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Tom Devane is a consultant, author, and co-author of provocative bestselling books on achieving extraordinary results using methods that systematically engage people in organizations and communities.
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    The Change Handbook

    Over 60 methods that engage groups quickly and produce extraordinary results.




    Barnes & Noble


     - - - - - - - - -


    Integrating Lean Six Sigma and High Performance Organizations

    A leader's guide to blending technical and people aspects of performance improvement.


    Barnes & Noble

    Wiley & Sons



    White paper on Positive Deviance




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    What do CEOs absolutely need to know about employee engagement?


    Two quick updates.  First, there’s a webinar: “The Six Hard Facts Every CEO Needs to Know About Employee Engagement” on February 22 at 2pm edt

    Can’t make it? Go ahead and sign up and view later.

    Second, I’ve made an exciting job change that has been long overdue in announcing. I’ve moved from my 25-year stint at Tom Devane & Associates, Inc. to become VP, Consulting at Workplace Dynamics, LLC. ( We improve employee engagement that drives bottom-line results. Employee surveys, consulting, and technology tools are how we accomplish our mission. 


    Help us envision the next edition of The Change Handbook...


    Since 1999 The Change Handbook has informed leaders, consultants, community activists, educators, students, and others about processes for engaging people in tackling 21st century challenges.
      Its editors - Peggy Holman, Tom Devane, and Steve Cady - are considering a third edition and want to hear from you. What works well about the book that we should keep? What do you want that isn't there today?
        Should it even be a book?
          Two ways you can weigh in:
          Take this 10-15 minute survey by May 6 and / or register to join a call with the editors on Monday, May 9, 6:00-7:00pm Eastern Time or Tuesday, May 17, Noon - 1:00pm Eastern.

          Tom Devane 


    The Big 4 Questions to Ask When Scoping a Change Effort

    The scoping part of any change effort is one of the key linchpins for success.  Whether the change is a new strategy, a huge technology implementation like SAP, or a local Lean Six Sigma improvement effort, it's important to get the scoping done correctly Here are four questions I think are important to ask, whether you're an internal or external change agent:
    • What are the target business outcomes and new behavior outcomes?  It's best to start with the end in mind, both from the hard side and the soft side.  Behavior outcomes, though often neglected, are critical to state here because often meeting the new business targets requires some significant changes in behavior, and at many levels within the organization.  For example, with the implementation of a new enterprise-wide computing system like SAP, typically error correction is moved closer to the source of where work is done, and this causes some initial discomfort for accountants.
    • What are the boundaries for the change?  People need to know what's on the table for the upcoming change, and what's off the table that needs to be avoided.  For example, if a division of a software company is developing a new strategy and the CEO wants them to steer clear of being in the cable industry business, this needs to be stated up front.
    • What’s the general approach to the change?  It's helpful for people to know the big picture approach.  This may be something like John Kotter's high-level 8 step process with local work tasks added in, or a more detailed methodology like Prosci's ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement), or a custom-developed approach.  We know from numerous neuroscience studies that people tend to be uncomfortable with uncertainty, so it is very helpful to share a general roadmap to reduce a bit of people's uncertainty, at least where we can.
    • Who needs to be engaged, and how?  It's great to know, up front, who will likely support the change and oppose it.  It's also important to find out from the sponsor how much engagement inthe process he or she wants to see, and what productive engagement might look like.  Perhaps this is a difficult change that requires many people to change their current mindsets and behaviors, and the sponsor wants a high level of people's engagement in the process.  Or, perhaps the company is dealing with a mandated change by a government regulatory body like FDA or the FAA, and the change is more a matter of intructing people what to do by the required deadline.  For either situation, it's helpful to have a conversation about engagement with the sponsor at the start of the effort.
    Note: the sponsor doesn't necessarily need to know all these answers during the first encounter.  Often through dialogue the sponsor and lead change agent each contributes to the crafting of the answers.  And if there's already a coalition of people who support the change, they can also be brought in to help develop detailed, well-thought out answers to these four questions.



    City Slickers Meets the World of Strategic Planning – Part 1, the JUST ONE THING Challenge

    After a presentation I recently made at a strategic planning conference a sr vp from a high tech manufacturing firm came to me and shared a story about change at his organization.  It was a sad story.  He lamented to me that his senior management team had been very astute in the early detection of the last two direction shifts in their market niche, which was a great accomplishment.  And they put these new directions into their formal strategic plan.  

    But he said because the company’s new strategy couldn’t be translated quickly enough to the desk top and shop floor levels, they missed out in the marketplace.  Big time.  He’s in a very competitive industry where his top two competitors beat them in both cases, causing his company to play a very expensive game of catch-up as they scrambled to capture what used to be their market share, and then try capture even more.


    He said he’d talked with numerous consultants who were all too happy to give him 50 things to do to avoid this scenario from repeating itself in the future – and, he added, with a pretty hefty price tag.  So he wanted to ask me at this conference, what is the ONE thing that I thought could provide the highest leverage translating strategy to execution.  When I started to answer he anticipated my response and cut me off, saying, “ Yeah, yeah, I know you’re going to say there’s more than just on thing to do, but I’m asking you to dig back into all your experiences… with successes and with failures… and give me what you think is the highest leverage approach that will apply in most cases.”


    I had to admit it was a great question that made me think.  After clearing my mind of the image in the movie City Slickers where ornery trail boss Jack Palance (Curly) challenges Billy Crystal to come up with the ONE THING that’s most important to him, I knocked the trail dust off my PowerPoint clicker and said to the vp, “Okay, here it is.  Once we get past the obvious fundamentals like having a tight strategy-to-structure connection, over-communicating the strategy, tying it into the company’s formal performance appraisal process, etc. here’s that One Thing for phenomenal leverage.  And I’ve found this has great portability from industry to industry, and from organization to organization…




    City Slickers Meets the World of Strategic Planning – Part 2, the Response

    It’s actively engaging employees in the cascading of goals from the top of the organization to the front-lines. 

    Why is this so powerful?  By getting a larger group of people involved you’ll get more energy.  Information will flow faster.  And by challenging the people to connect the strategy to their daily work, they can ask better questions to really understand the strategy, and then come up with creative ways to support it.  And they then own these tactics to implement the new strategy, because the helped create them. 
    I’ve found groups are best to accomplish this – instead of just having a series of one-on-ones with people from the top of the organization to the bottom – because conversation flows more freely in groups, people can build on each other’s ideas, and diverse perspectives generate a more robust solution because people are thinking together.




    Here are three ways to do this. You can follow general formats of previously proven templates, like the Balanced Scorecard where people set goals in support of the new strategy, in a cascading fashion from organizational top to bottom, for the four categories, of Customer, Process, Learning & Growth, and Financial.   Diverse companies such as Mobil Oil, Philips Electronics, CIGNA Property & Casualty have successfully used this process in the past. You can also follow a cascading path from top to bottom of the organization based on a semi-structured set of conversations.  Group events like World Café, Learning Maps (in which pictures and structured questions stimulate group conversations), and Open Space can get you there.  Organizations like Hewlett-Packard, Pepsico, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center have used conversation-based approached. 

    Or, you might feel your organization has very unique needs, and decide to design a customized strategy roll-out engagement plan. You might want to start from scratch, or take a look at existing templates and develop a hybrid that you feel meet your unique needs.  Such sessions can be fun, highly creative inducing, and quite financially rewarding for the company.   A wide variety of organizations have gone the “custom design” route to connect strategy to execution.


    image credit: istockphoto