Tag Archives: Change Management

Selling Change – lessons from Brexit

Is the reason so many change initiatives fail an excessive focus on the ‘technical benefits’ and future value?  Some of the lessons from the Brexit campaign would suggest ‘YES’!

brexit

Before people will buy into a new opportunity (the ‘change’) it helps if they are unhappy with the status quo.  If this unhappiness can be magnified the willingness to embrace an uncertain future can be increased.  The Brexit ‘Leave campaign’ is an extreme example of creating this desire. Most of the focus of ‘Leave campaign’ seems to have been tailored towards raising the level of unhappiness with the status quo. A few key examples:

EU bureaucracy – it exists and it is a significant burden; by simply focusing on the ‘perceived pain’ (most electors have very little contact with the regulations) a desire to leave was generated. The counter points carefully ignored include:

  1. If the UK leaves it will need its own regulations for public health and safety
  2. Firms that want to export to Europe will have more bureaucracy to deal with, complying with both the UK rules and the EU rules (the alternative is to cut off 50% of your export market).

EU bureaucrats – the unelected and unaccountable masses in Brussels!  This ignores the fact UK bureaucrats are unelected and both sets are accountable to their respective parliaments.  However, the perception of lack of control and accountability was significant despite the fact 99% of the UK electors have no control over UK bureaucrats.

Immigration and Islam. ‘Taking control of UK borders’ seemed to be the biggest factor in the debate.  It’s a nice idea that ignores history:

  1. The vast majority of Islamic migrants in the UK arrived before the UK joined the EU (or these days their parents arrived…). Until the 1960s Commonwealth citizens had UK passports and a right of residence in the UK.
  2. The EU is less than 5% Islamic.
  3. Freedom to work in the EU is a two-way process – the right to work and access to workers is important (and has virtually nothing to do with ‘immigration’).

Trade deals. Negotiating ‘trade deals’ to the benefit of the UK…..   Ignoring the fact that any trade deal requires concessions and most take 5 to 10 years to negotiate. The ‘other party’ has to see a significant benefit.

 

Lessons from Brexit!

The positive lesson for change proponents is to spend more time on creating the desire for change. Most people in an organisation can ‘live with’ the status quo (but are aware of the problems and pain points), and are likely to be frightened with the perceived threats and challenges of the proposed change.  Digging into the ‘pain points’ and offering constructive solutions may provide a powerful basis for building the desire for change.  This is a very different approach to starting with an emphasis on the future benefits and opportunities the proposed change will bring.

The processes needed to sell the change to the organisation’s executive decision makers have to focus on benefits and value, but Brexit suggests a different approach may be beneficial when approaching the people within the organisation affected by the change.

Ethics matter!  “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time[1]”. What has yet to wash out in the Brexit aftermath is the lack of ethics and in some cases blatant dishonesty of the ‘Leave campaign’. I suspect there will be a major backlash against the people responsible for the ‘Leave campaign’ as people become aware of the exaggerations and deceptions.  The current crash in the Pound and the almost inevitable recession it will cause were predicted.  What was missed from the UK debate, and is essential in an organisational change initiative, is recognition of the challenges of the change – offset by the vision of future benefits. Ethics are not negotiable!

Simple language is important.  Creating and emotional commitment to change requires the use of language that is easy to understand. The ‘Leave vision’ was simplistic rather than simple but it worked – ‘make Britain great again’ and ‘regain sovereignty’ sound appealing[2] but lack substance.  The difference between the Brexit ‘con job’ and ‘informed consent’ is understanding what you are committing to, both the vision and the journey. But the language of projects, engineers and technicians used to define and develop a change proposal is frequently inappropriate for effective communication to the rest of the people affected.  This is discussed in my paper: Understanding Design – The challenge of informed consent.

Summary

The Brexit campaign is an extreme example of creating a desire for change based on developing a level of dissatisfaction with the status quo.  This tactic can be a very useful early phase in the communication processes around a proposed organisational change – dissatisfaction with the current state is a powerful driver to accept change.  The flip side, also observable in the Brexit campaign, is that ethics and honesty matter. Democracy requires informed consent!  We have no idea what the consequences in the UK would have been if the ‘Leave campaign’ had been more ethical and spelt out a future; but judging from the reaction of many, large numbers of people now seem to feel conned by the ‘leave’ campaign.

In an organisational context, this loss of trust will be disastrous.  However, the fact the ‘Leave campaign’ could persuade a majority in the UK to vote in favour of an uncertain future that will reduce living standards and increase costs in the short-term (at least) without even bothering to paint a clear vision of their proposed future (or how to get there) shows how powerful the techniques discussed above can be.

The challenge for ethical organisational change is to harness the power without resorting to the deceptions.

 

[1] Adapted from: “Traité de la Vérité de la Religion Chrétienne” by Jacques Abbadie (1684, Chapter 2)

[2] Britain was ‘Great’ in the period leading up to WW1 based on its Empire (not the Commonwealth); it is and has been a sovereign nation since 1066…… Neither of these concepts was fleshed out possibly allowing 1000s of different self-made visions to fill the space. Potentially a good tactic but fraught with problems going forward.

Why organisational change can be difficult

Organisational change seems to be far more difficult in some organisations than others – this blog will suggest the reason and a possible solution! But before looking at these concepts, let’s lay out the basics:

  • The concept of using projects to enable the creation of value is fairly well accepted, the value creation chain starts will innovative ideas and finishes when the benefits are realised and value is created (read more on Benefits and Value):

Fig-1 Value Chain Grey

  • The effect of the ‘chain’ means that when you have got to the end of the project (or program) all that has happened is you’ve spent money, benefits and value come later and need a ‘team effort’ from all levels of management to be maximised (read more on Benefits Management).

Fig-2 Benefits_Management

  • Consequently the key to realising the benefits and maximising value is effective organisational change (read more on organisational change)

Fig-3 Change_Management

  • And the basic concepts of organisational change have been defined by numerous authorities from the perspective of stakeholder attitudes:

Fig-4 The-Change-Curve

And the rate of adoption of the change:

Fig-5 change-normal-curve

  • The concepts are documents in a range of references including:
    –  PMI’s Managing Change in Organisations – a practice guide
    –  APMG International’s Managing Benefits

But none of these well established concepts really explain why some organisations are open to change and others are not; the question this post is focused on.

One insight that helps explain why some organisational cultures are resistant to change and others more open to change is discussed in an interesting paper: Darwin’s invisible hand: Market competition, evolution and the firm (Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization: Dominic D.P. Johnson, Michael E. Price, Mark Van Vugt)

The paper suggest that the Darwinian view that competition among firms reflects the ruthless logic of ‘selection of the fittest’, where the free market is a struggle for survival in which successful firms survive and unsuccessful ones die, is only partially correct.

The application of Darwinian selection to competition among firms (as opposed to among individuals) invokes group selection, which requires altruism and the suppression of individual self-interest to the benefit of the ‘greater good’ of the group and the advancement of the firm.

This effect can be achieved in circumstances where the organisation is lead by a charismatic leader who can inspire the members of the organisation to sacrifice their short-term self interest to the ‘greater good’. Or when the members of the organisation are either inspired by the organisation’s mission (eg, committed workers in many aid organisations) or feel the organisation is threatened and that sacrificing their short-term best interests to help the organisation survive is essential for everyone’s long term good. These types of situation create the same effect as a ‘high performance team’ – individual team members ‘play for the team’ ahead of any selfish interests.

If any or all of these factors are in play, and are appreciated by the individuals that make up the organisation, the ability to implement change is significantly increased (provided the change can be seen to contribute to the mutual good / mutual survival).

However, if the members of the organisation feel the organisation is fundamentally impregnable, there’s no threat (or common enemy) and no inspiring mission, a completely different dynamic come into play. The competition and Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ plays out at the individual level. What matters most is how the proposed change will influence existing power structures and networks. To most people the change is likely to be perceived as a threat; they know what the status quo is but can only imagine the future state after the change and will generally imagine the worst case due to our innate biases. And consequently the change has to be resisted – the normal ‘change management challenge’.

These ideas seem to make sense of our general observations:

  • Change seems easier in small or medium sized organisations because the members of the organisation see their self-interest is closely aligned to the success of the organisation
  • Some inspirational organisations seem to adapt to change easily, 3M and Apple spring to mind, a combination of inspirational leadership and a strongly believed mission to create new things.
  • However, in many established large organisations in both the public and private domains, the link between the individuals well-being and the organisations well-being is less clear and entrenched self-interest takes over. The well known ‘office politics’.

So how can a change agent overcome the entrenched inertia and covert opposition experienced in the change resistant organisation? Short of generating a massive crisis (eg, the General Motors reorganisation) most change initiative will fail if they are not carefully managed over a sustained period.

One idea that can be used in these circumstances is Paul Finnerty’s Big Jelly Theory

The Big Jelly Theory, postulates that large or very large organisations are extremely difficult to change, but it is not impossible to do so. The problems change agents often encounter are caused by the approach chosen to effect the required organisational changes.

Paul’s theory is that if you throw yourself and your team members 100% mentally and physically at the organisation in an attempt to force it to change at best the organisation will giver a little shiver, momentarily, like a giant jelly, and then immediately return to it’s pre-existing shape and carry on with business as usual as though nothing has happened.

Fig-6 Big jelly theory

The theory postulates that the only effective way, to change or realign an organisation, is to metaphorically issue each of the change team members with spoons. The team members then use these spoons, to sculpt away at the big jelly, and in doing so changing the organisations shape, to whatever has strategically been deemed as more desirable, for the future.

In other words whilst effort and enthusiasm are important, in making or reshaping organisational changes they are very often ineffective when used alone. Whereas the spoon approach, whilst often time consuming, yields discernible result almost from the start.

This is in effect the Kaizen Way – great change is made through small steps. Rooted in the two thousand-year-old wisdom of the Tao Te Ching, Kaizen is the art of making great and lasting change through small, steady increments. Dr. Robert Maurer, a psychologist on the staff at the UCLA recommends:
1.  Ask small questions.
2.  Think small thoughts
3.  Take small actions.
4.  Solve small problems
5.  Bestow small rewards.
6.  Identify small moments of success.

Provided you have the overarching ‘grand vision’ to coordinate and align the small changes, the results can be amazing!!!! It just needs time, perseverance and really effective long-term stakeholder management which is where tools like the Stakeholder Circle® come into play.

Advising Upwards Published

Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders, has been published by Gower Publishing Ltd. The principal focus of this book is on perspectives that will contribute towards an understanding of the critical survival skill of engaging senior managers, and of ‘helping them help you’.

Through contributions from researchers and practitioners in related fields the book provides diverse perspectives on the changing world of management and stakeholder relationship management through considerations of culture, group and individual behaviour, organisational management theory and other related subjects. The book defines the fundamental processes and practices needed to support individuals in building and maintain upwards relationships with your important stakeholders.

We have negotiated a special promotional price of $99 for Australian readers (including delivery), for purchasing options see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Book_Sales.html#Adv_Up

In other countries visit the Gower on-line catalogue or Amazon.

Stakeholders and Change Management

When considering stakeholders, there are very few one-to-one relationships. Most stakeholders are, and have been, influenced by a range of relationships in and around your project, program and your organisation.

Stakeholders and Change Management

Change Management and Stakeholder Management

Stakeholder management is a key facet of organisational management where stakeholder management is often aligned with marketing, branding and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

Similarly, stakeholder management central to change management and the ability to realise the benefits the change was initiated to deliver. The benefits will not be realised unless the key stakeholder communities accept and embrace the changes.

Project and program management also has a focus on effective stakeholder management. In a change initiative, the project and/or program undertakes the work to deliver the elements needed to facilitate the change but are only ever part of the journey from concept to realised value.

A typical evolution of a change initiative would flow along these lines:

  • The organisation decides on a major organisational restructure and as a consequence initiates a change management process and appointed a change manager.
  • The change manager develops the business case for the program of work and the executives responsible for the organisations portfolio management approve the business case and agree to fund and resource the program.
  • The program manager sets up the program management team, established the program management office (PgMO) and charters a series of projects to develop the various deliverables needed to implement the change.
  • The projects deliver their outputs.
  • The program integrates the outputs with the operational aspects of the organisation.
  • The organisation’s management make effective use of the new systems and processes.
  • Value is created for the organisation and its owners.

The change manager is the sponsor and primary client for the program but the people who need to be convinced of the value of changing are the operational managers and their staff. If the organisation does not accept and use the new systems and processes very little value is generated.

Within this scenario, stakeholders in the operational part of the organisation, and particularly the managers will be key stakeholders for a range of different entities:

  • They are stakeholders in the organisation itself and part of the organisational hierarchy.
  • They are stakeholders in the change process being managed by the change manager.
  • As end users of the new systems and processes they are also stakeholders of the program.
  • As subject matter experts (SMEs) they are likely to be stakeholders in at least some of the projects.

In one respect change management is stakeholder management. Therefore, in a change management initiative, stakeholder management should be an integrated process coordinated at the change manager’s level. All of the organisational elements working on the change need to coordinate their stakeholder management efforts to support the overall outcome. Confusing and mixed messages don’t help anyone.

But this is just one typical business scenario. When considering stakeholders, there are very few one-to-one relationships. Most stakeholders are, and have been, influenced by a range of relationships in and around your organisation. Consequently, focusing on a simple one-to-one view is unlikely to provide the best outcome for anyone.

Effective stakeholder management requires a mature organisational approach. One approach to developing this capability is the SRMM (Stakeholder Relationship Management Maturity) model described in my book. Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation. I will outline the SRMM model in a later post.

Value is in the eye of the stakeholder

The only purpose of undertaking any business activity is to create value! If undertaking the work destroys value the activity should not be started.

The Value Chain

The Value Chain

Any value proposition though is ‘in the eye of the stakeholder’ – this is rarely solely constrained by either time or cost. Effective value management requires an understanding of what is valuable to the organisation and the activity to create value should be focused on successfully delivering the anticipated value.

The chain of work starts with a project or similar activity initiated to create a new product, service or result. However, the new output by itself cannot deliver a benefit to the organisation and the project manager cannot be held responsible for the creation of value. The organisation’s management has to make effective use of the output to realise a benefit. It is the organisations management that manages the organisation and these people need to change the way the organisation works to realize the intended benefit. The role of the project team in value creation is to ensure their output has all of the necessary characteristics and components to allow the organisation to easily adopt the ‘new output’ into it’s overall way of working (eg, effective training materials).

The outcome from making effective use of the output is expected to create a benefit – however to realise a benefit, the outcome needs to support a strategic objective of the organisation. If the outcome is in conflict with the organisations strategy, value can still be destroyed. Strategic alignment is not an afterthought! The processes to initiate the project should have as a basic consideration its alignment with the organisations strategic objectives.

Assuming strategic alignment is achieved, the realised benefits should translate into real value. The challenge is often quantifying value – the concept of ‘value drivers’ helps. Value drivers allow the benefit to be quantified either financially or by other less tangible means.

In the current economic climate, organisations are finding operating capital in short supply. Therefore a new process to accelerate the billing cycle can be measured at several levels:

  • The output from the activity to develop the new billing process is simply the new process – this has no value.
  • Once the organisations management starts using the new process the measurable outcome is a reduction in the billing cycle from (say) 45 days to 32 days.
  • The benefit of this reduction in the billing cycle could be a reduction in operating capital needs of $500,000.
  • The value of this reduction is $500,000 at 12% interest = $60,000 per annum.
    The above example may also trigger additional value by allowing the capital to be redeployed into another profit generating activity, improving customer relationships, etc.

Once the whole organisation is aware of the value proposition, decisions to de-scope the initial work to meet time constraints and/or cost constraints can be made sensibly.

  • A decision to de-scope the project to achieve a 2 week saving in time that results in a 6 week longer implementation period (eg, by reducing training development) is clearly counterproductive.
  • Similarly a decision to de-scope the project to avoid a $5,000 cost overrun that changes the reduction in the billing cycle time from 13 days to 6 days will result in a halving of the capital saving and a cost increase to the organisation of $30,000.

The challenge is identifying and communicating the value drivers to all levels of management involved in the activity so that valuable decisions are made in preference to knee jerk gut reactions focused on short term, easy to measure metrics. Value is created by meeting the strategic needs of the organisation’s stakeholders – this requires careful analysis and understanding of who they are and what are their real requirements; ie, effective stakeholder management.

For more ideas on the realisation of value, see the work by Jed Simms at: http://www.valuedeliverymanagement.com/

For more on effective stakeholder management see: http://www.stakeholder-management.com