Our family recently relocated from the US to France and has been experiencing A LOT of change!
- Live out of suitcases for 58 days and counting? Check.
- Two first days of school in two different countries? Check.
- 10 different cars in 4 months? Check.
In the middle of all of this change, I read this interesting article on our bandwidth to handle change and was shocked by these two sentences:
“Consider a leading global wealth manager whose employees, we recently found, had to deal with approximately 250 changes per year. These included operating model changes; new leadership structures; new productivity procedures in areas such as travel booking, digitized financial planning, and HR; new enterprise resource systems; agile ways of working such as sprints; and new legal and risk requirements and compliance procedures.“
Holy smokes, 250 changes per year! I bet that’s true for most of us. Just take a minute to think about it… benefits changes, staffing changes, position responsibility changes, organizational changes IT systems, physical moves, etc. The article doesn’t clearly state this but I would guess their research doesn’t account for changes outside of work like kids moving grades, aging parents, new neighbors, etc.
I know it’s true that I fail to account for the ‘other’ changes going on when I am pushing ‘my’ change effort. With this newfound understanding, I want to start thinking about capacity for change like a bucket of water. When the bucket is full, it doesn’t matter how much effort we put into a great communication plan or training module, there’s just no room!
How full is your bucket? What about the bucket of the people you are working with?
The setting sun made the sky look like a painting and several groups of people watched from the summit of the mountain. As soon as the sun slipped below the horizon, most of the groups began packing up their blankets and cameras, ready for the short hike back to the parking lot. A hearty few stayed at the top and prepared to spend the night in one of the darkest places in the Carolinas.
As I started cooking my dinner, a colony of bats flew overhead, eating their meal on the ‘fly’. The night closed in and the stars started peeking out. The couple beside me started playing country music on a small speaker…and I don’t like country music! (bluegrass on the other hand…) A family camped on my left and the daughter gave everyone within hearing distance a play by play of her trip away from the tent. WAIT! Didn’t I come out here to get away from annoyances like bad music and oversharing?
After a few minutes of focusing on the negative, I realized that I could choose to focus on the amazing (the Milky Way emerging) or the annoying (see previous list). It doesn’t seem like choosing and focusing is a superpower but it was for me that night and I’d propose that it can be for you too!
- Got a million things to do? Set a timer on your phone for 20 minutes (my variation on the Pomodoro Technique) and try to finish just 1 of them. The momentum will carry your forward to the next thing (and the next, and the next…).
- Surrounded by negative people? Find just one thing to compliment and go out of your way to focus on it all day long. You’ll feel better about where you are, even if the environment doesn’t change
- Really hate your situation? Take some advice from former Secretary of State Colin Powell – “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier”. Finding just one thing to focus on and be positive about can completely change your perspective.
After a breezy, star-filled night, a group of college students traipsed through my campsite about 5:30 am, preparing to watch the sun rise over the North Carolina mountains. Once again, I had to decide if it was more important to be annoyed by the intrusion or watch an amazing, daily event that we often take for granted. I chose to focus on the amazing that morning.
What will you choose to focus on today?
Imagine you’ve spent a nice day building a sandcastle at the beach. After several hours, you’ve got something to be proud of but you know that the rising tide or just one big wave will wipe out all of your work.
Now imagine that you’ve spent a nice 10 years building a career. After years of hard work, you’re proud of where you are and what you’ve done. But what’s that out in the ocean? It’s a wave of change…and it’s coming straight for your ‘sandcastle’! You worry it will wipe out all you have worked for and woosh….suddenly you’re in a new role in a new department and you’ve got to start all over.
This article on approaching change like a skill instead of an event got me to thinking about some of the companies I’ve worked with. Employees at newer and smaller companies expect and even welcome changes…at the expense of their sandcastles getting destroyed on a regular basis. On the other hand, employees at older, larger companies have gotten used to building their sandcastles on the shore of the lake…where there is no tide and only the occasional pontoon boat makes a ripple.
If you’ve built your sandcastle at the lake over decades with detailed ramparts and moats, a wave of change (which will inevitably come) is a huge disaster! How will you ever get all of those grains of sand back in place? It feels like a hopeless cause…and that’s a good thing.
Wait, what!? How can the destruction of my years of hard work be a good thing? Well, I have a dirty little secret to pass along…your castle was probably outdated! I know turrets and moats were all the rage 20 years ago but since then we’ve created security cameras that can warn you when there’s any motion outside…and installing one of those in your sandcastle would take A LOT of work. Even though the change is painful, it’s an opportunity.
Like those famous sandy philosophers, The Beach Boys, said, “Catch a wave (of change) and you’ll be sitting on top of the world!” It is a difficult thing when something that you’ve worked hard on suddenly changes. If you can treat those changes as opportunities, you’ll see the waves of change NOT as sandcastle destroying opportunities but a chance to learn something new…surfing!
Since 1995 (how can that be!) the Toy Story movies have given us a window into the ‘secret life of toys’. The movies are very effective at reminding us of the simple joys of childhood using some very adult storylines. This group of friends learns they can count on each other through thick and thin as they work through jealousy (Toy Story), abduction (Toy Story 2), and betrayal (Toy Story 3). Pretty heavy stuff for a ‘kids’ movie!
The cast of characters spans the toy world and includes some common personality traits that we see all around us. Rex, the dinosaur is always anticipating the worst. Slinky, the dog, is laid back and calm. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are a classic ‘old married couple’. However, when it comes to organizational change, two characters are great examples of typical responses you may see:
•Woody, the cowboy, does NOT like change. He’s happy with the status quo, thank you very much, and doesn’t see any need to do things differently. His motto could be ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’!
•Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger, is the face of change. He’s never met a problem he couldn’t solve or a challenge too difficult. His personal motto, “To infinity, and beyond!” shows us that he’ll always be reaching for the stars.
If you take just a minute, I’m sure you can identify at least one Woody and one Buzz in your team…maybe even by looking in the mirror! How do you use these mindsets to help you make a change?
If you’ve got a “Woody”, recognize that you may never have them fully supporting your change. You can help them see the benefits while also appreciating their perspective and trying to move them to ‘neutral’. However, if you can get a skeptic like Woody to support your idea, expect many others to follow!
A “Buzz” can be a challenge as well. They may be so passionate about moving to ‘the new thing’ that they steamroll everyone in their path. Harness their energy by helping them see everyone’s perspective and the challenges ahead. Then use them as sympathetic evangelists of the change throughout the organization.
When it’s time for a change in your organization, take a look around you to find both Woody and Buzz. Once you’ve identified them, you can use their unique strengths to help your change “reach for the sky”!
photo credit: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/783510
Over 14,000 General Motors employees will soon experience a major change…but other factors will account for their perception of it
It’s very challenging for organizations to implement necessary changes without alienating their employees. According to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, changes at work are as stressful as the birth of a new child and more stressful than the death of a close friend!
In a recent course on “Leading Change” we discussed the Kübler-Ross model of emotions experienced by terminally ill patients. That model uses five stages to explain what is often called the ‘change curve’: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. During the course, we had an excellent discussion that, as humans, we may be on many ‘change curves’ at one time.
For example, someone who has experienced an emotional family issue may be in the bargaining phase for that change while they are also in the depression phase about a personal injury. Those changes already underway multiply the effect of a major change at work (like the layoff of 14,000 co-workers).
General Motors has a significant challenge ahead…not only with the impacted employees but also with stakeholders like the media and government. It’s important for them to remember that everyone affected will see the change through the lens of the changes they are ALREADY going through.
That also means some groups of stakeholders will arrive in the acceptance phase sooner than others. GM can take advantage of those early adopters to influence the rest of the population. We’ll all be watching their progress closely.
photo credit: wikimedia
RULE IV: Innovation requires a good idea, initiative and a few friends.
In my last post on Change Ninjas we talked about the benefit of blending in to the organization and timing your advocacy of change. However, you can’t do it alone.
I recently worked with an organization that wanted to see a significant culture change but didn’t have full time resources to dedicate to it. One person was clearly interested in being a ‘ninja’ and knew that they couldn’t do it alone…so where could they find partners?
Just like the historic ninjas, this Change Ninja quickly formed a “dojo” of allies from several areas of the organization and the team began to sketch out the future state of the change and the steps needed to get there. When choosing ‘dojo members’, they followed Shepard’s advice:
“Like the change agent, partners must be relatively autonomous people. Persons who are authority-oriented—who need to rebel or to submit—are not reliable partners; the rebels take the wrong risks and the good soldiers don’t take any.”
If you’re trying to inspire change, find people who are like minded (regardless of where they are in the organization), get them together, and get to work!
Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dojo.png
Herb Shepard directed the first doctoral program focused on successful organizational change and performance. In 1975, he published “Rules of Thumb for Change Agents” which have held up surprisingly well to the test of 40+ years of time. Let’s take a look at one of them.
RULE I: Stay alive.
Organizations are designed to deliver results but the world is changing around them. When change is triggered externally, most organizations find struggle to find the right people to help them respond. So, when a few brave souls take up the mantle of ‘change agent’ you would think that they would be celebrated…but that’s not usually the case. “Antibodies” in the organization, often at the middle management level, attack the internal change by convincing those who will listen why ‘it’s not a good idea’ and ‘things are fine just the way they are’.
How do you survive the attacks from those internal antibodies? Become a Change Ninja…wait, a what!?!
The two main roles of historic ninjas were espionage and strategy. Change Ninjas gather intelligence about the organization around them and figuring out ways (a.k.a. strategies) to influence the organization (most often indirectly). After peacefully living in the current system, Change Ninjas can jump out of their camouflaged position once opposition to change has been reduced.
Some budget is available? Shed the camouflage and make a strong case for directing it toward the growth project. A team needs a new member? Make sure to nominate someone who is sympathetic to the changes that need to take place.
Why the camouflage? Shepard says it best. He “counsels against self sacrifice on behalf of a cause that you do not wish to be your last.” Risks are necessary but make sure that they are “taken as part of a purposeful strategy of change, and appropriately timed and hedged. When they are taken under such circumstances, one is very much alive.”
When you need to make a major change, become a Change Ninja and live to fight another day!
Need some ‘Introduction to Change Ninja training’? Johannes Mutzke and I will be teaching a our Leading Change class in the Upstate of South Carolina on November 13. More information is available here and you can register here. Would love to see you there!
Not in the Greenville, SC area? Check out my book on the three types of people that are key to every change.
Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/ninja-laptop-typing-notebook-155848/
Is helping others change an art or a science?
I think it’s both! I recently spent a few minutes talking with Jeff Skipper of the Association of Change Management about the Certified Change Management Professional™ (CCMP™) certification. I was beta participant and one of the first 75 people in the world to obtain complete the coursework pass the test, and become certified.
Interested in more information? Check out the video of our discussion!
Depending on your age, at least one of these three ‘format wars’ should sound familiar:
I think there are at least three special things that helped the ‘winner’ in each of these ‘wars’. I’ll be using a framework from a previous post (Want An Effective Solution? Work On Its Acceptance!) so take a read if the equation Q x A = E doesn’t sound familiar to you.
Lesson 1 – The ‘consumers’ of the change make the choice
The 8 Track was seen as the successor to vinyl records with the awesome feature of being able to skip to INDIVIDUAL SONGS! In addition, they were much more portable than vinyl…and players could be installed in cars.
So why did the 8 Track lose out? Price and reliability. The cassette didn’t have a quality advantage but it was a few dollars cheaper and longer lasting. Consumers chose based on their needs, not just product quality.
If you want your solution to be accepted, figure out what the ‘consumers’ of it need.
Lesson 2 – Quality isn’t always king
Sony’s Betamax format was more reliable and had higher resolution than JVC’s VHS format. However VHS initially had twice the capacity and later four times (Beta’s 60 min vs VHS’ 240 min)…and this made all the difference.
Consumers didn’t want to switch tapes when recording a movie or sporting event, even if the resolution was better.
Don’t be fooled by thinking your solution will win out on quality alone.
Lesson 3 – Competitors can quickly become allies
From 2006 to 2008, Sony’s Blu-Ray and Toshiba’s HD DVD fought to become the standard for high definition video. Cost was initially the differentiating factor with each solution having some minor technical differences. Both companies quickly created alliances with manufacturers of consumer electronics as well as film studios.
Both sides had key wins in the ‘battle’ but the turning point was when Warner Brothers defected from HD DVD to Blu-Ray. Within a few weeks, Blu-Ray was the clear winner as most other major manufacturers abandoned HD-DVD.
Keep your eyes open for possible alliances that can change the game.
We just covered a few lessons here…what have you experienced?
Image Credit: wikimedia.org
There are people around you who are perfectly comfortable the way things are. But, you know things need to change – because of opportunities or threats that most people haven’t seen yet. So how do you help people who are comfortable move to a new, better place?
The late Dr. Michael Hammer was a gifted teacher and I once heard him discuss “Everything I Needed to Know About Transition I Learned in the Bible.” His premise: How do you make people see a need for change when things are good?
Show them how things can go bad.
The Hebrew people were in slavery to the Egyptians. They had to make mud bricks all day and build these huge pyramids in the baking sun. No fun. The relative safety and abundant food made them satisfied and when Moses arrived on the scene announcing it was time to move to a great new place (the ‘Promised Land’) he didn’t get much buy in.
Sound like any change you’ve been involved in?
So, how were the Hebrews convinced to leave this difficult yet comfortable place? Moses combined a burning platform (“Pharaoh is chasing us!”) and a motivating vision (“A land flowing with milk and honey!”)
After escaping Pharaoh, Moses led the people into the Sinai Desert. They had gone from Egypt (bad) to the Desert (very bad). No constant water supply, harvesting a miraculous food supply, moving regularly. They surely longed for the “good old days.” That is, until they crossed the Jordan River and arrived in the “Promised Land.” And it was good.
So, do you need to move people to a “promised land” that they don’t want to visit? Take a lesson from Moses. Help them understand how now is bad, take them (if only in their imaginations) to a place that’s worse, and then lead them to the promise that is held by the future.