Thursday 27 January 2011

Stay on message to win buy in

I read an interesting blog post by John Kotter. John makes an interesting point about the nit picking, expert and sceptic who tries to de-rail the presentation. His key message is "Stay on message. Don't delve too deeply into single attacks. Don't forget about your broader audience."

This is great advice and I'd also like to add:
  • Polish your shoes! Great meeting performance is all about attention to detail and preparation. By suitably pre-positioning your stakeholders and doing your homework you should be able to identify these nit pickers before the meeting. This gives you the option to use their enthusiasm, passion and knowledge to your advantage. You may even give them the stage to get them onside.
  • If despite your great planning you are faced with the 'expert' don't push back against them, don't get into a debate with them. Recognise their expertise offer to take it off line and as John Kotter says focus on your key message.
Although my key message is do your homework!

Sunday 23 January 2011

"Six Keys To Changing Almost Everything" ... can it work in business?

Tony Schwartz - 6 keys to change anything - HBR

I found Tony Scwartz's article in the Harvard Business Review totally fascinating. It's impossible to argue with his great advice on making personal change stick.

My big question is can this really apply to business as well as personal changes?

"Put simply, the more behaviors are ritualized and routinized — in the form of a deliberate practice — the less energy they require to launch, and the more they recur automatically."

Tony gives six rules for making change stick:
1. Be Highly Precise and Specific.
2. Take on one new challenge at a time.
3. Not too much, not too little.
4. What we resist persists.
5. Competing Commitments.
6. Keep the faith.

I believe the complexity and political nature of all the clients i've worked with makes this too difficult to achieve! Despite having had numerous conversations with clients around strategy deployment and the need to focus on one major change at a time it is very rare that any organisation will stop, defer or delay much of it's change portfolio to allow these six rules to be forcefully applied.

Many of my clients, for example, are virtually forced to run concurrent change programmes for legislative, operational requirement or merger integration reasons.

I once worked with a public sector client who had 300 seperate programmes in it's change portfolio.  Clearly this was unmanageable, caused change fatigue and led to systemic failure. After many hours sweating and negotiating it was reduced to 20 concurrent programmes to meet immediate operational needs. For an organisation with 10,000 plus personnel you would have thought this was manageable. However, the same, stressed out names kept coming up on the programme resource lists.

In the pressure of the programme world, temptation is everywhere and at times resistance can often be futile. Trying to get full time, focused change teams can be a challenge. Even when this is achieved the urge to dabble in their old role or do someone 'a favour' is often overpowering.

So if in business we are to make Tony's solid rules work to enhance our change programmes, I believe we need an executive board who can:
  • Undertake strategy deployment to create one, manageable, time bound, change portfolio
  • Work tirelessly and actively to maintain the change portfolio in the light of emergent requirements
  • Provide full time, focused change personnell
Let's hope that all the senior management teams we work with stick to rule 6 and keep the faith!

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Making change stick... how do you do it?

As one colleague once remarked ..."Stealing anothers work is plagiarism, stealing everyone's work is research!"

As such this is research into what the great and the good of the consulting, psychology and academic worlds believe are the Holy Grail of Stickiness.

Interestingly there appears to be huge cross over in making personal and organisational changes stick. Perhaps we are more like the Borg than even Star Trek could have imagined. Organisationally we act as one consciousness built of individuals, who work in similar ways!

Also there is evidence that the rules for successful, transformational, change are independent of the companies size, market, geography and so on. [  Bain]
Another revelation whilst on this journey was exactly what change ‘stickiness’ meant. I’d been on a search for the Holy Grail of stickiness.  I have been somewhat crest fallen to realise that change stickiness is:
·         Embedding a change that needs to be made
·         Making it the norm
·         Doing it well

I believe this is just good change management practice, and frankly, nothing new. So folks, once we’ve all got over the realisation that Change 2.0 is just doing Change 1.0 well, let’s look at how we can achieve that!

Once boiled down and some of the consultancy jargon stripped out, the key tips fall into two groups:
1.       The blindingly obvious , standard change management tools and approaches (I’m glad i didn’t pay $5,000+ a day for some of this advice!):
a.       Appropriate involvement / engagement of employees and leaders.  From my personal perspective involvement must be clear, precise, relevant and not done to tick a box. For me it’s like the pig and the chicken in a breakfast. The Chicken is involved and the pig is committed. I think you must only engage those you need on side and then aim for commitment not involvement.  
b.      Show them what good looks like. There needs to be a clear vision that is shared, understood and appropriately communicated. This needs to be underpinned by an unshakeable case for change that is bought into by all the relevant stakeholders and is driven by the sponsor.
c.       Communicate with purpose. Just what’s needed, to just who needs it, just when they need it and make the communication sticky. Something that stands out and sticks in the mind and is repeated until embedded. Make sure the communication is two way and tested for how it was received. As ever the key here is answering the What’s In It For Me? question and listening to the people on the ground. Communicate with balance, not just hearts and minds and not just system and process.
d.      Leadership. Provide leaders with the tools; ensure they are role models for the change and don’t let them wriggle out. Feet to the fire. If the sponsorship changes use the case for change to remind the senior team why they set out to achieve on the programme. The other thing your leaders and sponsors need for successful change is what one of my close friends calls “Oomph.” Motivating and driving the troops in the face of fire is one of the keys to success.
e.      Team. As with any programme you need the right people on the bus. More than that, they need the right skills.  So either pick the right people or get them trained up. Equally I personally believe any upskilling needs to be focused and measured against a return on investment or you’ll just waste time and money. Often when making this investment the group that get overlooked are the sponsors and senior managers. They, more than most will need additional skills to make a complex change a success.

2.       The good implementation of tried and tested change and programme management approaches:
a.       Make the change as quickly as possible. All the evidence shows that change undertaken rapidly and reinforced well, will stick. Avoid delays and comfortable targets. Push hard for the end result. This approach also maximises the momentum.
b.      Burn the bridges.  Ensure that there are no routes back to the old methods of operation and the old systems. Where you give the user the choice they will likely stick with what they know.  Reward all behaviours consistent with the change and ensure the sponsor is seen to admonish behaviour that can be likened to the old ways of working.  To achieve this, ensure all IT systems, processes and culture are built for the new state and in place when you transition.
c.       Focus on results. Success factors need to be clear, easily measured and understood by everybody. Regularly demonstrate they are being achieved. Ensure that these measures are a part of the case for change / business case.  Ensure the senior team are on the hook with no wriggle room. This focuses attention and makes sure the difficult issues are resolved quickly.
d.      Roles. Ensure all roles are clear and fully understood. As a military client of mine used to say … “Troops to task.”
e.      Manage fatigue.  I once commented to a client on a large scale, fast paced transformation that we needed to remember it was a marathon not a sprint. His answer has ever stayed with me. “I know that, but we still need to sprint to position ahead of the pack!” As with most things in life there needs to be some balance between quick change, 20 hour days  and a team at peak performance.

You will have noticed that Dr Goods Magic Stickiness Elixir is not in here.  Unfortunately it hasn’t been invented yet. Until it is, you need to stick, forgive the pun, with doing the simple things well and be very wary of the quacks offering you an innovative quick fix!

1 Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria, “Cracking the code of change,” Harvard Business Review (May-June 2000):133-141.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

HR The New Moral Compass?

Over recent days i have been gleefully following a thread on Linked In's HR Group. "OK, the candidate you just sent an offer letter to lied when she said she was still employed with her previous employer. Do you rescind the offer based on that alone? How often does this occur?"

This post has had almost 3,000 comments. WOW! What has really impressed me is how many totally bigoted and opinionated recruitment professionals there are out there.

What I have learnt is that if you want someone to morally judge and sentence you, apply for a job!

Roll on the time that recruiters merely look for the best candidate to fulfil a given role!

Can you really Change in 59 Seconds

:59 Seconds

The Christmas and New Year break is always a great time for reflection. This led me to re-read Richard Wiseman's great book :59 Seconds - Think a little change a lot.

Scott McArthur over at gave me a copy shortly after it's publication and it is a cracking and informative read that tears down some of the misconceptions folk have about what makes us tick!

As you charge head long into 2011 read it or re-read it and ask yourself what easy steps you can take to make 2011 the year that you got what you wanted!