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I suppose that every profession has its (negative) stereotypes, but some days it seems like change management has more than others.  Maybe it's because change management often sits next to OD (organizational development), which tends to sit next to HR...and everyone loves to make fun of HR, even when they're simultaneously saying that people are their mosst important asset.

cliches in change management

Whatever the reason, I found myself thinking about these stereotypes and cliches today, and how I address them.  Maybe you'll find my responses helpful the next time you're trapped in a boardroom watching a PowerPoint presentation littered with statements that sound good but actually aren't helpful at all.

1.  "If you're not riding the wave of change, you'll find yourself underneath it."

I guess this is supposed to conjure images of a surfer, skimming expertly atop the swell, while unsuspecting swimmers are pulled to their deaths by the undertow.  But it's good to remember that waves are transitory, and in fact can be generated in enclosed bodies of water that go nowhere.  So - to continue the metaphor - you may be expending an awful lot of energy to 'ride' something that isn't going to be there tomorrow anyway.  A better strategy might be to become a stronger swimmer.

2.  "We need to see some quick wins in order to get buy-in."

All I have to say about this one is:  If you didn't get buy-in before you started, a few quick wins aren't going to help you.  This says to me that you haven't helped anyone, senior management or employees, understand the goals and rewards.  Quick wins won't change this - they'll only leave you on a path you can't sustain.  If you have to constantly demonstrate 'quick wins' to keep people on your side, you aren't set up for success.

3.  "Let's not get trapped in the past."

Yes, change is about moving forward.  The problem is that "Let's not get trapped in the past" can often become "Let's throw the baby out with the bathwater", which is not productive.  Examining your organizational history with an eye to keeping the good stuff and changing the bad is a more effective foundation for meaningful change.

4.  "We need to get all our ducks in a row."

There's a big difference between 'taking the time to get it right' and 'putting the launch date off for another 6 weeks because Bob from Accounting can't be bothered to come to meetings and his team still hasn't completed their deliverables.'  Great change management sometimes requires decisive action - like telling Bob that whether his ducks are coming or not, everyone else is off to the pond.

5.  "This organization is already changing - every single day!"

This cliche is particularly dangerous, because it's both completely true and completely false at the same time.  No organization is completely static:  Market conditions fluctuate, employees join and leave, clients buy more or less - so yes, the organization is changing on a day-to-day basis.  But in many fundamental ways it's not changing at all.  Overall, it's still selling the same products, using the same computers, operating from a stable location, etc.  Not all change is created equal.  You may be able to change the brand of coffee in the staff room without too much upheaval, for example, but replacing the coffee with tea is likely to be significantly more problematic.  And that's just coffee, not a major process shift.

6.  "Everyone around here is used to change because we change a lot."

If you think your employees are used to change because you are constantly changing their world, you're wrong.  They're tired.  They are bone tired.  And they aren't any better at change but they've figured out it doesn't matter, because you change so often they know nothing you mandate will be around for very long.  This doesn't bode well for the overall health of the business, so you might want to get your money up-front.  

No doubt there will be a Part II to this list of cliches, because I know there are many.

What change management cliches get your eyes rolling?

(As always, find me on Twitter @BethBanksCohn.)






Published in News
Tuesday, 26 November 2013 00:34

20 Change Pitfalls to Avoid [infographic]

It's funny:  Every organization is different, but when organizational change fails, it's usually for the same reasons.  In this infographic, Rick Torben lists the top 20 change pitfalls to avoid. One of my favorites - and it's often overlooked - is 'Only focusing on rational elements'.  People often think they're being rational about a change - but it's their emotions which are providing the resistance to it.



Published in News

One of the drawbacks of being a change management consultant is that you're often working alone.  Yes, you're usually working with a team, but that team is generally multi-disciplinary, and you're the change management lead, so you don't get a lot of opportunities to connect with peers in your field.

That's why I like to read other change management bloggers.  It's a sort of substitute for that fertile water-cooler conversation that is so great for stimulating discussion and sparking ideas.  I don't always agree with the blogger in question - but even the posts I disagree wtih can often get me thinking and on the way to clarifying (and articulating) my own opinions on various change-related issues.

top 10 change management bloggers

So this week, I offer you my Top 10 list.  These are the change management - and other - practitioners whose blogs I have bookmarked and check out regularly - and whose tweets I'm most likely to pay attention to.

Here's who I'm reading these days, and think you should, too.  (They're in the order they appear in my bookmarks folder, not in order of preference - they're all great.)

  1. Conversations of Change, by @jenfrahm
    Jen has recently blogged about 'gendered change champions' and gamification - in other words, she's got some interesting and unusual perspectives on change management and leadership that always get me thinking.
  2. Enclaria blog, by @HeatherStagl
    Like me, Heather lives at the intersection of 'change management' and 'coaching', and often blogs about how the two connect.  I loved her recent piece on 'Bankable Leadership'.
  3. Horizontal Change, by @ggitchell
    One of the things I like most about Garrett's blog is that he's so prolific - scarcely a week goes by that he doesn't post at least a couple of articles.  More importantly, he's got a unique perspective, such as his recent 'Wonderfully Disillusioned' piece.
  4. Leader Communicator blog, by David Grossman
    David isn't strictly a change management consultant, but he often writes about subjects which intersect with change management, like leadership, communication and employee engagement.  He's also a regular poster, so I check in with him frequently.
  5. ReplyMC blog, by @lucgaloppin (and contributors)
    This site bills itself as the 'Online Magazine for Organizational Change Practitioners', and it has pieces on change, motivation, leadership and other change-related subjects,  Unfortunately, recently the site hasn't been as active as it used to be, but I'm hoping that's just a temporary hiccup.
  6. Change Guide blog, by Stacy Aaron
    Stacy's another writer who I wish wrote more often, but she's got enough of a back catalogue on her site to keep me going for a while.  Her pieces are especially good when you need to teach non-change people about change.
  7. Voices on Project Management, by various authors
    I know that change management and project management are often uneasy bedfellows, but the truth is that we're often up against many similar challenges, and I like to hear what project management practitioners have to say about the ways they handle these challenges.
  8. Conspire blog, by Mindjet
    Mindjet isn't a change management company - they make software that's supposed to help organizations collaborate, innovate and change.  I like to stop by their blog because they often have interesting pieces on innovation, leadership and productivity - all of which have a lot to do with change management.  (I will say that I have absolutely no experience with their software, but it has a nice logo.)
  9. Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice, by @kbondale
    Some of the more traditional change management types I know will roll their eyes when they see that Kiron is a project manager who writes about change management, but I loved his recent piece, 'Neglect quiet stakeholders at your own peril.'
  10. Synergetic blog, by Faith Fuqua-Purvis
    If you've been kicking around the change-related blogosphere for a while, you've probably come across Faith - she's been a thought leader for a while now.  I love her pieces - I just wish she posted a little more often!

Of course, this list isn't comprehensive, and no doubt you have your own favorites who you'd have liked to see on the list.  But these are the sites I find myself visiting most often lately.  I look forward to hearing about your current favorites.  You can find me on Twitter @BethBanksCohn.

Published in News


It's all about balancing internal and external focus

The surveys are in; the results are tallied, and you are thrilled:  Compared to last year, your employee engagement numbers are up.  Way up.  You've done presentations on the feedback data, you've set up employee task forces to keep the momentum going, and you know you must be moving in the right direction because everyone says that employee engagement leads to a terrific bottom line.

And yet...

Somehow, the sales force - whose engagement numbers improved the most - still aren't hitting their (very realistic) numbers.  What the heck is going on?

The short answer is that, as important as employee engagement is, it really doesn't help you sell more product.  It's a measure that focuses on the internal, not the external - and therefore will do little to change your sales numbers.




According to Dan Denison, success involves a combination of Internal and External focus.  By doing so much work on your employee engagement inititatives, you've successfully transformed your sales force's internal focus.  That's great - you've got a sales force which believes in the organization and has a good team spirit.  But now you need to concentrate on their external focus, because now they have to get out there and spread the word beyond the organization.  

Now that you've got them engaged with the organization, it's time to focus on leveraging that to drive Adaptability (creating change and focusing on customers) and Mission (understanding the goals, objectives and vision).

Employee engagement may be the first step to increased business success - but when it comes to sales, real success happens when you ensure that the internal and external foci are working together.



Published in News


The right fit can make or break your change initiative

If you've been thinking that Change Management consultants are flakes who spend all their time talking about 'feelings' and not enough time demonstrating a commitment to the bottom line, you're not alone.  But the truth is that the right change management expertise can make all the difference to a chance initiative.  They can help improve ROI, speed the pace of change, help you retain your top performers, and prevent the project from going off-track.

It's just a matter of partnering with the right consultant.


Here's what you need to consider in order to choose the right consultant for your change initiative:

  1. Experience:  What changes have they implemented as part of an organization?  What changes have they experienced as an employee?  As a manager?  As a leader? Someone who has experienced change from a variety of perspectives is going to bring more understanding to your initiative.
  2. Who will actually be doing the work?  A senior consultant may be the one creating and overseeing the change plan, but delegating the actual work to specialists or juniors.  That's fine - but make sure you know who's on the team and how they'll be working together.
  3. Their role in the changes:  Change consultants can have experience in the technical, logistical or people components of change.  Be sure you know what component(s) you need, and look for someone with the right experience.
  4. Buzzwords vs results:  The best consultants are good at straightforward communications and outlining clear expectations.  If you're hearing a lot of terms like 'change agent' and 'transformation catalyst', call someone else.  Remember, a $25,000 diagram may look great in the boardroom, but isn't a guarantee of results.
  5. Approach:  Effective change management consultants ask good business questions and are looking to understand how all the pieces fit together before outlining a plan.  If they say they can just jump in and start delivering results, no questions asked, they may not have the skills you need.
  6. How many people will the consultant be bringing in?  An outside consultant may be able to bring clear vision and specialists to the table, but in order for a change to be successful, your internal employees should be fully engaged in the process.  Leaving change entirely to external consultants can mean the change leaves when they do.
  7. Pragmatism:  Good change management isn't about holding hands and singing folk songs with employees - it's about making smart business changes that ultimately lead to a better bottom line.  An effective change management consultant is one who knows that managing the people piece will drive business success.  That means demonstrating they understand the business and can balance the people side of things - if they only pay lip service to the people side, you'll have problems in the long run.  Remember:  People are your most important asset.
  8. What is their success rate?  Don't be afraid to ask. If they can't tell you it's higher than 98%, don't hire them.  It's that simple.
  9. Ask about their biggest failure - and how they turned it around.  Anyone who tells you they haven't had a failure is lying - and anyone who can't tell you how they fixed a big failure isn't ready to lead a change initiative.
  10. Does their process include a 'Lessons Learned' component?  It should.  Successful change management generates valuable knowledge and insight about the organizations, and it's important that this knowledge is articulated, documented, and transferred to the organization.  Otherwise all that knowledge just walks out the door along with the consultant at the end of the project.




Published in News


Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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