Change out loud

First published Sunday, 30 Nov 2014 19:58

2014 was a breakthrough year for Change Management; everyone is “AWARE”. ACMP published a standard and Prosci launched a CMROI calculator. Measuring the outcomes, however, is more than planning and estimating ROI; a measurement framework must track progress towards the desired outcome. Can you answer this simple question? Are you half-way done yet?

In > my first post, I talked about why Time is the New Value. Consider this new perspective; the vision and strategy are agreed, the plan and the budget are in place and the decision to proceed taken. All we want is to get there as soon as possible. I am not suggesting a worldwide change roll-out in a weekend; I have heard of a few places where this was done, Monday was not much fun, but by Wednesday or Thursday things were getting back to normal. By the end of the week, everyone agreed it had not been that bad after all and was much preferable to the 18-months of confusion, disruption and duplication in the original plan. While we may not go for the “weekend” approach, the hope for Change Management is to reduce disruption, reduce productivity loss and reach the higher productivity targets. But what if we just concentrate on getting there quicker?  This article identifies ways to focus our energy, budget and interventions so we can reduce overall elapsed time as we execute, identifying elements from across the range of frameworks, with one simple goal: to get there quicker.


There are several long lists of frameworks and methods posted in LinkedIn groups. Kudos to Ron Leeman for > posting this list to bring some order to the chaos. There are 5-step (> Prosci ADKAR), 6-step (> ChangeFirst), 8-step (Kotter) and many more espousing a simple linear approach; variations on Plan – Do – Reinforce. These linear approaches are not outcome focused. They are simple steps and defer to Project Management (see > Life Cycle Phase IV: Project Control) which focus on “control during the execution phase, monitoring the project for risks and keeping those risks at bay. It also involves keeping changes in project execution to a minimum.” I find this strange as the original ideas on change were all based on iterative approaches, starting with > Deming and PDCA. PMI actually includes feedback loops; from Monitoring and Controlling to Planning and Design as well as Executing but it is > rare to see such iteration in a Gantt chart and most feedback is kept for the next project to learn from rather than to change the current design and plan.

How often do we see iterations in a Gantt Chart? How often do we see iterations in a Gantt Chart?

Iterative and incremental execution, such as Lean and Six Sigma, cycle until the outcomes are achieved or at least the > Muda (無駄) has been removed. Agile approaches take this a further step; reducing the planning overhead and ensuring continuous and early feedback, frequent releases with an evolving design. With Time as the New Value, we continually push for the outcomes, rather than reducing risks and sticking to a plan. Essentially we have “Agile Change” as we “accelerate” the project to get to the outcomes sooner. My thanks to colleagues (Anthony Saxby, Ron Lamb) as over the years we have drawn many, many versions of this diagram to illustrate how time impacts value. While higher productivity is possible, let’s just get the changes adopted sooner and have one clear focus for everyone.

Value CurveThe value curve, always promising higher productivity at some point in the future. Focus on timeHowever, we should focus rather, and perhaps only, on reducing time to value.

Having researched, commented, criticized, taught and used a variety and combinations of Change Management approaches, here are five big-levers I use to directly accelerate outcomes.

1. Start with Motivation

Be very, very clear why this change is needed. Before we begin anything. Express the outcomes as simple “stories with numbers” that everyone understands and agrees with. The numbers are critical as they are specific and lend credibility to the storyline. Don’t think this is something you can address later, especially when you hit obstacles or resistance; do it first, do it now. As > Simon Sinek says: “Start with Why in everything you do.” While many frameworks include a step for Motivation or Desire (but not early enough in my opinion), Vital Smarts Influence model covers all the bases. It is a holistic approach (with individual, social and systematic elements) that also spans ABILITY. Starting with Motivation ensures the impact of adoption interventions so make sure we cover every angle. Thanks again to some Swiss colleagues, Simone and Christa for this great mapping:

Interventions mapped to Vital Smarts

Researching further, it seems there is a lot more to motivation. Most people have heard of Maslow's Needs Hierarchy which, as applied to workplace motivation, sought to explain individual employee motivation as a pyramid of needs. You can read more by researching Frederick Herzberg's motivation theory and Alderfer’s ERG (Existence, Relatedness, Growth) as adaptations of Maslow. Herzberg classified Hygiene Factors (supervision, interpersonal relations, poor work place environment as well as salary, benefits and rewards) which all demotivate when not present as well as Motivation Factors (achievement, advancement, recognition, responsibility) which will motivate when present. What high achievers manage to do is shift from hygiene (fear) to motivation (desire) as they realize that the main motivating factors are not in the (poor) environment but in the intrinsic value and satisfaction gained from the change. This suggests that "desire" should focus on the positive motivating factors in Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory. In summary, intrinsic (personal, internal) motivation is critical to accelerating adoption and change, so always address Motivation first and Start with Why!

2. Reduce Decision time

Assuming you have the right stakeholders on board, a cross functional team starts ideation, brainstorming and building a plan. To move quickly we need to get through this phase as quickly as possible while ensuring everyone is “on-board”. All too often, decisions are made in meetings by a small team without wider buy-in. People “represent” the different populations, decisions are made and then published. But then not everyone agrees, there are comments, factions, lobby groups and even outright disagreement. So we have another meeting or workshop and iterate on the plan. One method I have used to reduce such iteration is known as > Radical Transparency. This approach massively increases the openness of organizational process and information. It is like collaboration and social on steroids and very similar to the concepts of > Work Out Loud. Not only are the decisions better but we increase engagement and actually speed up the decision making process. As we will see, this is something that just needs to be done. Make working out loud the default, make calendars open to all, post what you are about to do, and get buy in and ideas, rather than sending something out for review when your mind is made up. People may be uncomfortable and others may judge; but such transparency also helps drive the culture change we need for our future vision.

3. Just Get Going

There is a term commonly used in business where a team member is placing unnecessary barriers in the way of completing a task, usually due to a lack of experience, confidence or an unwillingness to complete the task itself. Or maybe hard work is needed to analyze a problem in depth. Or it may be that you are constantly faced with decisions and there is always incomplete information. This paralyzes most people. The polite version is Just Focus and Do It. Making things happen is not so hard. You may not have the perfect plan but start doing something. I encourage people to do just one thing a day, and above all else make sure you have it done by the end of the day. Because by Friday you will have done five things – not so bad. Enable the change for quick wins from early adopters or even all those people we just motivated. Let people own their actions (note how this builds on being motivated and working out loud?) and if a few eggs get broken along the way then at least you will have an omelet.

4. Fail Fast

Which leads rather nicely to Fail Fast (2013 by Babineaux and Krumbolt). “Successful people take action as quickly as possible, even though they may perform badly”. We don’t want perfect plans, we want progress. Learning comes from trying and in no small part from mistakes or failures. Try out those ideas and see what happens. But if it is not working, then stop, learn the lesson and try again. > From The Daily Beast: “It is only starting, despite not knowing where you are going that puts you into the place where the journey can unfold. This expresses an idea that is central to the Fail Fast approach: You can’t know what something is like, [or] how you will feel about it, or what will result from it until you actually are doing it.” And don't tell the project managers!

5. Reinforce Everything

Finally, every linear change method eventually reminds us to reinforce the change, to make it stick and ensure we do not return to the old ways. But at the end? Why not celebrate from the beginning, not at the end. > Positive Reinforcement, taking the most positive interpretation, seeing the glass half full, confirms we are making progress towards the desired outcomes. Reinforcers can be a natural consequence (of hard work), a token (points mean prizes), social in nature or tangible rewards. Of course it has to be in the moment, so ensure everyone is able to reinforce progress; which should be simple as we started with everyone knowing exactly where we are headed and why from the stories with numbers.

What have we learnt?

This combination of levers and reordering of the core building blocks ensures that we address multiple motivators simultaneously. People are satisfied when reward relative to effort is seen as fair. By focusing on outcomes that everyone has bought into, and driving towards them as fast as possible, everyone benefits and lives in the future vision sooner.

Not another framework

This is not another framework. It is not even a method. Perhaps it is a perspective that is necessary for change to be more open and accepted, for outcomes to be achieved sooner. Change Out Loud ©.

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