Saturday, March 30, 2013

My # 5 Change Management Principle: Trust

We've reviewed four of my principles for effective change management.  We come to the fifth and final principle.

All change builds or destroys trust.

This principle sounds stern, perhaps even harsh, but in my experience, it's true.   

Think about it for a moment:

At different points in the history of your organizations, you've experienced changes that built confidence and changes that eroded confidence in leadership.   You have felt a sense of leadership interest in the welfare of people and the interest of the organization, or you didn't sense it.

Thought trust is a delicate thing which is easily broken, it is also powerful element of influence in organizations. 

Think about it for a moment: 

If you sense that someone has your best interest in mind, and you see evidence of care and thoughtfulness, your trust increases, but if you sense something is not right, your trust decreases.

Trust is a motivator like no other.  When people trust their leaders during a time of change, they are inclined to add their own energies to the task. 

All change demonstrates the level of organization's interest in the welfare of their employees, even in situations where the change may run counter to employee expectations. 

Trust is built through ...

  1. Clear explanations of the rationale for the change
  2. Constant and consistent communication of change progress
  3. Training to help employees learn the new process or program
  4. Support that helps people when they're challenged because of the change
  5. Recognition of the extra effort people put in to make the change happen
  6. Removing ineffective team members

My #1 Change Management Principle

My # 2 Change Management Principle

My # 3 Change Management Principle

My # 4 Change Management Principle

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dakota Chamber of Commerce Presentation

Dakota County Chamber of Commerce Presentation

Enjoyed this great opportunity on March 28th - discussed my 5 Principles of Change and 10 Questions to ask (and answer) when preparing for change.

This is the first of 3 important elements of change:




Thursday, March 28, 2013

My #4 Change Management Principle - Measure!

While we all have opinions about various and sundry things, in business, medicine, research, education and science, measurement trumps opinion.

Everyone has ideas, thoughts, concepts, and words, but when the time for change comes, we must measure.

In point of fact, we all have internal systems of measurement we use every day ... for example:

"I think I've lost a few pounds."
"It seems like Jim has changed."
"Have you noticed how different the downtown area looks?"
"The manufacturer of those jeans seems to have cut back on quality."

We all evaluate things ranging from the mundane to the critical.  It's part of human nature to see how things transform ...

And thus the need for measurement in change should not surprise us, but it often does.

Why measure? 

  1. For correction.
  2. For celebration.
Correction - when a change is underway, we need to take checkpoints along the way to assess whether the change is truly taking hold in our organizations.   Clearly, with the heavy investments we make in change, a checkpoint is critical to assess whether we're truly making a difference in the fabric of our organizations, or if we simply appear to do so!

Celebration - teams work their hearts out when introducing new change.  If you measure the impact of the change, you can demonstrate the value of their effort and reward them accordingly.  Teams like recognition much better when they can see results.  (And so do executives!) 

What reasons do people give NOT to measure?

  1. It takes too much time.
  2. We don't really have anything we can measure.
  3. No one agrees on what to measure.
  4. We don't have good data.
  5. We don't have a simple system for measurement.
Now think about each one of those excuses (because that's what they are ... ) and ponder this.  Don't good managers measure performance?  And since they do, they have found ways to assess what's happening with people.  Each of those excuses can be answered and resolved.

Measure for correction and/or celebration.  You'll be glad you did!

My # 1 Change Management Principle

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My #3 Change Management Principle - from baseball

In tennis, golf, baseball, fly fishing, and just about any sport requiring a fluid motion to achieve a goal, you hear the phrase "follow-through".   I love baseball, so I'll use that sport in my analogy.

It's a simple thought, really.  You have an intended action (hit a homerun), you make a preparatory motion (pick up the bat), you conduct a primary motion "Swing batter, batter, batter" and then you follow-through.  The only time a batter DOESN'T follow-through is when they intentionally restrain the effort to avoid a 'strike'.   But NO ONE hits a home run when they check their swing.  It ain't happenin'.

The follow-through is just as important to the motion of swinging for the fences as any other part of the activity ...

So!  Why would we miss the follow-through in Change Management?  Why check the swing?

Reasons people don't follow through: I pointed out a few reasons in a previous post ... (see
The difficult discipline of follow-up).

Follow-through in change management is the most boring of the principles, but it is, in my mind, the most critical.

  1. People want to know if you're serious about this change.  Follow-through demonstrates commitment.
  2. People have a lot on their plates, and it's easy to forget the new change.  Follow-through helps them to remember.
  3. People sometimes resist change because it is costly.  Follow-through shows you are not changing the change.  It's gonna happen.
  4. People sometimes simply need reminders amidst distraction.

We all know the importance of 'sticking with something'.  We've heard it from youth.  Follow-up is nothing more (or less!) than persistence.  We all know persistence pays. 

If the change was worth investing in,
                         If the change was worth the human effort,
                                               If the change will make a difference for your organization,
                                                                           If the change has long-term strategic value...

Change doesn't happen with out follow-up.  It won't become integrated into your organization if you don't persist. 

Follow-through to assist Integration!

My #1 Change Management Principle

My #2 Change Management Principle

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A motivational excursus ... I want to make a difference

I'm stepping away from my change management principles for a bit, to share an old, old secret from the motivational literature.

How many times have you felt like your work mattered?  To you? To your team?  To your organization?  To your family? 

It sounds like "I want to know I made a difference." 

Ever wonder where that phrase comes from?   In 1959, a researcher name White discovered what he called "Effectance Motivation", in short, the deep human desire to have an impact on our environments.

You see it across all human endeavors, ranging from little children in play who ask "see what I did?" to the achievements of massive global teams unleashing the latest Oracle Financials system on their organizations.  At the end of the day, we all want to know we mattered.  We want to know our lives were not a waste of time for ourselves, for our families, for our organizations.

So what does that mean to me as a leader Dr. Bohn?

  1. YOU can help people know they mattered!  Through effective recognition, through true awareness of their achievements, by displaying a clear understanding of their suffering along the way.
  2. You can help people literally go on one more day because they felt valued for what someone else acknowledged.
  3. YOU can turn to a low level person in your organization and simply say a very genuine "thank you." 

Want to have an effect?  Remember Effectance Motivation is part of every human nature.  Want to make a difference?  Help others know they made a difference. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My #2 Change Management Principle

Through decades of experience with team members across the globe, and by poring over hundreds of research articles, I have developed a few key principles for managing change.

My #2 Change Management Principle:  Simplify to increase adoption

I shall never forget a meeting I participated in a while back, when I was promoted into a sales role.  We were greeted by several cheerful VPs on Monday morning around 8AM.  They explained that we would be receiving 'training'.  What followed is nothing short of amazing.

From 8AM to 5 (sometimes 6) PM everyday, we were subjected to a tag team line-up of the finest PowerPoint jockeys in the world, talking about every product, process and service we could sell.

At Friday night of that week, you could have looked me in the eye and asked "what did you learn?" and if I was honest I would have said "there's a lot of stuff to learn."  I was exhausted, and probably not much smarter, but a whole lot wiser from the experience.

HINT: A key leader in the training world likes to say "TELLING AIN'T TRAINING". 

I have witnessed (and I'm sure you have too) events like the one I described.  These events are developed by well-intended, efficiency-minded individuals ... who never sat through a session like that.

Learning Theory tells us something different. 
Distributed practice is the key to retention. 

What's that mean? 
  1. Research shows that smaller intense bursts of training/learning are superior to long, exhausting sessions that drain the mind rather than fill it.
  2. "Massed practice" is the opposite (but the approach used quite often in corporations).  See above.
  3. It means simplify to increase adoption.
Implications?  When we're managing change, we need to provide people with enough knowledge to become competent without overwhelming them.  And in an age of online learning, Distributed Practice is eminently possible with any audience.  In fact, give them smaller bytes and they will love you for it.

What else do we need to do to simplify? 

In any change, people can drown in a tidal wave of information.  They will become fearful that they cannot absorb everything they need to know, and very often, they will become exhausted.  Smaller, more compact and clear segments in shorter bursts will help adoption rates.

Change is not easy.  Complex change is hard, but offering people systematic segments of carefully planned learning is a key element of making the new change a part of your organization.

Simplify ... to increase ... adoption.

+Harold Stolovitch is the author of  "Telling Ain't Training."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My #1 Change Management Principle

Through decades of experience with team members across the globe, and by poring over hundreds of research articles, I have developed a few key principles for managing change.

My #1 Change Management Principle:  Reduce Anxiety to Increase Adaptation

While there are a few adventurous, novelty-seeking souls who enjoy constant change, the majority of people are wary of the 'new'.   In business, the 'new' is often costly in terms of effort, time, money, and even physical discomfort (ever have to move your desk from one building to another???)

NEWS FLASH: The human brain is wired to conserve energy, and new things cause the brain to expend a great deal of energy. 

With energy expenditure comes anxiety ... and with anxiety comes resistance.


LEADERS: Think about your people.  What would REDUCE anxiety during change? 

There is no cookie cutter here, though I have some suggestions ... but start by thinking about what would reduce team member anxiety?  What can you do to reduce apprehension and concern?

HINT: Lying doesn't help, nor do half truths. 

How does reduction in anxiety increase adaptation?

If my mind is not clouded by ... say, whether I'll have a job when the change is done, or whether this change is going to completely upset my apple cart, or if it is going to cause me to look incompetent, or if it will put me into a team with a bunch of people I have never worked with (or worse, with people I don't want to work with ...) my anxiety will be reduced.  The reverse is also true.  Keep me in the dark about the change and I promise to be ineffective during a time a great stress.  The greater the unknown, the higher the anxiety and the lower the adaptation.

LEADERS: Think about your people.  What would reduce anxiety during change?

Reduce anxiety, increase adaptation. 

If you want a change to 'take hold' in the DNA of your organization ... this is not optional.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A tribute to those who do the work ...

Having been in organizational life since 1972, I have observed many people, in many work situations including global teams.  Today I simply want to thank those who have done the work.

Role Models

From childhood, I have been surrounded by those who know how to do the work.  Though my blue collar father had limited education, he always got the job done, and he rarely complained about the effort required.  My big brother is a self-taught engineer with a chronic disease, but he always got the job done ... and still does to this day.  My mother often worked two jobs in support of the family.  These are my role models and they still teach me today.  Blue collar families don't allow for a lot of whining - they expect results without debate. 

Workplace Heroes

In the workplace, you find people who get the job done.  They rarely complain, they dig in and they often do something many avoid: they take on the hard tasks that everyone else runs from.

These team members are wise, smart and thoughtful in their dealings with others, but they always keep their focus on the work. 

They persist ...

They strive ...

They "find a way" ...

They rarely give up ...

They encourage others to keep going ...

If you have team members who get the job done, be grateful and support them. 

They are everywhere ...

I have seen executives who do the work, and others who simply bark orders; I have seen Middle Managers and Directors who do the work, and others who simply "wait and see"; I have seen Staff and Line people in HR, IT, Sourcing, Finance, and other teams who do the work.  They get the job done.  It isn't a hierarchy thing, it isn't about power or glamour or recognition - these people simply get the job done. 

Yet they build reputations that precede them wherever they go ... People know that they will get the job done. 

My thanks to all in my life, on teams, in volunteer settings, churches, education and government agencies who have done the work.  We owe you a debt of gratitude.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The simple (but difficult) discipline of follow-up

Ever wonder why so many programs, ideas, efforts, thoughts, concepts and projects come to nothing?

I conducted an experiment one time with 18 groups of people; 9 got the 'treatment' the other 9 did not. 

What's the treatment? 

Follow-up.  Pure and simple.

Here's what happened.  All of these teams got together to observe a bunch of best practices (another topic for another time).  They studied the best practices, learned about the best practices, developed plans for implementing the best practices ... BUT!

Only 9 of the teams showed improvement ... but they showed dramatic improvement over their non-performing peers. 

Follow-up.  Pure and simple.

We got together every 30 days and simply asked "Have you done what you said you were going to do?"  How hard is that?  Candidly, it's very hard for several reasons.

Why doesn't follow-up take place? 

  1. The novelty of a new project wears off as soon as the gravity of the challenge sets in.
  2. Executives move on to new projects.
  3. Workloads are increasing at an ever faster rate, allowing precious little time to schedule yet another meeting.
  4. Some folks would prefer to let a sleeping dog lie.
  5. Some folks intentionally want the focus to fade away.

Yet follow-up to anything is the discipline that makes things happen.  So what do we need to do?

  1. Simply add a logical follow-up date immediately after a series of decisions are completed. 
  2. End of the day for the extremely urgent and end of the week for the rest.
  3. For most projects, a 15 or 30 day follow-up is normal.
  4. Invite the same people immediately after your decision and action meeting.  Let me stress IMMEDIATELY - you have their attention, and they know why the meeting is needed.
  5. Ensure their boss is in attendance ... get their bosses' boss if possible.  Accountability drives action - like it or not. 
Getting things done requires the simple but difficult discipline of follow-up. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Carly Simon Principle: Anticipation

Ever wonder why people scramble to get things done at the last minute?  

As an adjunct professor, I discovered two groups of people in my classes:
  1. People who deliberately plan to get things done and work on them day by day.
  2. People who relish the pressure of the deadline and wait until the last minute, then pump themselves full of Red Bull and work 'heroically' through the night to get something done.

While the workloads were exactly the same, when the deadline arrived, one group of students were exhausted and relieved, while the other group walked into class relaxed and confident. 

There's a lesson here: It's the Carly Simon Principle of Anticipation.  While her song is an emotional expression of breathless waiting for someone, the principle of anticipating the arrival of someone (or something) causes us to be vigilant, alert and prepared. 

Anticipation has a close corollary: ProAction ... in short, acting before the crisis hits, preparing now for the future inevitability, working in advance.

Anticipating something and acting to prepare provides benefits to you which cannot be overstated:

  1. You're ready before the crisis hits.
  2. You have more time to manage what you did NOT foresee.
  3. You can manage the emotions of the moment much better than if you had waited until the last minute.
  4. You're going to be perceived as a wise and strong leader. 

How do you know if you have this skill?

  1. When you see something brewing that could potentially go wrong, do you wait until the last minute, or do you act to fix the issue?
  2. When you see something that could work to everyone's advantage, do you act or let the opportunity slide?
  3. When you have a good idea, do you write it down or just let it vanish into the ether?

How do you build it?

Trust your gut.  If you sense something is wrong, take the time to think it through.

One of my change mantras is "Reduce anxiety to increase adaptation."  The skill of anticipating and acting helps to reduce anxiety, helping people to adapt to the "new" ... whatever that is.

If you keep your people in crisis mode all the time, they will burn out.  Give them a chance to think ahead, to prepare for the challenge, and they will speak well of your leadership. 

Anticipate, then act. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

What are you doing to help Cinderella Employees?

Cinderella is a story familiar to many around the world.  A young girl is swept away from a comfortable home and placed in a terrible environment where she is worked like a dog and hidden away from view.  Her giftedness is known only to those who exploit her abilities.  Her giftedness is used only to benefit those who manage her daily activities.  But she remains hidden to the rest of the world. 

Consider her plight.  She grieves daily because of the trap she is in.  She cannot escape, and her only means of reward is to work even harder.  Deep inside she knows she is smarter, more capable and more intelligent than her taskmasters, but no one else knows.  Her silly, mediocre peers enjoy the comforts of the favoritism shown by a manager who lacks integrity.   And her greatest bitterness is her awareness that her overseers take credit for everything she has done, with no word of thanks, and no chance for escape.  This is unimaginable desperation.

But this is not mere fiction ... it happens in the work world every day. 

In your organization you will find taskmasters who have placed team members into this "Cinderella" role.  Those who do this unknowingly do so simply as a pragmatic way of getting work done.  They know that John Smith can do a task better than anyone else, so they keep him in that role.  This is not a bad thing, but John Smith is still encumbered by a manager who does not have his interest at heart.

Then there are the more sinister 'stepmother or stepfather' types who willingly hide good employees from others.  They do so for many reasons:
  1. They are jealous of the person's abilities.
  2. They are intimidated by this person's skills.
  3. This person is making them look really good.
  4. If they lose this person, they will look really bad.
  5. If they lose this person ... people will find out the truth about this manager/leader.

As a leader, one of your tasks is to create an environment where these employees can break out of the trap they are in.  Build them up, raise them up, give them high levels of visibility ... especially the very gifted ones who overshadow you ... they will love you for it.

When you have released an employee from their Cinderella bondage,  their very freedom will energize them like nothing you've ever witnessed.  And they will thank you, and their work lives will be better ... and you will have made their lives better. 

If you are one of those managers who has hidden employees and placed them in a Cinderella role, I assure you that one day, someone will find the glass slipper of evidence.  And your reputation will be damaged, if not destroyed.  That's how the story ended for Cinderella ... she wins. 

Can there be a a greater goal for a manager than to improve the lot of their people!?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Organizational Mythology #6 - Power is bad


Mention the word, and most folks run for the hills.  It can conjure up terrible images of despots, tyrants and megalomaniacal leaders who are mad with the stuff.   There's no doubt about that ... history is replete with people who have become crazed by their desires to rule the world.
But hold on for a minute.  Quite often, the many suffer because of the reputations of a few. 

Consider this:

Power also provides the energy that inspires athletes, researchers, students, philanthropists, theologians, architects, and brilliant musicians.  For many, inspiration spells power, and it is the source of determination in the face of loss, discipline in the face of struggle and downright grit to stay the course. 

Power is the motive force behind the good and the bad.  Power in itself is neutral, but in the hands of leaders who are driven by the wrong motives, power can be destructive.  Yet organizations cannot exist without power.  Here's why: No matter how large they may be, organizations have limited resources.  Organizations cannot be 'all things to all people.'  That's where the influence of power comes to bear.

Why is power necessary in organizations?

“If everyone agrees on what to do and how to do it, there is no need to exercise power to attempt to influence others” (Pfeffer, p. 176).  But rare is the organization where everyone agrees on everything!

If an organization is to have an identity, it must be focused on a goal. This is power of design. “There are politics involved in innovation and change...” (Pfeffer, p. 12). While design or purpose can be achieved democratically, not everyone in the organization has the same perspective, buy-in and commitment to an end goal. 
If an organization is to accomplish something, it requires some kind of structure to direct the energy flow.  This is the power of decision.  “Because the need for power arises only under circumstances of disagreement, one of the personal attributes of powerful people is the willingness to engage in conflict with others” (Pfeffer, p. 176).  Someone has to make "the call", someone has to take the risk of the decision. 
If an organization is to work together, it requires some kind of laws or policies to guide those who want to effectively participate and to eliminate those who do not want to cooperate.  This is the power of discipline.

Organizations cannot escape the motive force of power ... but they can influence how power is used.

  1. Leaders can be trained to understand the natural human desire for freedom. 
  2. Good managers can provide models of the good use of power in organizations.
  3. 360 feedback models and other tools can be used to provide insight into how others perceive their use of power.
Ultimately, the way a leader uses power becomes more and more obvious as the years go by.  Good leaders are known for inclusion, dictatorial leaders become known for their dreaded ways.  And while the latter may "get things done," over time organizations seek leaders who build, rather than destroy, organizational power among the many. 

Whether you lead a team of 3 or 3,000, self-assessment of how you use power is never a waste of time.   After all, none of us wants to perpetuate the notion that all power is bad. 

Jeffrey Pfeffer, (1992) Managing with Power: Politics and Influence in Organizations.  Harvard Business School Press.