The Three Essential Change Tools

If you were on a desert island (or how about quarantined!) and could only bring three change management tools, what would they be? Kevin Anderson took this challenge in his new book Organization Design Made Easy.  He spoke about the power of simplifying our field at a recent Performance Excellence Network (PEN) session. 

Go to Amazon Author in a new screen to view a clip.  https://amzn.to/2UzjPRt

Buy Book Now: https://amzn.to/2GrjGvZ 

This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

My New Book: Organization Design Made Easy: Structure, Process and People

If you’re looking for a page turner on organization design, this is it!  I’ve worked on this book for several years drawing on ideas from my consulting work, as well as my amazing peers.  It’s perfect for new and seasoned managers to C-level leaders.  Please write a review of the book and post the link on your social media!

Buy Now: https://amzn.to/2GrjGvZ

Book Description

The most popular business books on the market today advise leaders to simply articulate a vision, be inspirational from time-to-time, and leave the rest for employees to figure out.

As an organizational design consultant, Dr. Kevin Anderson has landed at the doorstep of hundreds of teams who have followed this path, only to find them without clear direction, stuck in silos and lacking the structure and processes needed to perform.

This book offers practical advice on how to design your organization. Whether you’re a leader at the top of a large organization, or a supervisor of a small team, here are the practical instructions to address structure, process and people challenges in developing an efficient and functioning organization. And, these same methods can be leveraged by consultants and employees at any level.

Each chapter offers three easy steps to address organizational challenges and opportunities. This means that you get just enough context, process and tips to immediately jump in feet first. Those who do not take the time upfront to craft their organizations leave their success up to chance. 

Note: This blog does not reflect the views of my employer

Want Americans to Wear Masks? Call in a Workplace Shrink

mask_modern

Americans have been told to wear masks in the name of pandemic prevention with limited success. The more pressure applied to these mask resistors, the louder their voices rise in opposition. We have seen the viral videos where a customer yells and throws things after being told by a clerk that masks are required. The more ordinances that are passed, the more push back. Nothing seems to be working.

For those of you who want to see more mask wearing and hear less “can I speak to a Manager”, you are in luck. I am a #ChangeManager.  AKA, an organizational shrink.  However, instead of addressing personal lives, I fix #workplace problems.

I help people transition through work changes.  I pull levers to encourage employees to accept new products. technologies and ways of working.  This approach is based on organization psychological principles that great thinkers such as #JohnPKotter developed.  Translation: It works!

So let’s apply these proven change practices to the mask issue.

1/ Create a Sense of Urgency

Kotter maintained that the first step to motivating an organization to act is to establish a sense of urgency. He wisely said that the key is to then turn this sense of urgency into a tangible compelling action that everyone understands. Kotter said “But the real power of a vision is unleashed only when most of those involved in an enterprise or activity have a common understanding of its goals and direction.  That shared sense of a desirable future can help motivate all kinds of actions that create transformations.”

We can keep sharing this message of a shared better future state.  It may be our first knee jerk reaction to tell someone to wear a mask.  However, it is better to start by pointing out the wins for complying.  In this case, the positive outcome could be living another day!

2/ Make it a Two-Way Conversation

What do all the viral videos have in common?  The customer does not feel listened to and thus becomes frustrated.  Change management principles suggest that when faced with a resistor, follow some simple steps:

  • Identify their valid concerns and address them
  • Show that you understand their objections
  • Be clear about what you cannot change

By taking the above approach you enter into conversation with the resistor.  You show that they are being heard and you give them some credit for their thinking. However, in the end you let them know that you cannot change the policy, nor the importance of the practice.

3/ Finally, Make Folks Feel Like They Have a Choice

It is a rule in the change management profession to avoid “telling” employees what to do.  Even when there are mandates we point out the areas where the employee has free will.  In fact, we create a pull that results in people wanting to comply with changes.  The fact that these techniques can at times get people to act on their own free will, without establishing any new rules, is a bonus.

By giving the resistor a choice, it often disarms them.  I have seen many employees over the years itching for a fight about a change.  By letting them know that in the end they get to decide how they act, ironically, many times they come around. [BTW: Even with mask laws, this change principle suggests starting conversations with choice versus the mandate.]

You may suspect that these workplace practices will fail on the mean streets given the passionate responses of mask resistors.  However, they have resulted in tens and thousands of employees not only complying, but even, welcoming changes.  It may be time to call a workplace shrink!

In addition to #ChangeManagement, Dr. Anderson consults on #LeadershipDevelopment, #CulturalTransformation and #OrganizationalDesign.

Note: I updated this blog on Oct. 30, 2020 in order to reflect broader challenges around mask wearing in American.

This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

A Response To Our Clients’ Pain: Listen

Lament

Our business clients are trying to stay focused on organizational improvement.  However, it is evident that there are bigger forces at work here.  We are all worried about our health and well- being in the face of this world-wide pandemic.

As Organizational Development professionals our role is to offer up solutions.  We toss in an approach or a few probing questions and before we know it, the problem is resolved.  Today, however, we may have met our match.  There is no easy ideas that we can toss into the mix that will make this go away.

Our teams and colleagues are feeling a level of worry and grief that is in many cases off the charts.  The most helpful response may be to offer a forum where team members can talk about what they are experiencing.

The Reverend Gale Robb recently delivered a sermon ( https://www.hohchurch.org/worship-music/worship-sermons/) where she suggested that we are dealing with the concept of lament.  Lament is the result of people asking “why” and not getting an answer back.  Lament is a biblical term which may apply to our daily working life as well.

Lament helps us move beyond our immobilizing individual fears.  Reverend Robb says that lament requires us to reflect on the overall suffering of the world.  She observes that the power of lament is that it provides “public witness of intense personal grief.”  The conversation is about unbearable sadness.  However, it is naming your grief and pain within community.

This is the power of taking time during our organizational meetings to allow our teams to express what they are experiencing during these unprecedented times.  Reverend Gale quotes the late Eugene Peterson’s thoughts on why lament can transform in his book Leapt Over a Wall:

 “Lament isn’t an animal wail, an inarticulate howl. Lament notices and attends, savors and delights – details, images, relationships. Pain entered into, accepted, and owned can become poetry. It’s no less pain but it’s no longer ugly. Poetry is our most personal use of words; it’s our way of entering experience, inhabiting it as our home, and not just watching it happen to us.”

What help can we offer to those experiencing worry and pain as a result of this pandemic?  We can start by simply listening.  Lead with suggested approaches and tools, No.  Simply listen.

This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

 

 

The Pandemic: What Are You Learning About Yourself?

Pandemic

This past week I heard a pop psychologist on a talk show say that this pandemic is not happening “to” you, it is happening “for” you. As a result, a useful question is: “What am I learning about myself from this experience?”

I am usually a cynic when it comes to Dr. Phil media types dispensing self-help advice on the airwaves. However, the statement that this is happening “for” you, along with the follow-up question “What am I learning about myself” kept coming back to me all week.

I am learning the great extent to which I get my energy from live, in-person interactions. I am learning how much I appreciate my wife and kids as we spend time doing house projects, exercising the dogs and simply hanging out in the back yard sharing our mundane daily experiences. These live interactions have been so energizing!

At the same time:

  • I am learning that the virtual zoom game nights, the living room concerts from my favorite bands and the exercise videos are all just OK. For me, they are an interim, mildly amusing form of interaction.

 

  • I am learning that having your favorite restaurant owner run out to your car and throw a bag of food into your back seat, is not nearly as rewarding as being welcomed at the door as your about to enjoy a leisurely meal.

 

  • I am learning that it is ten times more difficult to design and deliver work-based virtual team experiences that match the level of engagement and output as compared to in-person.

My positivity for the week is to stop looking for these virtual events to be more gratifying experiences than they are. Yes, I will continue to dial in and gain some good things from the virtual world. And no, I will not rush out into a crowd, abandoning social distancing.

However, I am keeping my eye on the prize. And that is the day when we can once again gather in person. And when that day comes, I will be even more aware and grateful of how amazing and inspiring it is to be together in real-time, in the same space.

And so, this pandemic is happening “for” you.

What are you learning about yourself?

 

Note: this blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

 

 

All The Consulting World’s A Stage

stage2

“Great consultants are as much actors as they are fonts of knowledge.” The founder of the consulting firm I had just joined delivered these words to me after my first week on the job. I was initially taken aback. A number of questions rushed to my head. Wasn’t I just hired because of my skills and abilities? Didn’t my years of on-the-ground experience mean anything? And perhaps most importantly, since my mission is to transform organizations, what in the heck does theater have to do with my consulting practice?

The answers to these questions revealed themselves to me as I reflected on my initial experiences with my first client. I had gone through all the motions of being a good external consultant. I jumped on a plane as the sun was coming up Monday morning and flew to the client site. As soon as I arrived, I began to learn about the project and culture as quickly as possible. I worked night and day all week to figure out how I could best help this client.

And now over a glass of wine back at the airport Thursday night, my new boss was telling me that our work had as much in common with a theater production of Guys and Dolls than it did with providing deep insights to help the organization transform. Could this really be true?

In some ways, the answer is: Yes! The only justification for flying in highly paid consultants each week is to shake up business as usual. And we all know that the best way to impact fellow human beings is to reach them on an emotional, as well as logical level.

I came to understand that I had great content. However, I needed a more compelling persona. Borrowing an acting analogy, I was coming across a bit like the actor Harrison Ford with too much flat line delivery. My boss was asking me to be more Ryan Gosling with a bit more style and flair.

Now, I faced the challenge of figuring out how to make a bigger splash. I carried out the following steps:

  1. Telling Compelling Stories

“Stories for business have a practical purpose. They should gain or strengthen the trust of the intended audience(s) and, with this achieved, to inform, persuade, and even inspire them.” [Janis Forman, Storytelling in Business (2013), Stanford Business Book, p. 23.]

The first thing I did was turn some of my dry content into stories to grab the attention of my clients.

For example, I was helping a client develop a new mission statement. My goal was to get the leaders to understand the impact of crafting a powerful purpose. I told the real-life story of how the mission of a nonprofit in the health field had helped a family member identify a mystery medical condition that they had suffered with for years. Finding a diagnosis was a life changing event.

After telling the story I noticed that the leadership team was more engaged than usual. They were clearly impacted by the story. In fact, one tough, former military VP who had said little during my previous sessions had tears in his eyes.

I glanced over at my boss and he was smiling. Clearly, I had hit the mark!

  1. Finding Ways to Connect Personally

Theater touches us on an emotional level. Similarly, I sought out opportunities to interact with my clients on a more personal level. As consultants we are dropped into an organization for a limited period of time. It is easy for us to stick to the work at hand versus forming deep interpersonal relationships.

Peter Block (Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used, 2011, Jossey-Bass) points out that we have the potential to more fully bring of ourselves to our consulting gigs:

“A unique and beguiling aspect of doing consulting is that your own self is involved in the process to a much greater extent than if you were applying your expertise in some other way. Your reactions to a client, your feelings during discussions, your ability to solicit feedback from the client – all are important dimensions to consultation” [p. 13].

Block correctly points out the importance of a strong relationship between you and your client. And nothing cements a relationship like having a personal connection.

I applied this with a client by introducing opportunities on our agendas to talk about what our work means to us personally. These conversations allowed me to learn more about my clients’ backgrounds, values and aspirations. At the same time, they learned more about me.

This was win-win. The personal discussions which were part of our agenda led us all to be more engaged and invested. As a result, we had more impact and enjoyed the process more.

  1. Leading with Content – Don’t Over Do This!

The above theatrical tactics for connecting with clients on emotional and personal levels are powerful. However, we still need to infuse our skills, knowledge and abilities to transform the organization. As consultants we are primarily hired for our expertise and not our wit, nor fashion sense. The message here is clear. Your main focus is on accomplishing business goals. At the same time, do not be afraid to throw in some theater for maximum impact.

Over fifty years ago the academic Marshall McLuhan coined the expression “The medium is the message”. Perhaps McLuhan was correct and we should pay more attention to the vehicles we use to communicate our big ideas.

This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

#Reinvent Yourself At Work Like the #TryGuys

the try guys

The @TryGuys are four #millenials who have created a media frenzy out of simply trying new things. These millennials are creators of a comedy documentary series that shows them getting outside of their comfort zone. They try just about anything, from watching baby twins for a day to dog sledding in Alaska.  In the process, they have gained over 17 million subscribers on YouTube [https://bit.ly/2EQCUXA]. Also, throw in a blog [#tryguys], a podcast [https://bit.ly/2F6vC29] and even a self-help book [https://amzn.to/39fpiDh].

Why are the Try Guys so popular? The Try Guys highlight the fact that they are not the “Success Guys” for a reason. They do not master any of the tasks they take on, but that is not the point. Try Guy Keith Habersberger says:

“By going in and simply trying and failing or doing OK, being open to a new experience and broadening your horizons just makes you a better person. We have seen it. We have become smarter, more emotional sensitive people as we have grown and tried the 200 things we’ve tried.” [https://bit.ly/2Qm4a5C]

So how can we model the Try Guys and jump into new things in our organizations? Here are three ideas:

  1. Try New Approaches To Solve Problems

We tend to come at challenges with the same methods that we have relied of for years. Presented with the same problem, I have observed the following

  • Leadership development professionals suggest coaching.
  • Process gurus dive into Lean Six Sigma.
  • Culture consultants look to the behavioral soft stuff.
  • The list goes on…

While this may not be surprising, embracing new approaches can be a challenge. Look to a methodology that you have never applied and try it!

  1. Try Working In New Areas

We tend to become experts within specific businesses and departments. Some of us are connoisseurs in health care or retail. Others of us are wizards in Information Technology or Sales Departments.

Try working with a business or department that is completely new to you. Over the past few years I have applied my expertise to new segments like agribusiness. I have supported new departments such as Health and Safety.

The new areas I have jumped into have provided me with innovative insights and creative outcomes that I could have never imagined. Not to mention how much working with new people, products and technology has been a much needed “shot in the arm” for my practice.

  1. Try Getting Out of the Office

We tend to burn through a great deal of office time coming up with big thoughts. There is an academic bent to our work as we think through organizational challenges and solutions. However, if we spend too much time holed up in our offices we lose touch with what is really happening in our organizations.

Going to our workplace job sites can open our eyes to the most needed and practical organizational solutions. For example, the Health and Safety department I began working with led me to the shop floor at a number of plants.  As a result, I saw some fundamental aspects of our business. Why? Because I experienced these things first hand!

Perhaps the biggest lesson from the Try Guys that we can apply to our organizations is basic and yet powerful. The Try Guys would tell you to simply jump in and try these new approaches!

Note: This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

What Every Organization Design Needs

Drawing-of-480-sqft-log-cabin

At the start of a recent organizational design the leader asked me to provide a list of outcomes for the effort. Being a good consultant, I turned the question back on him. I explained that he and his team needed to craft the specific design principles that they hoped to accomplish via our work. The leader pointed out that over the decades that I have helped organizations I must have observed some high level outcomes that should be true for all design efforts.

This leader had a good point. His question led me to develop the below list of general criteria that I have sought in every design I have ever facilitated. I often use building a house as a metaphor for carrying out organization design. Just as every house needs a foundation, walls and a roof, every organization design needs to have the below conditions:

  • Strategy and Goals
    • Supports business strategy, sales, productivity
  • Culture and Readiness
    • Fits our organizational culture and people are ready/able/willing?
  • Role Definition and Alignment
    • Leads to clear roles/alignment across the organization?   Enough resources?
  • Operational Model
    • Can be implemented? Appropriate span of control? Supports work flow?
  • Risk and Cost
    • Level of risk acceptable /mitigated? Power balanced? Cost acceptable?

This list turned out to be a good high level scorecard for what our successful organizational configuration should look like. I think we can all agree that all organizational designs need to be able to be operationalized at an acceptable level of risk and cost, while accomplishing the strategy and fitting with the culture. If any one of these key criteria was missing we would consider our work a failure.

Yes, the specific design criteria that an organization seeks such as agility, more collaboration, better products, etc. are still in play. However, the above bigger picture criteria must be true!

Note: This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

Process Mapping – The Key is to Establish Principles

process blog pic 0519

Anyone who has participated in process mapping sessions will tell you how painful these events can be.  It is not uncommon to sequester folks for hundreds of hours and ask them to conduct intense discussions in order to capture the processes for carrying out work.  The author John Green said “The marks humans leave are too often scars.”  And scarring is exactly what many of us who have lived through process mapping sessions have plenty of!

However, does this activity need to be this painful?  Absolutely not!  And the key to making this a more effective and efficient process is to put a few core principles in place.  These rules help guide your mappers, stay on track and complete their work in an efficient manner:

·         Map the designated process only: It is easy to fall into scope creep and begin to discuss other processes which are of concern.  Once the team starts deliberating about procedures that are out of scope it is important for the facilitator to bring the group back to the task at hand.

·         Map current state only: It is also easy to start talking about what the future state process could look like.  Designing future state processes is the next step.  This is a non-value add activity at this point.  In fact, current state should provide a stake in the ground and by letting future state process ideas creep in only creates confusion.  If we don’t agree how the work gets done today, it is impossible for us to figure out how it needs to change in the future. 

·         Keep the process moving: It is common for teams to get bogged down.  This can happen as these teams talk through in detail how the process is carried out.  Establish time frames for how long it will take to map each process and help the team stick to that time frame.

The key to making sure these principles are followed is of course strong facilitation.  The facilitator is tasked with designing and running an effective session.  The facilitator is guiding the group where it needs to go via ensuring that processes are followed, asking probing questions and helping sum up the work being accomplished and capture it visually. 

Perhaps most important, the facilitator is cuts off conversation once the point has been made.  Asking someone to stop talking is key.  What could be considered rude behavior at a dinner party, is the most important role the facilitator plays during process mapping!

This blog does not reflect the view of my employer.

A New Year’s Resolution for #Leaders and #Teams: Who Are We?

Connection lights

A #NewYear’s resolution: Connecting in a deeper manner with your work team. We spend a great deal of time together being #productive. Let’s answer the question: “Who are we?”

At my father’s retirement ceremony as a college president, the local reigning politician concluded his remarks with a heartfelt statement. He indicated that if he were selecting someone to spend a week with in a fishing boat catching walleye, it would be my dad. In this rural northern Minnesota town this was the ultimate compliment!

This story gets at how important it is for us to spend time with colleagues that we know and like.  When teams are formed, they first naturally want to know what they are supposed to accomplish together. This is why the question that a team naturally asks itself is: “Who are we?”

Once their reason for being together has been answered, the next question is who is sitting next to me? Who are the people that I am about to take this journey with?  Just like the northern Minnesota folks who want to know who they will be spending a significant amount of time with in a boat, team members want to know more about their peers who they will rely on to work together as a team.

There are many packaged surveys and assessment tools that one can purchase in order to learn more about your team members. For example, I have led teams in completing and processing assessment instruments such as the Myers Briggs [https://www.themyersbriggs.com/, 2018], which indicates various psychological preferences of how people perceive the world and make decisions.

Instruments such as the Myers Briggs can be an effective way for teams to learn in-depth how they can better leverage each other. However, there is a financial cost for each team member who completes the tool. In addition, it typically takes a minimum of a half day to help the team process the instrument results.

For these reasons I have at times opted for a lower cost, quicker solution to help team members get to know one another. I simply ask them questions that will allow them to get to know one another better personally and professionally. I find that the time that team members spend getting to know about each others’ backgrounds, motivations, working styles and passions in life translates into better teams.

There is really no magic here, but following is a sample slate of questions:

  • Information about your background – career path, etc..
  • What do you like most about your city?
  • What do you like best about their work?
  • What are your favorite hobbies?
  • What did you do before you started working here? Not just jobs you held, but career path and aspirations?
  • What motivates you personally? What motivates you professionally? What gets you jumping out of bed in the morning “before” the alarm clock goes off?
  • Tell me about your family?
  • What thing in your life (outside of work) do you have a passion for? Do you have a career goal they would share with others?
  • Where’d you go to school how did you end up working here?
  • Why do you do what you do for a living? And why does your department do what it does?
  • Please let us know a bit about your education and work experience?.
  • What’s your favorite way to keep up on professional trends and best practices? [Conferences? Publications? Training? Podcasts? Etc.]

I have made this exercise a little more interesting for the participants by turning it into a “Crumple and Toss” activity. Each team member carries out the following steps, which results in the exercise being more dynamic and introduces an element of fun:

  • Step A: Participants select a question that has been crumpled and tossed in a hat.
  • Step B: They can answer that question or select a new question until they pick one they like, limiting answers to two minutes or less.
  • Step C: Crumple the question back up and toss it into the middle of the table. Providing a forum for team members to ask each other questions to get to know one another is simple to carry out and the positive results for team members is significant. I have had many teams indicate that the personal relationships among them is one of the reasons they can point at to explain their success. This simple exercise is a great New Year’s resolution which started them on that path.

When I began in this field I assumed that team members would naturally get too know one another. I thought they would be asking each other these types of questions from day one. However, I have learned that most employees on teams go right to accomplishing the tasks at hand.

Providing a forum for team members to ask each other questions to get to know one another is a great New Year’s resolution.  It is simple to carry out and the positive results for team members is significant. I have had many teams indicate that the personal relationships among them is one of the reasons they can point at to explain their success. This simple exercise started them on that path.

This blog does not represent the views of my employer.

 

DilliGirl

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