Change projects have a habit of only reaching a partial level of success, in regards to their initial purpose. The most referenced statistics on the succes of change projects indicates a general 70% failure rate. Which is a humbling thought when one considers it might be you reputation and/or career on the line. Over the years I have coached many senior leaders who have often shared their thoughts on change and change projects, these have mingled with my own experiences and come together nicely in these Top 9 Tips.
Top 9 Tips for delivering a successful change project
1. It’s the people
(aka: Say it as it is, always, amen brother!)
When giving a presentation the saying goes, MRF Tyres Dealership‘tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you’ve told them!’… it’s one of those classic everyone already knows it statements, which though basic, is also completely accurate. Now consider that all change programs require a presentation of Why, When, Where, What, Who and How. If you where giving this information to a team you’d follow the advice above. But this is difficult; you have to rely on many other contributing factors to ensure a coherent and direct message is being received and the bigger the business then the larger the network involved and the increased probability of mixed messages and arbitrary translation of said message. Recently I was involved with a major integration of two leading brands, both with a 90%%2B market recognition, ‘don’t worry said the MD, redundancies will mostly be voluntary and in the low hundreds’. “Within that same week a senior member of the management team had accidentally emailed the HR/OD middle management with a document that indicated that redundancies topped out at about 2,000″.
So what does this prove, apart from emphasising my personal misgivings of email, it tells you that somewhere at the core of this major change effort, the largest in that industries history, that at the core there was a truth, but in the delivery there was a lie..ever heard the saying: ‘the truth will out’. When I say that the leading ‘Change Tip’ is all about the people, I underline that with telling the truth, immediately, upfront, from the start, right away, at the beginning. The biggest mistake is to ‘over-control’ the truth, because you only have a finite knowledge of it at any given point. The truth is always the truth as it stands right now, never the truth as it might or will be. Your people understand this…..really they do.
TIP 1: Don’t control the truth, even when you think you are, you are wrong.
2. Process dictates
The way something has to be processed dictates the manner in which you/I will respond to it. Case in point, I recently had trouble with my internet connection and had to deal with Netgear’s Technical support line (in essence excellent), based in New Delhi, these guys are so patient it beggars belief and so at the end of one particularly taxing call they agreed to replace my Router (the bit that let’s the internet talk to my PC without a cable).
The conversation went like this:
Netgear: ‘We will email the UPS ticket and then you can affix it to the…’
GB: ‘Er, can I just point something out’
Netgear: ‘Certainly, sir’ (patiently allowing me to interrupt)GB:’You deal predominantly with communication products…..right?’
GB: ‘Right…..well not wanting to state the blindingly obvious, but would I be right in saying that as you are the Technical Support line that usually most people only call you when they have a problem?’…’and as my problem is that I can’t connect to the internet, then it would be reasonable to presume that I can’t get email?’…and that Netgear sending me an email, would be pointless as I have no internet access’
Netgear: ‘You can pay extra and get UPS to uplift’
GB:’So your product is faulty, but I have to pay?
GB: ‘Aha!” (I felt I had spotted the hole in their Business Model)’
Netgear person superb! Netgear process diabolical! My opinion well, probably the same as yours. So what’s the tip?
TIP 2: Listen to the people that are implementing the process, they know…really they do
3. Reward validates
(aka: People do, what the process rewards) ‘You can pay extra and get UPS to uplift’
‘People do, what you reward’ The Sociologists dream of everybody working for the good of mankind is shared by all of us and yet until that wondrous day arrives, the following applies. People generally operate under a simple directive which states, ‘If I like it I will try to do more of it, if I don’t like it, I will try to do less of it’, with a proportional increase relative to ‘how much like or dislike there is’. Sounds straight forward and as with most theories it is, the problem occurs when the business is not congruent in their approach to:
Aligning the process and culture of a business is equivalent to saying, ‘do we practice what we preach’.
Are we saying it’s all about the team, but rewarding the individual
Saying it’s about caring for the client, but rewarding on the quantity of the sale
Praising entrepreneurial activity, yet disciplining non-adherence
Stating we care for the employee, whilst integrating services and losing staff
Within the bullet points above is the every day reality of whether or not I will want to do more or less of a thing.
Does the reward match the objective, which in turn matches the stated goal!
What will I get rewarded for?
What will I get punished for?
Are we aware of reported Rewards/Punishments, in relation to perceived
Take the time to understand Reward vs. Activity vs. Culture, when these are aligned you have harmony, when not you have dysfunction.
TIP 3: Use an outside resource to go where you cannot, to listen where you cannot, to tell you what others will not.
4. Understand what Performance Management
(aka: Performance Management means the good and the bad)
‘Ensure people understand Performance Management, and how it relates to all areas of the business plan’. One person’s Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is another persons Milestone (sounds suspiciously like Mill Stone), which is why when Performance Management doesn’t work, the reason is often because there is dispute about what it actually means.
Performance Management is often feared as it is felt that it will stifle the business, dampen entrepreneurialism and be used as a weapon of choice, which is potentially valid. So ensure that Performance Management is seen as a complete process, rather than merely targets.
Define the meaning of Performance Management to mean exactly that, Managing Performance. Do this by enlarging the concept of Performance Management to encapsulate Attraction, Recruitment, Induction, Placement, Development, Succession and Exit.
Redefine the meaning of Performance Management so it no longer means HR are involved and dismissal is looming, reinvent the term to encapsulate both good and poor performance. Everybody gets Performance Management!
TIP 4: Make it all IT delivered. Paper will kill Performance Management and suck the will to live out of those doing the admin.
5. Review your Performance Management Culture & Process
(aka: Be sure that your sure)
An audit can act as a catalyst for change and at the very least if answered honestly will indicate the overall effectiveness of Performance Management within your organisation.
Believe it or not, but you really have to do Step1 first to really do this effectively
If culturally Step 1 is prohibitive to doing the audit, then use the audit to validate the need for Step 2.
Though if Step 1 is a ‘No Go’ from the start, you will find that an external OD company would be advisable.
TIP 5: Ensure that you understand the causal links between the processes for Performance Management and the activity this generates.
6. Understand what you learn
(aka: Knowledge without understanding, is data)
There is an observation that goes, ‘even though kids of today have learned more at 15 years than their parents, mostly they understand it a great deal less. In the same way don’t fall into the trap of presuming that Performance Management is just about Process and Procedure, it isn’t.
You will find that the 80/20 rule applies, 20% process and 80% people.
Prepare, plan and project manage your new performance management arrangements.
Set up positive, effective project teams, build line-management ownership and commitment.
Don’t be afraid to seek Best Practice from those that have suffered and achieved ahead of you, there is nothing to be gained from trying to reinvent the wheel, especially when there is a tyre dealership next door.
TIP 6: Repeatedly ask yourself this question: ‘If I was a consultant being paid to create cultural value to a change project and received bonus to get the project achieved (as opposed to the other way round), what would I do?
7. Be true to yourself
(aka: Do people see what you see, when you look at yourself)
Feedback, feedback, feedback and when in doubt feedback. Be the advocate of feedback, welcome it, embrace it, instigate it…feedback is good, feedback is your friend. Seen the TV show the X Factor? Well that’s a show that is dedicated to the concept of feedback, you only have to see the positive and negative effect that feedback has to understand its power. But it’s not just the feedback that the judges give, it’s the fact that the majority are there under the illusion they can succeed, when in reality they are a shambles. Why? How did it get to that point? No one ever gave them, true and honest feedback.
Embrace feedback, enjoy the reality of a situation from a different perspective.
(aka: It’s what we do around here)
I can’t stress the importance of having the capacity for coaching within a business; we are not talking about psychotherapy, but concise, guided, lucid, experienced coaching. The nearest parallel is that of a sports coach, fundamentally a person who’s primary focus is on improving performance, not worrying about whether you had a banana fall on your head when you were 4 years old. Investigate the differences and the similarities for the following disciplines: Business Coach, Life Coach, Councillor, Mentor, to ensure that you have an understanding of the impact these activities can have on your people and the business.
I once heard a policeman asked whom he thought should be allowed to have guns, his answer was simply: ‘anyone that doesn’t actually want one’ . He then expanded on this with: ‘ it should be automatic disqualification for holding a gun license if you ask for one’. Genius! I have also heard the same thing applied to politicians, ‘we should in all reality only give power to those that don’t want it, they are probably to be trusted the most’. True! THIS MEANS: Don’t let people coach internally just because they want to or bring a coach in just because they have a qualification.
When considering the relevant person to act as a coach in your business, especially during times of change, it might be wise to consider the above. Use coaches to work with individuals and teams to help them understand their strengths and development needs, and to plan and take appropriate development actions to improve their performance.
Transfer coaching skills to managers, to make coaching part of day-to-day life.
9. Learning & Development
(aka: That’s Learning AND Development)
Continue to up skill everybody, no-one is too senior to develop, even though it doesn’t feel like the right time, in fact, whenever you feel it is completely the wrong time to develop people, there is a good chance it is the most critical.
A business demonstrates its commitment to a workforce through the learning that it advocates. What are you saying?
As an executive coach I have gained a belief from those I have coached and those that have shared their thoughts with me: “The success of any change programme will be in direct correlation to the amount of focus you have given to the engagement and development of the people involved in the change”.
It is a simple truth!
Guy Bloom is an executive coach his primary focus is on the development of ‘senior leadership & emerging leaders’, working closely with executive boards and leadership teams via 121 coaching, team dynamics and change consultation. He has headed up ‘leadership & learning’ within FTSE100, 250 and Start Up’s, across multiple markets such as retail, telecomms and insurance on an international scale within Europe and the USA. To contact Guy: