication roles, I focus on three things: develop and communicate a post-change vision; align words, actions and behaviours with the vision; and acknowledge and reward progress. Doing these things really well covers more than 80 percent of what is required to enable people to fulfill their roles in evolving an organization.

Develop and communicate a post-change vision
Painting a clear and compelling picture of where the organization is going and why this destination is important provides a common goal for people to identify with and work towards. It builds understanding, interest and commitment to an aspirational future and what it will take to create it. 

There are three things people need to know:
  • How will the change make the organization better (and why)?
  • How will it make their lives better?
  • What is needed of them to make the change?

Presenting the business rationale is important because the change needs to make sense before people can fully commit to it. They also need to know how it will personally affect them. This removes fear of worst case scenarios and avoids future surprises  it is better to know the truth even if all aspects aren't positive. People also need to know their role in the change  attending training, following new processes, taking on new roles, etc. Being clear on what they need to do for the change to be successful gives people a sense of purpose and reminds them that their contributions are important. Not doing so leads to confusion, frustration, and paralysis.

When strategies are linked to the well-communicated vision, priorities are known and it is easier to spot when things go off track. Also, reminding people of the vision throughout the change reinforces the reasons why they must endure discomfort and hardships.

Align words, actions and behaviours with the vision
A truism of change is that people will do things differently only after their leaders do. This is why it is critical that leaders align what they say with what they do and how they behave. Some leaders don't realize they are being scrutinized for proof of commitment to what they say is important. Passing the alignment test leads to belief and consistent adoption; failure leads to lost trust and little effort. 

Identifying the essential few behaviours required for a change to be successful with leaders is the best way to build commitment to them. Once defined, walking leaders through scenarios where these new approaches will most likely be expressed creates context for them. Providing feedback immediately after they demonstrate them (or don't) builds self-awareness, knowledge, and eventually capability.

Acknowledge and reward progress
People need proof that their efforts are contributing to goals. This is especially true in the middle of a change when discomfort of learning new ways is greatest. Well communicated progress leads to fulfillment, momentum and renewed energy to change, whereas not doing so leads to frustration and longing for past routines.

Acknowledging the project team and those undergoing the change at key milestones recognizes the efforts they have made and reinforces the importance of the initiative. Sharing success stories of people benefiting from doing things differently gives people praise and "bragging rights" to feel proud off. When leaders communicate these accomplishments well, people feel appreciated for their efforts and strive to continue achieving what is being asked of them.

Leader communication can make or break a change initiative. Focusing efforts on three priority activities will ensure people have the knowledge, role models, and rewards necessary to take on new ways of working, endure difficult transitions, and create a future they are proud of.

Phil