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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.

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Last week I got a call from a colleague:  "Well, it's happened again," she sighed.  "My prospective client just spent $2.5 million on a new accounting system to unite their global operations, but they told me that my $50,000 change management strategy - to make sure the system is implemented effectively - is too expensive."

If you're reading this, you've probably experienced the same thing, either as a consultant or as a change leader within an organization.  You watch senior leadership spend millions on a great idea - and then watch as that idea fails to launch because someone thought the implementation of that idea suddenly seemed 'too expensive'.

But here's the thing:  Change handled badly costs more money - because it's never over.

The problem is that the cost of badly-managed change is never properly quantified.  When a good idea goes wrong, there is never any shortage of excuses:  "The market wasn't ready," or "The marketing strategy wasn't effective," or "The technology never worked properly."  But rarely does anyone - well, outside of the change management consultants, who by that time aren't in the room - suggest that maybe the problem was simply that the change process wasn't managed by a professional.

Change Architecture, or Change Management, isn't sexy.  Neither is your electric bill.  But, like electricity, change management makes good economic sense because it enables other stuff to get done.  Here's how change management delivers value:

  • Clarity about the change.  The kind of clarity that means people spend less time asking each other what they think the change means and more time working on their projects and deliverables
  • Clarity about the direction.  So the organization's top performers don't put 'update my resume and call a recruiter' at the top of their to-do list, instead of the tasks they're paid to do
  • A communication plan with clearly articulated goals.  So leaders and employees spend less time interpreting what the change is about and what it means, and more time actually working toward the business goals the change is designed to help achieve
  • Change focus.  One of the biggest risks for big change is a loss of focus - which can mean serious and steep declines in the bottom line.  Without an independent change expert to keep the organization on track, an otherwise-great initiative can become derailed because no one is keeping their eye on the ball
  • Tactical monitoring.  I've written before that it's important for employees - not external consultants - to own the change management process, but bringing in a third-party change management expert to oversee the tactical implementation of a change will mean that fewer balls get dropped

You think you can't afford a change management consultant?  In my opinion, you can't afford not to hire one.  Without a change management expert, you'll end up spending more money than you planned, without getting the results you wanted - and you won't know how it happened.

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I was a little surprised to discover that one of my most popular blog posts in the past few months has been my piece on '10 Tips for Choosing the Right Change Management Consultant'.  I've heard from several people who said that it had helped them clarify what they were looking for.

One person in the UK said that she's been able to narrow down the list of consultants to 3, but has been asked by her leadership team to 'interview' them to assess which one will be the best fit for their project.  She asks:  "What interview questions should I use?"


My advice was to approach it the way you'd approach any BBI (Behavioral Based Interview), with open-ended questions designed to identify strengths, weaknesses, skills and attitude.

Here are the 10 questions I think she should ask:

1.  What is your approach to change management?

This is a bit of a trick question:  You want your change management consultant to have a good understanding of the various theoretical approaches out there, but as I've said before, different projects will require different approaches or a combination of approaches.  A consultant who says they follow X approach every time probably isn't going to be flexible enough.

2.  Do you do the work yourself?

Is the person sitting in front of you merely the selling face of the organization, who will send in junior interns as soon as you're paid the first retainer?  There is no wrong answer here - just know what you think would work best for you.  You may llike that young, enthusiastic individuals will be joining your team for the project.  Or you may think that this change really needs seasoned individuals.  Know what you want before you ask the question.  And if the answer isn't what you want, ask how to get what you need.

3.  What does your team look like?

Depending on the scope of the change, and the nature of the organization, specialist team members may be required to take on different tasks (documentation, communication, training, etc.).  You're looking for an answer that makes it clear the consultant recognizes the need for specialists and can bring them in as required.  Another way to ask this question is:  What kind of specialists do you think this project needs?

4.  We've historically had X problem.  How will you deal with that?  

You're looking for an answer like "I've encountered similar challenges in the past.  Here's the approach I've taken in those situations..."  A consultant who dismisses the issues or says "History isn't important - we're moving forward!" isn't going to be a productive fit in the long term.

5.  How will input and insight be gathered?  How will you collect criticism?

With the first question, you're looking for a structured approach that includes representatives from across the organization - a consultant who focuses only on gathering input from 'management' will run into trouble getting junior and mid-level workers to buy into the change.  With the second question, the best respons is one that acknowledges that criticism will happen regardless of how great the change process is - and acknowledges that criticism can provide valuable insights.

6.  What is your approach to communication?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Communication is absolutely crucial to a successful change management project.  A good change management consultant should be able to speak knowledgeably about communication strategies both at the outset of a change and throughout the process, and should recognize the need for frequent, honest communication via a variety of media.

7.  How will knowledge transfer be handled?

It can seem easy to bring in a change management SWAT team who takes care of everything - but then the changes often leave when the SWAT team does.  You want a change management consultant who works with your team throughout the process, to ensure your employees are fully engaged in the process and understand all the details.  An answer like "We have training sessions during the last week of the process..." isn't enough.

8.  Tell us about a successful change management project you led.

This is classic BBI questioning, designed to get at the example which most easily comes to mind.  The answer will give you good insight into the way the consultant works best.

9.  Tell us about a failure - and what happened.

No change management project goes seamlessly - there are always challenges along the way.  This question will help you understand the problem-solving skills and responsiveness of the consultant - and whether they'll fall down at the first hurdle.  You're looking to find out how the consultant managed to turn that failure into a success - either with the client or with future clients.

10.  What does success looks like to you?

Some people resist change management consultants, thinking they're too much like HR types who are more concerned with 'process' than with 'bottom line'.  Asking what success looks like will help you identify whether the person you're talking to is really focused on business results.



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You might have more control over the situation than you think.

The most difficult - and yet crucial - part of any change management initiative is making effective changes in the attitudes and behaviors of the people involved.  After all, they've been working away at their jobs, sometimes for years, and it can intimidating - and a little scary - to learn that they may have to change everything they know in order to thrive in the 'new world'.

conflict at work beth banks cohn

If that wasn't hard enough, what can make change even more difficult is existing conflict between individuals.  I'm talking about the often long-standing conflict that tends to be based in fundamental personality clashes, working styles and work history, typically between heads of competing departments or teams.  In a normal working environment, this kind of conflict can be contained, but in a changing environment, which can involve new teams, new responsibilities, and different reporting structures, it can be a real roadblock to moving forward efficiently and effectively.

So what can you do, as a change management professional?

My approach, as soon as I identify one of these conflicts (and if you've done your information-gathering correctly, they become evident pretty early on in the process), is to encourage the two parties to resolve their conflict, for the sake of themselves and their teams.  I work with both parties and start by asking them to ask themselves the following questions:

1.  Why is this conflict happening?  90% of the time, these kinds of conflicts are based in perceived insecurity or anxiety based on their work history together.  One or both parties feels they have to protect themselves from a percevied threat, and that if they abandon the conflict or make an effort to drop their guard, 'bad things' will happen.  If you can get to the bottom of the perceived threat, the involved parties can begin to addres and resolve it.

2.  What is my [the participant's] role in the conflict?  It's easy to blame the other person for a conflict, but most people, when asked to think about it, will eventually admit that they haven't been entirely blameless.  Encouraging each individual to take responsibility for how they've contributed to the conflict is the first step to changing their behavior.

3.  What outcome am I (the participant) looking for?  Ask each participant, separately, what 'the best outcome' of the situation would look like. Their knee-jerk, emotional reaction may be "For so-and-so to get fired!" but when asked to think about it, most people will eventually admit that they want something fairly simple, like "I'd like not to feel undermined with my boss", or "Our public and private opinions remain aligned".

4.  What does the other person want?  Ask each participant to put themselves in the other person's shoes.  This serves to remind each participant that there are two sides to every conflict.  It helps lay the groundwork for empathy which will be critical for the next stage - a face-to-face conversation.

5.  Is there any reason a frank, private discussion won't help?  Sometimes, the two parties have never had a friendly conversation about anything.  Putting the two together in a room, alone - and without everyone else in the office knowing that they're having a conversation - and encouraging them to discuss why they're having trouble working together and what things they may have in common can be a surprisingly effective first step to achieving at least a tacit working truce.  

You might also consider having a third party there to facilitate the conversation.  That might be you or a trusted HR partner.  An important part of the conversation will be for both individuals to imagine what working well together without conflict might look like.  One way to encourage this is to have each person complete the sentence:  "When X and I are working well together..." in a brainstorming fashion, then share their answers with one another.  The last part will be a commitment to change one behavior:  "I commit to checking with X before speaking on his behalf or committing him to work" or "I commit to keeping the agreements we've made during a team meeting".  Both parties also need to decide how they will continue their communication - regular one-on-ones can provide a good forum for that.

Now, I'm no Pollyanna, and I know that not every workplace conflict is solvable - sometimes one or both people are simply unhappy or a poor fit and the change process is a good time for them to move on.  However, if you're working with good individual contributors or top performers, making an effort to resolve the conflict first can save a good deal of time and money later.


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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