I’ve recently had the opportunity to do several workshops for the change management community on “The Resilient Change Practitioner.” Here are 10 highlights:
- Change can be difficult when people see it as posing threats to things they value, such as relationships, status, safety, predictability, and the ability to achieve personal goals.
- Change can present positive challenges as well. No matter whether a challenge is positive or negative, it consumes some level of physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual energy.
- When people face multiple overlapping challenges, inside and outside the organization, they may not have enough energy to address everything at once, and they may show signs of overload and stress. These include absenteeism, poor communication, lack of teamwork, increased errors and accidents, and a range of other symptoms.
- Personal resilience enables people to maintain higher levels of performance and well-being during times of turbulence.
- Resilience is a process with multiple elements, not a single personality trait. We all have times when we are more resilient, and times when we are less so, depending on the nature of the challenge we are facing, our previous experiences, our energy levels, and a number of other things.
- Everyone has “resilience muscles” that we use when dealing with difficulties. These muscles can be developed through practice. Just like physical muscles, they are built through cycles of challenge and recovery. You can learn more about these resilience muscles here.
- Every change role can benefit from developing resilience. Although we tend to focus most attention on the participants in change, resilient sponsors and agents are important too!
- Resilience is fueled by physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. I’ve written a whole series about how organizations can help people build and sustain high energy levels that starts here.
If you’d like to dig into this topic in more detail, check out prosilience.com or read my newest book, Prosilience: Building Your Resilience for a Turbulent World. And if you are looking for a speaker or workshop facilitator on organizational change, resilience, or employee well-being, please contact me. I’d love to talk to you!
Effective teamwork is particularly important during complex change initiatives. Do you know how to develop synergistic teams?
This is the seventh in a series of articles focused on classic elements of change management content, updated and augmented with my own perspectives and experience. In the first post, Strategic Risk Factors, I have provided some of the history behind this series. The series is primarily written for change management practitioners, but I hope it will also be useful for others who are interested in making organizational changes more successful.
Today’s Focus: Synergy
I encountered the material on synergy presented here more than 25 years ago and continue to find it powerful today. Based on concepts introduced by Henry Nelson Wieman in his Creative Interchange process, the framework as presented here was articulated by Daryl Conner and Charles Palmgren. The material in the “Classic Model” section below is used with permission of Conner Partners (formerly ODR).
Synergy: Classic Model
Three Types of Working Relationships
The capacity of individuals or groups within an organization to apply resources (such as time, money, materials, and human energy) in an effort to work as a productive unit can be characterized in one of three ways:
1 + 1 < 2 or Self-destructive
1 + 1 = 2 or Static
1 + 1 > 2 or Synergistic
1 + 1 < 2 or Self-Destructive
This type of working relationship is one in which people interact in such a way that they consume excessive resources for the amount of benefit they generate for the organization. The result is a less productive output than might be expected if the same individuals worked independently.
For example, in some product-oriented organizations, the sales department and the production department spend an inordinate amount of resources protecting their “turf” from one another, miscommunication, and blaming each other. They resemble two competitors instead of two interrelated functions within the same system. Such working relationships are eventually self-destructive because the two persons and/or groups produce enough to compensate for the drain on resources it requires for them to work together. It costs more in resources for them to operate than they generate in output. They actually have a negative production level.
Constantly investing unreplenished resources into a draining work relationship often results in (a) rebellion from more productive parts of the organization that have generated excess resources and/or (b) a gradual exhaustion of all excess resources because of the parasitic nature of the relationship and its drain from the host organization. In either case, the eventual outcome is the termination of either those involved or the organization itself.
1 + 1 = 2 or Static
This type of working relationship is characterized by people interacting in such a way that they consume resources at about the same rate they contribute them back to the organization. The result is a productive output level equal to what would be expected when two or more people combine their efforts.
At first glance, there appears to be no problem with this type of relationship. The productive output is “normal” or what is expected when people work together. As long as the total environment in which they interact is essentially stable, a strong case can be made for this being the preferred method. In a stable environment, few changes affect the organization’s operation and it is possible to react to and deal with events that are predictable. When event “X” occurs, there is an automatic “Y” response from the components because their relationship is designed to function by means of predetermined operating procedures and/or policies.
In a stable climate, people working together at this level may be exactly what is needed; however, this is not the case in a turbulent environment. The problem, then, with this type of working relationship does not lie with the nature of its structure but with the presence of turbulence in the work environment.
A turbulent working environment is one in which changes affecting organizational operations occur, not only unexpectedly, but also at an ever-increasing rate. No aspect of an organization is immune to the effects of change once it occurs within the system’s boundaries. Regardless of its nature or origin, change has a rippling effect on the total organizational climate, with each change causing still further changes.
The rate of changes in the work environment over the last 40+ years has produced an exponentially accelerating cumulative effect on organizations. Today’s workforce must learn to plan for, react to, and cope with the impact of change, or their organizations will not survive. Learning the skills necessary for this requires an investment of time, money, energy, and other resources. Herein lies the problem: Static systems by definition do not generate resources beyond what is required to produce their product or provide their service. Adapting to unexpected change is a resource-consuming activity. Static working relationships have no reserves from which they can draw to meet the unanticipated demand.
Just as change impacts the environment at an accelerating rate, deficiencies in adaptive behavior also grow exponentially. People operating in static working relationships within turbulent environments experience larger and larger gaps in their defenses against the disruptive effects of change. Events that used to be manageable now seem unpredictable and confusing. The resulting disorientation consumes more and more resources as people attempt to regain their equilibrium. Since no excess exists, these resources must come from what was allocated for production. Thus, a destructive cycle is created that continues until the status of 1 + 1 = 2 degenerates into the 1 + 1 < 2, or self-destructive state.
1 + 1 > 2 or Synergistic
This type of working relationship is one in which people interact in such a way that they consume the fewest resources. The result is higher quantity and quality production output than might have been expected if the two involved had worked independently. This type of working relationship can also be characterized as the whole is greater than the sum of the parts or in the vernacular, “getting the biggest bang for the buck.”
The term used to describe this type of relationship is “synergistic,” derived from the Greek root “syn,” meaning together, and “ergo,” meaning “to work.” A synergistic relationship is one in which cooperative action results in a total effect greater than the sum of what each party could have produced independently. Simply stated, operating synergistically means effective “teamwork.”
Our world is full of synergistic examples. Iron and nickel each have certain characteristics that, when combined in a synergistic manner, are transformed into steel, a much stronger alloy than either element alone. In a marriage, if the relationship is a synergistic one, the similarities and differences each partner has with the other are merged into a complementary, mutually enhancing experience that generates fulfillment and growth beyond what was possible for either person alone. When championship football teams execute a play, they demonstrate what can happen by synergistically merging the skills of eleven individuals into a smoothly operating unit capable of performing far beyond what the team members could do independently. There are other examples in professional sports where championship teams composed of individual “no-name” players have operated synergistically and defeated teams that were a collection of nonsynergistic superstars.
Such relationships can exist in the work setting as well. For example, the sales and production departments mentioned earlier can synergistically combine their efforts so that the product is ordered, manufactured, and delivered in a more efficient and effective manner than if each department works independently of the other. Management teams can fuse the knowledge and skills of each member into an operating unit vastly more competent than a group functioning as a composite of individuals. The relationship between an employee and supervisor can be structured to blend the talents of both parties while compensating for each other’s weaknesses, yielding a highly productive work team.
People engaged in synergistic working relationships make optimal use of resources and free otherwise committed ones to achieve the all-important “excess” needed to manage change. The additional resources facilitate productivity and organizational competence. These resources create new options for organizations that were otherwise unavailable. An organization can reinvest into itself in order to accomplish its task more effectively. This type of organization can be more creative about how it operates, begin to develop and to offer new products or services, upgrade the competence of existing personnel, seek new people for expanding positions, and pay higher returns to investors.
Because of turbulence caused by a changing environment and the impact this has on the work setting, the most important benefit derived from synergistic work relationships may be the ability to invest in coping with change. Synergy does not grant individuals or work teams immunity from the stress of change. What it does provide is the optimal use of resources necessary to react to change sooner and more effectively, while sustaining high levels of productivity and performance.
Human synergy and its impact on an organization’s capacity to effectively manage a radically changing environment is the focus for the model introduced on the next page. Specifically, the model addresses how change sponsors, agents, and targets (referred to as the “implementation team”) can structure their working relationships to maximize the probability of successful change implementation.
A Model for Organizational Synergy
Synergistic relationships are generated through a four-fold process: Interacting, Appreciative Understanding, Integrating, and Implementing. This process is organic in nature. Each phase is interdependent on the others. Implementation team members must demonstrate the ability and willingness to operate according to the characteristics associated with each phase.
In this first phase, team members surface diverse ideas and perspectives. This allows them to establish common change goals, acknowledge their interdependence, and communicate effectively.
Ability/willingness of team members to:
- Clearly define and accept change goals and acknowledge interdependence regarding successful accomplishment of the change.
- Effectively communicate to each other with directness, low distortion, and high congruence.
- Actively listen to both the facts and feelings expressed in communication.
- Communicate in a manner that generates trust and credibility with each other.
II. Appreciative Understanding
In this second phase, team members find value in the diverse ideas and perspectives of others. This allows them to develops a climate in which negative judgments are delayed, active empathy is demonstrated, and divergent perspectives are legitimized and valued.
Ability/willingness of team members to:
- Create an open climate where differences can be surfaced appropriately.
- Delay initial negative judgments about each other’s ideas, beliefs, feelings, attitudes, behavior, or concerns.
- Actively empathize with each other and view the perspective of others as legitimate for them.
- Value diversity and identify positive characteristics about each other’s viewpoint.
In this third phase, team members combine diverse ideas and perspectives to generate creative solutions. This allows them to merge individual members’ viewpoints into a common perspective that can be supported by all.
Ability/willingness of team members to:
- Tolerate ambiguity and be persistent in the struggle for new possibilities.
- Modify their own views, beliefs, and behavior in order to support the team.
- Generate creative ways of merging diverse perspectives into new, mutually supported alternatives.
- Identify issues, concepts, etc., that cannot or should not be integrated.
In this fourth phase, team members effectively put their solutions into action. This allows them to channel synergistic energy into goal-directed, measurable action plans that reflect sensitivity toward individual members, the team, and the organization.
Ability/willingness of team members to:
- Establish specific, measurable goals/ objectives/action plans regarding change implementation.
- Monitor implementation progress and supply the necessary reinforcement to ensure success.
- Implement the change at a speed and in a manner that respects the needs of all parties.
- Modify the implementation plan (throughout the change process) to ensure its relevancy to current realities.
It has been our experience that ineffective team behavior is prevalent among implementation efforts. We believe that non-synergistic relationships are not the result of human nature, but instead of human habit; the difference is that habits can change. We present this process in the hope that it will serve as a way to identify current behavior that may be hindering implementation efforts and to develop new skills related to synergistic teamwork.
Synergy: Linda’s Commentary
When I first encountered this model, it was in the context of the MOC (Managing Organizational Change) methodology, one of the very first systematic approaches to executing change. We referred to synergy as the “soul” of MOC, because we could see that when sponsors, agents, and targets worked together in highly synergistic ways, truly amazing things could happen. I continue to find new insights as I use this model in practice.
There are some additional components of this model that were not included in the “classic” article I drew on for this post. They focus on the prerequisites for synergy—the conditions that need to be in place before people will invest the energy needed to yield truly synergistic outcomes. These include willingness to invest in synergy, which comes from the participants holding a shared goal and recognizing that they are interdependent in achieving that goal, and ability or opportunity to operate synergistically, which reflects the realities of organizational decision-making: unless decisions are open to input and team members carry genuine influence with one another, there’s no point in people putting energy into collaboration.
I visualize these prerequisites as creating a “container” or “crucible” in which synergy can take place: if the container is broken, it must first be mended and strengthened by ensuring that teams share common goals and recognize their interdependence, that decision-makers clearly identify situations in which teamwork is welcome, and that individuals bring genuine value to the table. Only then is it worth investing in the development of skills in deep listening, openness to other perspectives, tolerance for ambiguity, and creative collaboration that helps people excel at the four phases of the synergy process.
I’ve added one element to my own version of the model as well—diversity of inputs. Although it is implicit in the model, it seems worth calling out. A group of people who all think alike will probably not come up with ideas and solutions that represent true breakthroughs.
With those additions, I find this to be one of the most useful models in my toolkit for working with teams. If you would like to download an article that includes a more detailed summary of this model (including the prerequisites), you can do so here.
I have also developed an assessment tool that practitioners can use to diagnose the elements of team synergy; it’s proved very useful in focusing development efforts on the most important issues.
I’d like to close by encouraging you to dig more deeply into the Creative Interchange work that Dr. Charles Palmgren has done based on the material and concepts that were the original source of this model.
Please share your thoughts on this. Do you have examples of highly synergistic teams to share, or stories about how a lack of synergy blocked progress on a critical change? What approaches do you use to build team effectiveness?
Have you ever referred to an initiative as a burning platform? Do you hate the term and wish it would go away? Do you know the story behind it?
This is the sixth in a series of articles focused on classic elements of change management content, updated and augmented with my own perspectives and experience. In the first post, Strategic Risk Factors, I have provided some of the history behind this series. The series is primarily written for change management practitioners, but I hope it will also be useful for others who are interested in making organizational changes more successful.
Today’s Focus: Burning Platform
First introduced in Daryl Conner’s Managing at the Speed of Change, the metaphor of the burning platform has been used for nearly 30 years to describe a high level of urgency regarding a change initiative. While it is still in use today, it is unpopular with some in the change management world (I’ll discuss some of the reasons in my commentary). The material in the “Classic Model” section below is excerpted from Managing at the Speed of Change and used with permission of Conner Partners (formerly ODR).
Burning Platform: Classic Model
At nine-thirty on a July evening in 1988, a disastrous explosion and fire occurred on an oil-drilling platform in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. One hundred and sixty-six crew members and two rescuers lost their lives in the worst catastrophe in the twenty-five-year history of North Sea oil exploration. One of the sixty-three crew members who survived was a superintendent on the rig, Andy Mochan. His interview helped me find a way to describe the resolve that winners manifest.
From his hospital bed, he told of being awakened by the explosion and alarms. He said that he ran from his quarters to the platform edge and jumped fifteen stories from the platform to the water. Because of the water’s temperature, he knew that he could live a maximum of only twenty minutes if he were not rescued. Also, oil had surfaced and ignited. Yet Andy jumped 150 feet in the middle of the night into an ocean of burning oil and debris.
When asked why he took that potentially fatal leap, he did not hesitate. He said, “It was either jump or fry.” He chose possible death over certain death. Consider this:
- He didn’t jump because he felt confident that he would survive.
- He didn’t jump because it seemed like a good idea.
- He didn’t jump because he thought it would be intellectually intriguing.
- He didn’t jump because it was a personal growth experience.
He jumped because he had no choice—the price of staying on the platform, of maintaining the status quo, was too high. This is the same type of situation in which many business, social, and political leaders find themselves every day. We sometimes have to make some changes, no matter how uncertain and frightening they are. We, like Andy Mochan, would face a price too high for not doing so.
An organizational burning platform exists when maintaining the status quo becomes prohibitively expensive. Major change is always costly, but when the present course of action is even more expensive, a burning-platform situation erupts. The key characteristic that distinguishes a situation made in a burning-platform situation from all other decisions is not the degree of reason or emotion involved, but the level of resolve. When an organization is on a burning platform, the decision to make a major change is not just a good idea—it is a business imperative.
Good Ideas and Business Imperatives
Two types of situations can generate the urgency to implement and sustain major change: The high price of unresolved problems or the high cost of missed opportunities. The price of unresolved problems can range from brief discomfort to a situation where recovery will be impossible. The price of missed opportunities can range from missing something interesting and enjoyable to missing a key element in moving from market leader to market dominance. The examples at the lower end of each continuum represent “good ideas.” As you move up the scale, the costs shift to those that are too expensive to pay. These situations that arise are burning platforms—business imperatives. The line between a good idea and a business imperative is subjective; each organization must define this distinction for itself.
Most organizations jeopardize their ability to sustain imperative changes because they embark on too many good ideas—changes that they want to do, are justified in doing, ones that will produce benefits and may be popular with the employees, but are not imperatives. To conserve assimilation resources, it is vital that organizations focus their attention on burning-platform-type situations.
How Pain Drives Change
The resolve to change that organizations develop during burning-platform circumstances can surface early or late in the game. When the resolve forms early, the company has anticipated what the price or pain of the status quo will be if the desired action is not taken. When the resolve develops late, the company is already paying a price for the status quo that is too expensive to bear.
Current pain is what inspires commitment to change late in a situation. Unfortunately, only short-term tactical action is possible at that point. When the resolve to change comes early, it is due to anticipated pain. Anticipated pain can be more powerful due to the extra time available in which to make strategic moves; however, it is often more difficult to convince people to take direct action when no current pain is felt.
If a burning-platform situation is at hand, the issue is not will the necessary commitment to act be generated, but when. If your organization is facing a burning platform, don’t worry about generating commitment; worry about timing this commitment so that it can make a difference before irreversible damage is done.
In today’s irregular business environment, more and more organizations are finding themselves on burning platforms. Leaders are facing a status quo that they can no longer afford. Although transition may be disruptive and expensive, organizations feeling the heat understand that they have no choice but to change.
Change is not always necessitated by existing or anticipated problems; sometimes, emerging opportunities require major transitions. The urgency of burning platforms may result from either positive or negative circumstances, or it may stem from a visionary’s drive for excellence. Regardless, the common denominator for all burning-platform situations is urgency, necessity—resolve.
Burning Platform: Linda’s Commentary
Metaphors and images are always so powerful! It’s hard to hear this story without mentally placing yourself on the edge of an oil rig, thinking about what you would do in Andy’s situation. It certainly creates a vivid picture of urgency. It’s also hard for me to hear this story without thinking of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the people who made the choice to die by jumping rather than die in even more painful ways. Each of us has probably also had the experience of being drawn toward something we want—a relationship or a career, perhaps—and the high level of resolve it creates in us to take risks and pay whatever price is needed to obtain it.
Having said that, I’d like to separate the metaphor itself from the concepts it represents. Let’s take the concepts first. I really resonate with the idea that resolve can be driven by both problems and opportunities. I also agree that we can be motivated by both current and future discomfort, and that the timing is important—if we start too late, we don’t have much runway. If we start too early, it’s sometimes hard to get others to see the urgency.
The linkage between urgency, priorities, and change capacity is also very real. I have seen many organizations try to implement too many initiatives, failing to distinguish between good ideas and business imperatives, and choking on the cumulative resource and energy requirements. In these situations, they run the risk of failing at truly urgent changes.
I like the current/anticipated problem/opportunity grid as a way of creating real and impactful communication about the reasons for a change. Rather than trying to classify the change into one quadrant, it can be useful to cast the reasons for change into all four quadrants, as the things that create urgency for one person may be different from those that will convince another.
There are a couple of important cautions to keep in mind, of course. You can’t (and shouldn’t) turn every change into a burning platform. Burning platforms are identified, not created. If you are spinning up rhetoric to make it sound as though the world will end if your change does not succeed, you will not help the organization make wise choices about how to use its scarce resources. And if you are working on an initiative that is not a business imperative when compared to other issues the organization is facing, you need to be prepared for sponsors to become distracted and place a low priority on it compared to things that they see as truly urgent.
Now let’s tackle the metaphor itself. I personally have found myself using it less and less over time. Why? Well, first of all, I think it requires more explanation than I usually have time to give to ensure that people understand the true message. It very quickly becomes shorthand, and once that happens and people use it without understanding, it can very quickly be interpreted to mean that current/urgent problems are the only ones that motivate people to change. I think this is one of the core misunderstandings that has led to critiques of the term. Secondly, it can tend to drive binary thinking, both in terms of the decision about whether something is a burning platform and about the decision to take action. In real life, I find that priorities and urgencies shift a lot, and that most initiatives involve a series of leaps and mid-course adjustments. However, I will say that I haven’t yet found another metaphor with this much power to illustrate what deep resolve looks like.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. How do you help leaders understand what real urgency looks like? Are there stories and metaphors you use?
Are your change initiatives positioned to realize the full benefits you promised to deliver? Or are you simply installing a solution and trusting that the results will follow?
This is the fifth in a series of articles focused on classic elements of change management content, updated and augmented with my own perspectives and experience. In the first post, Strategic Risk Factors, I have provided some of the history behind this series. The series is primarily written for change management practitioners, but I hope it will also be useful for others who are interested in making organizational changes more successful.
Today’s Focus: Change Realization
When I was first introduced to the terminology and concepts described below (in the late 1990s), it was used to help leaders in information technology understand why so many of their initiatives were not achieving the desired results. In about 2001, ODR published an article called The Leader’s Challenge: Installation or Realization that articulated the concept more broadly, and the installation/realization distinction became a cornerstone of preparing leaders and change agents to succeed in executing major initiatives. The material in the “Classic Model” section below is excerpted from this article and used with permission of Conner Partners (formerly ODR).
Change Realization: Classic Model
Installation and Realization
Most organizations do a relatively good job of figuring out what must be done to solve their problems or exploit their opportunities. The problem is this: most organizations unwittingly apply their resources toward installing new solutions rather than realizing the anticipated benefits. Installation occurs when a new solution (new technology, reorganization, updated processes, etc.) is introduced to the organization. The process may include announcing the project, providing new equipment or software, training, and a host of other related activities. Realization, however, is achieved when the organization goes beyond just deploying the change and reaps the full business benefits that were anticipated when the resources were allocated to accomplish the initiative.
Installation When change projects are first introduced into a work setting, they are deployed but have not yet achieved their ultimate intent. Installation is about placement: managing the tangible aspects of inserting a new initiative into the work environment. It is an essential part of the overall implementation process, but it is a two-edged sword. With it comes the potential for either furthering the primary purpose of the intended change, or actually preventing it from ever truly taking form. For this reason, we make a distinction between two forms of installation: beneficial and dysfunctional.
- Beneficial Installation: Installation is a phase all change endeavors go through where attention is focused primarily on physically inserting projects into an organization. Installation is an asset when decision makers: 1) see it as a critically important step in the overall implementation process, and, 2) realize that much more work is involved to fulfill the true purpose of their investment.
- Dysfunctional Installation: Installation is dysfunctional when it becomes an end state, not a phase in the sequence of necessary action steps. When this happens, people within the organization engage in self-protective behavior that results in the appearance of change without the substance. Employees participate in the farce by saying all the right things, going through the motions of complying, disguising old habits with new rhetoric and fabricating the intended outcomes. While all of this is taking place, the real goals of the effort are being completely bypassed.
Realization Realization takes place when the key purpose for an initiative (e.g., confirmed cost savings, measurable increases in customer loyalty, documented productivity gains, etc.) is actually achieved. Once installation has taken place, the necessary elements are in place to ensure that the installed solution is fully utilized.
Because of its elusive nature, change requires tangible “containers” that allow it to be transported into an organization and be recognized. But these packages actually only carry the seeds of change, not change itself. Examples: A well-crafted sales training program exposes participants to the elements needed to develop effective customer relationships, but the course may or may not foster the acquisition of the desired skills, attitudes, and behaviors that will actually lead to more productive relationships. New, enterprise-wide software may create the possibility of sharing information across departments, but it will not necessarily create the mental and emotional shifts needed to create the environment of trust, openness, and collaboration required to truly achieve the potential synergies.
Many leaders confuse the containers that hold the potential for change with the actual change that is desired. Once the seeds of change have been planted, the true purpose of the endeavor can only unfold if the surrounding human landscape has been made ready to absorb the inherent disruption. Human landscapes are the breeding grounds for resistance because all initiatives designed to bring about change, by definition, interrupt the status quo. The greater the promise of change, the more disruption required. Despite wishful thinking to the contrary, most people are reluctant to disturb the routines that have formed in their lives. We are a species addicted to our established habits, and we often cling to them even when doing so is unproductive or, worse, self-destructive.
What Leaders Need to Know
Many leaders deal rather peripherally with or ignore altogether the people dynamics associated with the major changes they attempt to implement. Why? Much of the time, it’s because they have not fully grasped that leadership involves more than making the right decisions about “what” should be done. Senior leaders must also know “how” to orchestrate the human infrastructure to ensure that there is enough support from the key people involved in a change effort to actually achieve the true purpose of the endeavor.
For important initiatives to reach their realization potential, it is usually necessary to call into play two disciplines: project management and change management. Project management deals with the logistics of implementation (functional milestones, scheduling, training, cost control, etc.) Change management uses behavioral science research and techniques to deal with the dynamics that unfold within the surrounding human landscapes (developing commitment, minimizing resistance, fostering resilience, etc.). It is best when these two disciplines are integrated into a single implementation methodology. This allows the logistic and human components to be seen, as they truly are – two equally important and interdependent requisites to successful change investments. If change management is ignored or applied in a superficial manner, there is little chance of going beyond installation-type outcomes.
Leaders don’t need a deep expertise in the psychology of change to deal with human landscape issues, but a solid, working understanding of the dynamics involved is essential. For change promises to be realized rather than installed, leaders need to know enough about how change unfolds to provide the proper guidance to their organization. They need to attend to the following:
- Sponsor Commitment: Will there be sufficient resolve demonstrated by management (through public rhetoric, private pressure, allocation of resources, consequence management, time and attention, etc.) to drive the desired behaviors and attitudes required by the initiative and to ensure that this leads to achieving the overall desired change?
- Target Resistance: Have the views of those being affected been taken into account to: 1) identify reasons why they might be reluctant to support the ultimate desired change, and 2) develop action plans that either relieve the constraints identified or address how to deal with those that can’t be resolved?
- Corporate Culture: Is the culture (i.e., patterns of beliefs, behaviors, and unconscious assumptions) that surrounds the change aligned with what must happen for desired change to become reality?
- Remaining Adaptation Capacity: Are there sufficient resources (physical, emotional, and intellectual energy) available among the people being affected to adjust to the desired outcome?
- Implementation Architecture: To what extent are sponsors and agents of change prepared to use a structured, disciplined approach as opposed to relying on intuition and good intentions when managing the human aspects of implementation?
Change Realization: Linda’s Commentary
As usual, I have a few thoughts and perspectives on this model from the vantage point of nearly 20 years.
First, I have to say that I enjoy watching people’s faces the first time they encounter the installation-realization distinction. There are usually a lot of “a-ha” moments as leaders and change agents think about the fact that the organization has focused most of its attention and energy on installation-related activities, and see how this language can help them understand the gap that change-management activities are designed to close.
The idea of “change containers” really resonates with me as well, and brings to mind two elements in what we used to call the “napkin speech” (a diagram that is used to tell the story of how change unfolds—look for it in a future blog post): the solution and the desired state. The solution is the container—what we are putting in place (new technology, a new organizational structure, etc.). The desired state is the way we want things to be in the future (including the mindsets and behaviors we want people to internalize, the business results we want to achieve, etc.). Vendors typically sell solutions to organizations, with implicit promises about the results that will be achieved, but often their implementation guidance and planning stops once the solution is installed and activated. Unless someone within the organization takes ownership of managing activities and tracking progress all the way to realization of business benefits, that aspect of implementation is often insufficiently staffed and funded, and project resources are on to the next initiative before they have truly finished the last one.
In training leaders and change agents on this model, one of the tests I often give for whether they are focusing on installation or realization is “what are you calling the initiative?” If it’s the “sales training” initiative, it’s probably installation-focused. If it’s the “build loyal customers” initiative, there’s a better chance that it’s realization-focused.
A second test for whether an initiative is installation- or realization-focused is the measures that are being used to evaluate success. Installation measures (which are very important too) might include numbers of people who have completed training and/or successful deployment of technology functions and features. Realization measures might include shifts in customer experience that are linked to new staff behaviors and/or increases in revenue or profitability linked to the new functions and features. There are several things that make realization measures harder to formulate and track:
- The outcomes that are being sought are usually linked to multiple inputs, so it’s hard to claim that a single initiative was responsible for the shift.
- Realization outcomes can sometimes be more subjective (e.g., customer satisfaction or loyalty, degree of shift in employee mindsets and behaviors) and more challenging to measure.
- Realization outcomes unfold over a much longer period of time and often involve gathering data that has not previously been collected, or gaining access to data that is owned by other divisions or departments.
One way I’ve seen people think about realization measures is in the form of a realization map, which takes the idea of a strategy map and adapts it to identify outcome measures for each area (the most common ones I’ve seen are financial, customer, internal business processes, and learning and growth) and articulate the anticipated linkages among them. A simpler format for this kind of thinking is found in a benefits map.
Would I make any adjustments to this “classic” model today? Maybe a few. I don’t have much to add to the conceptual distinction between installation and realization. I do think that as written this model assumes a “waterfall” approach to planning, where all the desired outcomes are specified in advance and the project plan & change management plan are designed to get to those outcomes. That’s still a very common model, but I’ve become convinced that an iterative, exploratory approach may often be better for getting engagement and traction. From that perspective, both installation and realization are a good bit more evolutionary—we try some experiments, and see what is working, and then continue to expand on the fruitful experiments, measuring key outcomes and adjusting our goals and plans as we go. Such an approach would place no less importance on realization, but would require a substantially different way of thinking about how to plan for and measure it.
How are you approaching the issue of realization? What insights, models, and approaches do you find most helpful?