Friday, July 27, 2012 at 09:47AM
In an earlier blog The Importance of Assessing Change Readiness we talked about the importance of collecting change readiness information, and some specific things we want to find out. So how do we get this important information?
Here are three ways that I’ve found to be effective. In some cases it’s helpful to use two of these. Quite often you’ll find it helpful to confirm, and dig deeper into issues in a second pass for whichever path you select.
1. Interviews. These could be done in one-on-one interviews, or in small groups, like a focus group of 7-10 people. You’ll want to make sure you get information from representative levels of the organization, and representative groups would be affected by the proposed change.
Advantages of this method are that it can be done fairly quickly, and you have an opportunity to quickly dig deeper into a response if you’d like to learn more about it. A disadvantage is that if you don’t select truly representative groups, you may base your action plan on information that is not true for a larger percentage of the targeted change population.
2. Surveys. Over the years I’ve moved from canned surveys to custom-developed surveys because the latter tend to be shorter, and more quickly get at the heart of the specifics of the change proposed. Usually I’ll do a few one-on-one interviews or focus groups to get some ideas about common responses people might have. Then I’ll load those into possible responses for a question, into an automated survey tool like Survey Monkey. I’ve found it’s also helpful to allow for write-in answers, just in case my representative group did not provide all the possible popular responses.
Advantages of this method include easy data collection, and automated summarization of data. Another advantage is that you can collect information quickly from more people than you can in interviews. One disadvantage is that often only a very small percentage of people respond to survey. So, I like to emphasize the survey will only take about 8 minutes, and that participation is extremely important as it will shape how the upcoming proposed change will be implemented. Another disadvantage is that people sometimes worry they’ll be punished for telling some ugly truth about what’s happening in the organization, so it’s helpful to set these surveys up to be anonymous, or posted to an outside third party’s collection website, so that formal company leaders won’t see responses associated with individuals.
3. Workshops. One workshop, or a series of workshops can provide extremely valuable information that can be immediately acted upon. Here’s an example. In a global pharmaceutical company that recently implemented a matrix organization, we hosted two rounds of workshops. In the first round we collected hopes, concerns, and key technical issues that would likely be encountered when the matrix was fully implemented. We did this as independent observers/coaches for each of the organizational units that were to be combined. We summarized the outputs of these workshops, and then had a combined workshop where we presented the collected data to all organization units who would need to work together in the combined organization. Collectively they discussed the issues, prioritized the work to be done, and developed action plans to move forward that they all agreed upon.
One major advantage of this method is that you can rapidly, and simultaneously surface key readiness concerns and also address them on the spot, or in the subsequent “everybody-together” workshop. This can obviate the need to do further change readiness analysis and planning in a later change agent meeting, which is typically done for the Interview and Survey methods paths of data collection.
One disadvantage is that because the outcomes are not totally predictable when groups with diverse perspectives get together to plan, this option may not be for “faint of heart” facilitators. Overall, I’ve found the benefits of this approach far outweigh the concerns. The key is for the facilitator to keep his or her eye on the final desired “big picture” outcomes – which would be outcomes like increased technical capabilities and standardization across the company’s newly matrixed 12 manufacturing sites in the pharmaceutical company’s case mentioned above -- and help the group collectively work their way to designing mutually acceptable solutions and action plans for those.
Once the critical change readiness information has been collected, here are some tips at What We Do with Change Readiness Information? on how to analyze it.
Friday, July 27, 2012 at 09:37AM
We’ve all been there, and sadly watched it happen. In the heat of the moment, the rush to get the technical parts of a change implemented overrides any thoughts about how ready people might be for the change. It can happen with all kinds of changes… new strategy directions, the implementation of a new computer system, initiation of a quality improvement effort like Lean Six Sigma, or redesign into a new organizational structure. And the results fall into that large percentage of failed change efforts that are often cited at 70%.
And in some unfortunate cases there is even a change management team, and change management workplan that exist, but with no formal mention of change readiness. All too often change agents assume they know the likely causes of resistance, and don’t delve into situation specifics that would be helpful in developing change action plans. With those thoughts as a backdrop, here are some things we’d like to find out about an organization’s readiness for an upcoming change.
What we’d like to find out…
Ideally, at a minimum, we’d like to cost-effectively gather information about:
- possible reasons for resistance
- specific concerns about impacts of the implemented change
- strength of disagreement with the proposed change
- parts of the organization likely to cause the most problems, and why their particular area might be likely to cause problems
- parts of the organization likely to enthusiastically support the change, and why they support the change
- whether or not the leaders operate as 1) an interconnected “leadership system” whose members engage in mutual inquiry, meaning making, and action planning, or 2) independent actors of their respective fiefdoms who focus primarily on their area
- factors or specific actions that could increase acceptance of the upcoming changes
- levers we could use to increase the success of the change
- other organizational reactions to specifics of the proposed change.
In the blog Three Paths to Assess Change Readiness we present three proven, solid approaches for collecting this important information. In the blog What Do We Do with Change Readiness Information? you’ll see some tips for how to analyze this information.
Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 03:40PM
An organization’s vision can be a tremendously powerful lever for performance. That is, when it’s crafted well.
What gives vision statements a bad name is when a small, select group of executives go off-site to a fun resort and come up with a one- to four-sentence summary of what they talked about and ultimately agreed upon. And then they laminate it on wallet-sized cards and put up posters of it in each conference room, fully expecting employees to resonate with it, and fall in line completely behind it.
I’ve seen this process fail time after time. And it’s raised a level of cynicism and inaction in organizations on every continent, in every imaginable industry.
So exactly what does it take to build a vision that’s a powerful engine for organizational performance? Let’s start by taking a look at what I mean by vision. An organizational vision describes an unprecedented, highly optimistic desired future state or remarkable achievement. A vision should help energize people, inspire them to help achieve it, and focus their efforts.
An example was when Colin Marshall, then president of British Airways (while many passengers and travel agents alleged that BA stood for “bloody awful”) declared that the company would become the world’s premier airline. And the airline employees made extraordinary improvements.
Here are four tips to help you boost the impact of your organization’s vision.
1. Consciously consider the context you’re operating in, in a group setting. Sure, you want to set those stretch targets, and be uninhibited by current obstacles in your path. And you SHOULD want to set those stretch targets. But don’t make the mistake of failing to formally take a look at the context around you, or you might miss some great opportunities. Ask questions like, “Is there an industry ecosystem that we’re part of that’s evolving, whose characteristics we need to consider in OUR evolution?” “What are our organization’s awesome strengths that we need to capitalize on going forward?” “Are there elements of our current obstacles that we could turn to our advantage?” “How do we want to shape – not just react to – the industry we’re a part of and the greater world around us?”
And I’ve also found it helpful to consider these questions, and have associated conversations, in a group setting with leaders from various disciplines in the organization. It’s like everyone has a piece of the jigsaw puzzle, and being in one room helps get the puzzle assembled quickly. The back and forth that goes on in such conversations helps strengthen everyone’s understanding of the situation, and helps build a common, shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities ahead. Without the collective, public conversations that people can build on, all we have are individual thoughts inside people's heads. Because these internal thoughts are not connected with other thoughts, and top leaders aren't sure if there's agreement on the critical issues, the organization loses a great deal of leverage in building an effective vision.
2. Engage people’s creative side, not just their analytical side. The vision development work should not just be performed in a sterile, analytical, serious environment. Use pictures and images in creative ways to prompt, and deepen conversations. Use stories and metaphors as conversational stepping stones to get from the current state to a better future one.
Keep in mind that there’s a lot of science behind the notion that people having fun can more easily step outside their day-to-day concerns and be innovative. So by all means, create an environment for lightheartedness, experimentation, non-judgment, and fun. In his book Serious Play, innovation thought leader Michael Schrage contends that, “You can’t be a serious innovator unless you are willing and able to play.”
3. Quickly link the vision to a strategy, goals, and execution plan. Don’t just let the vision sit there. The vision only tells what remarkable impact you want to have on the world. To keep that vision from being merely an hallucination, you’ll need to say how you plan to make it happen, and set up measurable goals and action plans to drive activity at all levels of the organization.
While all this linking doesn’t need to all be done in one session, top leaders should at least agree on a timetable – in the near future – where there will be a follow-up strategy, goals, and execution plans developed.
4. Design and plan for the vision’s communication and roll-out. A great vision that resides only on conference room wall posters and laminated wallet cards never did any company any good. It has to be in people’s heads and hearts also.
To do this, there needs to be a plan to disseminate the content of the vision, as well as some of the assumptions and background conversations that helped shaped the vision. These will be necessary for people to understand the vision, talk about it with others in the organization, and get energized about trying to achieve it.
The good news is that many of the stories, metaphors, and images that were used to help develop the vision (step 2 above) may be quite useful in communicating it to the workforce.
The above provide some practical tips for building a truly powerful vision that an organization can get energized for, and then achieve.
How to Magnify the Impact of Your Visioning and Strategy Development Sessions with One Little Pre-step
Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 03:36PM
Before you get together with the top leaders in the corporation to craft a vision and subsequent strategy, let’s think for a moment about how you could magnify the impact of those sessions. One powerful thing to do to is to call top leaders, and those with additional valuable perspectives, into a session where they explore assumptions and see if those assumptions are still valid as the organization moves into the future.
These assumptions could be explicit or tacit. They could be about topics like the overall market, target niches, the competition, regulation, or internal capabilities. Anything that could have a significant impact on the organization’s future could be fair game.
A reasonable person might ask, “But how do you get a diverse group of people in a room and talk about high-leverage assumptions without heated disagreements breaking out, and the overall conversation deteriorating?” The answer is that we set up the session so this doesn’t happen.
We use a method for groups getting together called “Dialogue” where we state up front that we’re not looking for decisions or mass agreement in key issues. We’re simply looking to collect people’s thoughts and their potential implications, in a non-threatening environment, where even the most shy and timid people can express their view of the situation. And by stating up front that we’re not looking for decisions or unanimous agreements, we take the pressure off people so they can express their true opinions and thoughts on an issue that impacts the organization. We state that we’re just collecting pieces of data that can be use later in analyses, debates, and decisions for moving forward.
By having such a pre-visioning/pre-strategy Dialogue session, we can often gather information that may not have been previously available, because a soft-spoken person wouldn’t speak up. And we also find that in a group setting people collectively build on each other’s thoughts, and often come up with a new, better thought based on back and forth conversations and the subtle nuances of the individual thoughts presented. In many organizations these have proven to be extremely valuable inputs for visioning and strategic planning sessions.
Here are some other norms we state up front going into a Dialogue session. We ask people to:
- Suspend their judgments and their “certainties”
- Respectfully explore others’ assumptions through questions
- Disclose their key assumptions and how they arrived at them
- Respect foreign-sounding points of view
- Ask questions they don’t have answers for, and be prepared to be surprised and learn something they hadn’t known before.
Dialogue is a versatile group method that can be used in many situations in addition to visioning and strategy development like we’ve covered here. A short Dialogue blog provides some additional information on the method.
Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 03:28PM
As part of my consulting work I’m asked to review a lot of vision statements, strategic intent statements, and strategic plans. Something struck me in my latest review this week, and I’ve found it to be so prevalent that I think sharing this could be very helpful to top leaders and strategic planners as they develop these key corporate direction documents. So here it is.
And that’s the power of Not.
It’s only natural, from an economic standpoint, that companies would like to sell to as many people as possible. So we see target niches that include consumers that at all income levels. And geographic niches that include all regions on the planet.
But targeting to sell to everyone, everywhere has two basic problems. First is that people, in this day and age, like to think they’re being marketed to for their specific needs. And second, no one company has the resources to chase all the opportunities on the planet. There needs to be an allocation of scarce resources, but I often don’t see this in a company’s strategy. Unfortunately, I typically do see this allocation occurring informally, on an ad hoc basis, at the division or department level at budgeting time, which is definitely too low a place in the organization for this to be happening.
It’s extremely helpful to say Not in strategic documents, and many times also in a company’s vision statement. A statement like “We’re in the telecommunications space, but we’re NOT going to play in the cable market” helps send a clear message to directors and managers where they should spend their time and efforts.
In addition to allocating scarce resources, this practice of saying Not also helps focus on key strengths. I know of one pulp and paper mill company that once diversified by purchasing a cruise line to run as a separate division. They ended up exiting quickly, as they really didn’t know how to run that business profitably. And it showed.
So don’t forget the power of Not in your vision and strategy – it can save you a lot of time, money, and workforce confusion about strategic choices.