Posts Tagged ‘change management’

Appreciative Leaders Must Support The Change and Improvement

Sometimes I get the urge to go back and re-read publications, journals, and books and I often find things that I may have forgotten reading or a concept that really sticks out to me.  Over the last few days I have finally found some time to get back in to my Performance Improvement Journal from the International Society for Performance Improvement, and came across a couple of articles that I felt really speak to the current times, and the needs of organizations today.

With the current climate of business, change is inevitable.  We are living in one of the most dynamic environments that has ever existed.  Just look at BP, the fall of AIG, the challenge to GlaxoSmithCline’s diabetes drug Avandia, the new regulations for the financial industry about to be signed in to law, the constant change and advancement of technology such as mobile phones and services, or cable and satellite television services.  In all of these scenarios change is happening in a rapid and radical manner and the success of these companies relies on the ability of each of these organizations, and the many systemic components of each, to be agile and be able to adjust.  At the very least they must be able to adjust adequately and adeptly, at the best they must be innovative and revolutionary. 

Imagine for a moment the impact that these changes has on each one in the organization!  You’ll probably notice the weird structure of that last sentence; the use of “each one”.  In “The Power of One” (Roger Kaufman, Performance Improvement, vol. 49, no. 3, March 2010), Dr. Kaufman talks about how “all change, or lack of change, starts with one.  That one might be an individual, a small group, an organization, or society.”  Think about how many “ones” exist in most (use your own for a moment) organizations, and as I said before, think of the tremendous impact to each of those ones from these radical and incremental changes.  Every business unit, division, team, and individual person…every one of them will be impacted differently by the dynamic environment and must adjust in their own ways.  The key is that each of them must also be aware that they can and should be the catalyst for change.  But how do they get there?  It is up to the leaders in an organization to make this happen.

As a practitioner of Human Performance Technology (HPT), I find myself questioning why more leaders aren’t looking at their organizations from the systemic and systematic perspective that is at the root of HPT.  This means looking at it as a whole system made up of parts that must fit together properly, and understanding that ALL of the parts will impact all of the others.  How many managers, supervisors, executives, and even the front-line employees in many cases understand this?  It has to start with the leadership.  Many people believe that a system’s perspective must be very rigid and static, which is completely counter to the dynamic environment as described above.  However, as described by Jennifer Rosenzweig in “An Enlightened Look At A System View” (Jennifer Rosenzweig, Performance Improvement, vol.49, no. 3, March 2010), “A  complex adaptive system can be characterized as being dynamic and constantly changing.  When it is vibrantly humming along, the people within it are adjusting smoothly and efficiently to change on a continual basis.”  Based on this, we can say that in fact it is possible to have a dynamic system that can meet these ever-changing needs of business, and can be done without getting stuck in “analysis paralysis”.  Rosenzweig goes on to say “Although plans, processes, and strategies are in place, new decisions are made when new input arrives.  And these are not decisions imposed by senior leaders but instead are made in the moment by people embedded in the system.”  In other words, it truly must be adaptive and dynamic and involve all ones, and it has to be the leadership of the organization that supports, fosters, and facilitates this environment!  This is not an impossible task, and can be achieved through the utilization and support of HPT at all levels of an organization.  Individuals must come to realize and know “his or her role and ties his or her efforts to a larger purpose to do what is needed to accomplish the tasks at hand, as well as the end goal.” (Jennifer Rosenzweig, Performance Improvement, vol.49, no. 3, March 2010)

One of the important pieces of this is helping people to go from being “brick layers” to “cathedral builders”.  For those that have never heard the story, I’ll choose to use the one from “Transitioning from Brick Layer to Cathedral Builder: Performance Consulting and the Power of One” (Darlene Van Tiem and Jeffrey McElyea, Performance Improvement, vol. 49, no. 3, March 2010). 

” A performance consultant was conducting an analysis of brick layers.  The performance consultant approached the first of three workers and asked, ‘What are you doing?’  The first man, not wanting to participate in the analysis, answered, ‘What does it look like I’m doing?  I’m laying bricks!’  undaunted, the performance consultant walked over to the second bricklayer and asked the same question.  The second man responded, ‘I’m making a living.’  The performance consultant was intrigued by the different perspective.  Finally, the performance consultant asked the third bricklayer the same question: ‘What are you doing?’  The third looked up, smiled, and said ‘I’m building a cathedral.’  The performance consultant thought, ‘Now, that’s what everybody should be doing!'”

This has such a powerful message!  How many people in an organization, including the organization itself, know what the big picture is other than making the business money?  Making money should be a given and expected to happen.  But what does the organization hope to accomplish in the process?  How is it defined?  What is in place to drive the decisions of all stakeholders involved?  It is the leaders in the organization that must make sure that these questions are answered and supported throughout the organization, and that is what drives success and creates a “complex adaptive system”. 

In “Leading Positive Performance: A Conversation About Appreciative Leadership” (Diana Whitney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom, and Kae Rader, Performance Improvement, vol. 49, no. 3, March 2010) all three authors are discussing a book that they have written talking about appreciative leadership.  I think the concept of appreciative leaders is an important one in creating the environment that we have been talking about, and to supporting the growth and development of HPT in the workplace.  Appreciative leadership, as defined by Dr. Whitney, “refers to a set of practices that turn human potential into positive performance.  It is a positive, strengths-based approach to human performance, collaboration, and change management.  It represents a shift from individualistic and deficit-based leadership processes to relational and dialogical leadership processes.”  This is a concept that can be supported by Dr. Rupert Loyd as he talks about much of the same topic in his blog “Relational Leadership“; relational leadership is truly the way of the future.  It means involvement and communication (two-way, not one) and is absolutely imperative if organizations want to have a team full of “cathedral builders” and not just “brick layers”.  This is accomplished by studying “the times when the organization is performing at exemplary levels and the quality is flawless.  From this process, we can learn specifically what it takes to support high performance in all areas all the time.” (Diana Whitney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom, and Kae Rader, Performance Improvement, vol. 49, no. 3, March 2010)  Once we discover what we want to happen we need to “Frame them as statements of what we want more of rather than statements of what we do not want,”  (Diana Whitney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom, and Kae Rader, Performance Improvement, vol. 49, no. 3, March 2010) and this must be done in conversation with the other stakeholders of an organization, not just at them or to them.  As Dr. Whitney states, “Nothing stimulates creativity and innovation more than inclusion of different people, different perspectives, and different ideas.  Inclusion enables people to exchange knowledge and ideas.  It fosters engagement, commitment to a shared future, and collaborative action.  It is generative.”  (Diana Whitney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom, and Kae Rader, Performance Improvement, vol. 49, no. 3, March 2010)  

What better way is there to create a complex, dynamic, adaptive system than this?  In order for the changes that organizations want, and need, to take place there needs to be a shift in the leadership and management style in place today.  Otherwise the other systemic components, and thus the overall system, will fail to have the desired impact and any change associated with them will be weakened if they don’t fail all together.  Until these factors are realized I’m afraid we will continue to see the types of failures and destruction described at the beginning of this entry.

Name that title!

Have you gone on to the job boards recently?  Things like,,, or  It can be quite enlightening when you peruse these boards and look at what companies are looking for, and what the associated titles are that go along with it.  In fact, it has really shown me over the last couple of days just how much confusion there is from one organization to another, even within the same organization (some of which are consultancy’s) as to what the definition of a specific function is.

Some of the titles that I have found are things such as”Director of Professional Development”,  “Director, Organizational Effectiveness”, “Change Management Associate” or “Strategic Communications and Change Manager”.  Now, from the titles of these positions one would be led to believe that there must certainly be a difference between them; contrary to that belief I found that most of the positions, regardless of title, were aiming to achieve the same goals.  Those goals were usually stated as “responsibility for providing strategic and operational leadership and consulting expertise in the area of organizational effectiveness, change management, and talent development” or “provide leadership, help our corporate leaders plan, implement and influence programs and individuals to increase our organization’s efficiency…will possess strong expertise in organizational design, change management, coaching, facilitation, succession planning, learning and development, and strategic planning”.  When you look at these, they both look like they could come from the same exact posting, but the first was for an Organizational Change Management Manager and the latter was for a Director of Professional Development.

After seeing something like this, I believe there is no question of the belief of organizations in the importance of the things these positions are trying to accomplish.  No matter what the title is, organizations are realizing that they have to do something different from what they are today.  I think there is still somewhat of an identity crisis that is taking place in this realm, and I’m not sure if, when, or how it will be rectified but at least there is some type of recognition of the need to make a change.  What does this mean for the Organizational Development/Performance Improvement industry?  Only time will tell, but I believe it’s safe to say that there is certainly quite a bit of, at the very least, acknowledgement of the necessity of these types of positions. 

Let’s just hope that with the confusion of titles and responsibilities that these companies can get the right people to fill the right positions, doing the right things!

Something new?! Oh no!

The title of this blog should say a lot.  Most of us know that the only sure thing in most businesses today is change.  But what does that really mean to company, and the people who are part of it?  What does it mean to the customers and clients that are being served?  There is now and probably always will be a certain amount of change resistance in any situation.  So how do we manage this process, and what do we need to know?  One of the best courses that I took on the subject is a two-week program through Ithaca College which is taught by Dr. Kalman called, aptly enough, Change Management (this class is offered as a part of the Performance Improvement Management Certificate in conjunction with the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI)).  I strongly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about this amazing process and the science behind it!  I will attempt to share my knowledge of the subject while adding in my own thoughts and observations.

First we really need to define a few things.  There are a two levels of change: transformational (radical) and incremental.  The difference is that with transformational, you are changing the culture and the very fabric of an organization.  Incremental change can still be a huge change, but it is more along the lines of strategic change to say processes, products, services, equipment, technology, etc.  The next thing to keep in mind is that there is proactive versus reactive change.  These are pretty much self-explanatory; the former is based on innovation and planning and the latter is based on response to a challenge or threat, which could be internal or external (for those followers of the SWOT or HPT systems, this should be very familiar).  The last component is directly related to whether or not the change is proactive or reactive.  Change will either be planned or unplanned.  As I am sure you can deduce planned change is generally on the proactive side, while unplanned change is generally reactive.  Knowing these areas for change can truly help in defining what direction to go in and help in determining your basic project components (time, cost, and quality) and which one is most important (as much as we would like them all to be the most important, only one can be, but that is for a whole different blog post entirely!).

Once you have determined what type of change you are dealing with you need to be able to communicate what that change is, whom it will affect, and how.  This is the kind of information that senior leaders will certainly not only want to know, but need to know to support and drive the change.  If it isn’t supported at every level, change will fail.  We will talk about that in more detail shortly.  First, how do we determine who the change will affect and how?  This is where it helps to have people with knowledge of performance consulting/analysis knowledge.  There needs to be a process of communicating with people in every level of an organization to gather data and determine what the feelings and thoughts on the change are, which will help to implement the change with as little resistance as possible.  This means survey’s, focus group’s, and interview’s at different levels and over the entire population that will be affected.  This will also help to identify change agents, or members of the population that can help to drive the change from within the different units and teams which can really help the success of the change initiative in the long run.  During this process you should be looking for ideas and suggestions for how to implement the change easier, reasons for or against the change (sometimes you may find that it is a completely unnecessary change during this process), as well as any potential roadblocks that may keep the change from happening.  All of this information will make it much easier to be successful in implementing the change, especially if the people who are being talked with feel as though they were really a part of the change, not merely a victim of it.

So what can stop change from happening?  The first article that I think explains resistance to change very well is  “Choosing Strategies for Change” (Kotter & Schlesinger, Harvard Business Review 2008).  In it they identify four reasons that people resist change: Parochial Self-Interest, Misunderstanding and Lack of Trust, Different Assessments, and Low Tolerance for Change.  I have personally experienced some of these (as I’m sure many other have) and know them to be very accurate.  I also found the article “Change Through Persuasion” (Garvin & Roberto, Harvard Business Review 2005) to be very clear in their offering of the “6 Ways to Stop Change in It’s Track’s”: A Culture of “No”, The Dog & Pony Show Must Go On (the presentation is more important than the change), The Grass is Always Greener (change attention to new products, services, business, etc.), After the Meeting Ends Debate Begins (conversation doesn’t happen in the meeting, but will afterwards and often covertly), Ready Aim Aim (inability to choose one definitive course), and This Too Shall Pass (wait it out, we’ve been here before).  By identifying these 10 different roadblocks and addressing them when they are noticed, you can help to ensure that your change initiative is successful and doesn’t get caught up on the path to completion and success.  You must always be aware that these types of things can happen, and plan for what the next steps are if, and when, they raise their ugly head.

There are many great models out there to follow for Change Management, and certainly too many to list here.  I strongly recommend that you study them, and make sure to find the right one for the right change.  No one model will work for every change, but the good news is that there are plenty of options, so work with them and put together your own tool belt, and before you know it your colleagues will be saying “Where does he get those wonderful toys!”  I hope that you enjoyed this week’s article, and we’ll see you again next week.  Please feel free to contact us and suggest a topic that you want to know more about in the Performance Improvement and Organizational Development areas, and we will do our best to get them posted!  And as always, you can contact us at Provative Business Consulting, LLC ( for assistance with your Change Management, Performance Consulting, and Organizational Development needs.