Linda and I have been in Copenhagen for a week, and will be here for another. We are launching the Danish translation of Beyond Change Management, doing media interviews, speaking to classes at the Copenhagen Business School, working with Valcon, our consulting strategic partner in Scandinavia, and generally having a blast! I was here a year ago as well, and love the fact that I can generally find my way around Copenhagen without too much difficulty.
Yesterday was the book launch at Gyldendal, our publisher. They are the largest publishing house in Denmark, and have been publishing books since 1770. We spoke to 50 executives, managers and change consultants, and it was a joy to watch most of them walk away with a book in hand. The day before we spoke to another group of 50 CEO’s, COO’s and other senior executives from Scandinavia’s largest and most prominent corporations and the government. This group was convened by invitation only from Valcon’s client list.
In both groups, as well as in the executive class at the Copenhagen Business School, we were over-joyed to witness the deep interest in conscious change leadership. It seems that leaders here are seeing the same thing that others across the globe are beginning to realize – transformation is complicated, and even though we desire simple methods to navigate its challenges, simple doesn’t work.
IBM’s 2008 Making Change Work Study revealed that 59% of change efforts failed when measured by time, cost and quality criteria. This is a similar finding by research studies ten years ago. What does this tell us? Basically, that the common approaches to change are not working. Both leaders and the workforce are stretched to the max, and there is little workload capacity for change. So, leaders keep cutting corners and opting for the simplest change management approaches they can find, and they consistently fail. The human and capital costs of such failures are astonomical. It’s time to change our approaches to change.
Complicated and complex approaches are not the answer either. No one has the time, resources, or patience for them. They’d cause just as much failure, but for other reasons. Mostly, they’d over-burden the organization and the people in it, and consume far too many resources.
The answer is simple: be willing to do whatever it takes to SUCCEED, as simply as possible. But don’t cut corners and cause failure because failure wastes resources and is the most costly approach of all! Here’s an effective way to proceed.
First, start with a change process methodology that attends to all the content, people and change process dyanamics at play in an integrated manner. That way there will be no duplication of effort, nor anything over-looked. Second, make sure you can customize the approach to each and every change effort because no two are ever alike. Third, do your customization and select the change tasks from the change process methodology that you absolutely know you must do, and leave out the rest, i.e., make it as simple as possible. Fourth, monitor your change plan and add, delete, and modify as you proceed and new dynamics emerge. This is critical. Never automatically and unconsciously stick with your original plan because you cannot possibly make absolutely correct assumptions at the beginning about what your change effort will take, and new, unexpected dynamics will undoubtedly arise as you go. By constantly course correcting your plan, you won’t get blindsided by any original over-simplification, nor burdened by “extra” tasks you put into your plan at the beginning. Instead, you will have the most streamlined approach you possibly could, given the complexity of your change, and you will succeed because you are doing what you need to succeed. Rather than pay a huge cost for change with no benefit, you will reap significant ROI from consistent, successful implementations.
What is your perspective on this? Do you think that organization’s lack of change capacity and leader’s desire for simplicity is limiting their ability to see what is really required to transform organizations successfully?
If you are asked to step onto the speeding train of a major change initiative that is at risk of derailing, how do you get it back on track and help the project team understand how it got to this point, and how to make it better? This is tough at best, especially when those currently on the train, or worse, running the train, are afraid of looking bad, are overwhelmed, and are actually in need to major help. This is even tougher when the project is transformational, and there is no linear track to count on about three stations ahead…
The world needs better change leaders, no if’s, and’s or but’s, especially for the myriad transformational changes our organizations face. That includes project leaders, change consultants, project team members, and executive sponsors. And we have the responsibility–no, the obligation!– to help turn leaders and managers into better change leaders—while the train is speeding ahead. Getting change leaders to engage in corrective project work is essential, and so is getting their agreement to proactively learn how to do it better. They have to acknowledge the need to get better and be willing to do it. Their success depends on it.
This requires two things of us change consultants…consulting to the organizational change project, and teaching while we consult. That means making explicit the “what,” “why,” and “how” of what we are recommending so that our clients can learn from it. Sometimes we need to do this coaching on the run when the train is in full gear, and hopefully, some of it can happen when the train makes a stop at an important station and you can talk about where you have just come from, where the train needs to go from here, and how to get it there…especially if the effort does not have the security of pre-set train tracks that will take you where you want to go. How to create the new tracks in real time is a part of what we need to teach.
Are you up for it? Do you set up your work in this way? Are you a “project fixer,” a “teacher,” or both?
If both, what do you use to help fortify your teaching, coaching, mentoring on the job?
For me, change process models help, but can be too intellectual unless I make them absolutely relevant to the work that is needed. Tools help, since the client can rely on them for this work and the next. Us modeling the thinking and behavior that is needed, what questions to ask, how to intervene with the client, especially executives, is essential. And talking about mindsets, style and quality of relationship is also in game, since the client has as much to gain from building their own personal toolkit as well as their organizational toolkit for how to lead change.
What do you use? What do you find most helpful to ensure you are leaving a legacy behind of stronger change leadership?
Or Rather…Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water Just Because Transformational Change Is Non-Linear
I remember the days when things were far simpler. I hear from leaders older than me and now long retired that there was actually a time in the past century when a leader could identify a visionary outcome, then map a linear process to get there, and people would actually follow. Wow, what a concept.
Now of course, organizational change is far different than in those bygone days. The envionment is far more dynamic, and the types of organizational change have evolved from developmental to transitional to transformational. Developmental and transitional were fairly linear, but with transformational change, straight lines have become relatively obsolete.
What does this mean for change process methodologies? It challenges them tremendously because it is relatively difficult to use a systematic and structured process methodology on a non-linear set of dynamics. This basic fact has spawned a “throw the baby out with the bath water” dialogue among many otherwise brilliant change practitioners. Here’s how it goes: since today’s most challenging type of change is non-linear, and therefore, extremely difficult to manage, and since we cannot effectively use today’s presecribed linear approaches with success, then the answer must not be in any change process methodology, and therefore, all change process methodologies are equally not the answer.
WRONG! Well, partly wrong. The correct part is that the answer is never in the methodology and never will be, just as the beauty in a painting does not come from the brush of the artist. It comes from the artist’s skill and talent. The change process methodology and the brush are only tools of the practitioner. But just because the artist / practitioner must have wisdom and skill to use the tools with brilliance does not mean that the tools don’t matter. They do, always have, and always will.
Leonardo Da Vinci certainly used the best brushes available at the time. There is good reason the best violinists yearn for a Stradivarius, and it is the very same reason that the fastest race car drivers constantly tweak their cars to win races.
Tell me, who would win a mock Daytona 500, you driving a Ferrari or the best race car driver in the world driving a Volkswagen? You would win everytime time. And that metaphorically is why a skilled change leader or consultant will always want to use the best change methodology they can find. The key is knowing what to look for.
There are three key characteristics of a really great change methodology suitable for organization transformation:
1. Make sure it is a change process methodology that guides right action over time, and not simply a framework that specifies areas of required work and attention without any process guidance. Knowing what to attend to isn’t nearly as potent as also knowing what to do, how and when.
2. Make sure it is customizeable for each change effort, and that it can be tailored in real time as you go so that any decisions or plans you make can be altered and course corrected to meet the needs of the actual dynamics that emerge along your change journey.
3. It must provide strategic guidance at the thirty thousand foot level to support the conscious design of your change process regarding overall direction and initial desired outcomes, governance, change infrastructure, resources, engagement, communications, design of content solutions, implementation planning, etc., as well as change tools to assist you “on the ground” to plan, design and implement each task you put into your change plan.
We are interested. How does this resonate with you? Do you think change methodology matters? Or, are they all pretty much “just the same?”
Linda and I each recently read and really enjoyed a wonderful, easily read book called, “Learn Like a Leader,” edited by Marshall Goldsmith, Beverly Kaye and Ken Shelton. It was written by thirty-five best-selling authors, thought leaders and management experts, each contributing a short chapter, which are really snippets of great wisdom crafted around a personal story. The book came out of many of the authors meeting to share their stories and learning, which then spawned the annual tradition of meeting as The Learning Network, which I mentioned in my last post.
There are many, many wonderful contributions in the book. In fact, all thirty-five have their own sweet spot of impact. What I loved most about the book was the intimacy around the personal stories each author told, and how each was a wrapping for a profound insight or learning they had that highly impacted their lives. And this is all done in a chapter of no more than three of four pages. This makes the book easily read in a couple of sittings. Or, read it like I did, actually lingering over it for a couple months. I loved reading a chapter before bed or over breakfast. It was wonderful to think, “I wonder what Warren Bennis wrote about,” and then go read his contribution. I loved Warren’s, by the way. He wrote about “Writing Your Own Life,” and spoke about re-inventing one’s self. He shared about his roots, his army and school days, his role as a university president, and his time at USC, using the story of his life to highlight how authoring his life is important to him. I loved hearing how these stories of his life shaped his realization that he was he was never going to be completely happy with positional power, “the only kind of power an organization can bestow “, but what he really wanted was personal power, “influence based on voice.” He certainly achieved that, didn’t he?
The author list is extraordinary, including Jim Collins, Peter Block, Jim Kouzes, Stephen Covey, William Bridges, Marshall Goldsmith, Bev Kaye, and many, many more. Linda and I both highly recommend it. With the wonderful premise that “great leaders are great learners,” and written in a personal story format by great luminaries, how could it be anything but a wonderful read?
Please comment and let us know what you think of the book!
Linda and I had the great pleasure of being invited to attend The Learning Network’s meeting this year. TLN is a small, by invitation only group of luminaries in the fields of leadership development and organizational change. They have been meeting together for the past fourteen years. Why? To simply connect, relax, let their hair down, share experiences, and ask for and provide support to each other.
The minds in the room where huge. Most have written great books that you have likely read, and have been major contributors to the fields of organization transformation and leadership for most of their careers. But what was most present was not their minds, but their huge hearts and deep commitment to make a real difference in people’s lives and the effectiveness of our organizations. I didn’t come away from the weekend with great new ideas. Instead, I came away with wonderful new connections and a sense of renewal to keep at this work, to step up my game, and to contribute more to make this world a better place for all. And that was far more valuable to me than some new idea.
But one idea that really struck me, I believe, came from Nancy Adler. In a sentence she got to the heart of leadership: “Leadership is a self portrait.”
What does this mean to you? To me, it means that every word, decision, behavior, and action we take as leader is a reflection of who we are. In other words, my self is always with me, at all times, and is the source of my leadership. It generates everything I think, say and do. Others, looking at my leadership, see who I am through how I lead and behave. My leadership style and performance is a picture of me, and I am constantly painting my own portrait through how I am at any moment. My leadership is a reflection of my self.
But I have multiple selves, multiple sides to who I am, don’t you? One side I’ll call my ego, my conditioned self, and it has all kinds of strengths and weaknesses, different color tones of behaviors and actions. Sometimes it paints a pretty picture; other times not. Sometimes it helps me achieve, other times it derails my efforts.
My ego has conditioned beliefs, values and ways of seeing the world. Sometimes these fit the situation I face and are helpful. Other times these worldviews are far too limiting and I just cannot see the solution through my ego’s lens. Because my ego is primarily concerned with me, it often does not take others and their needs into account adequately. It tends to look inside the boundaries of my own self-interest rather than outside to larger perspectives.
Luckily I have another side of me, my Being. You have that part of you too, don’t you? This is my best Self, the part of me that generates those moments of brilliance where I think more broadly, feel more deeply and act beyond my self-interest to what is best for the greater good. My Being reaches out to others, even if they are different, and provides support and care. In my leadership, my Being invites others “into the space” to be heard and to contribute, where my ego usually wants to fill the space with my own pontifications. My Being delivers leadership that unleashes other’s potential, where my ego is mostly concerned with my own power and control of things.
My intuition and best ideas come from my Being. When I operate from my Being, I see beyond my ego’s conditioned worldviews and generate more “aha’s”. I am able to suspend my assumptions and beliefs to perceive more accurately the systems dynamics at play so I comprehend complexity more easily. I perceive inter-relationsips that my ego’s downward, self-centered, myopic view misses. From my Being, I also see and understand human dynamics better because I am able to witness my own self and my interations with others objectively, rather than through my ego’s judgement and emotional reactions.
Your leadership, like mine, is an ongoing self portrait, with both your Being and your ego painting colors and shapes on the canvass of your life and career. Whatever part of you shows up at any moment has the brush in its hand. When you look at your self portrait, what do you see?
Which parts of your leadership self portrait do you like?
Which parts would you like to change?
Jim Kouzes, good friend, all round wonderful person, and co-author of The Leadership Challenge and The Truth about Leadership, says that introspection is one of the key leadership behaviors that leaders do the least. We simply don’t turn into and look at our own self portrait. We don’t assess our painting, find its flaws and do the touch ups necessary to craft a masterpiece. My question is simple: why not? Are our egos so big that we cannot look in the mirror and work on ourselves? Are we that threatened by what we will find?
The formula for successful leadership is simple: the best leaders are the most evolved human beings. They have resolved the self-limiting or dysfunctional parts of their egos so they – and those they lead – benefit from its strengths, not its weaknesses, and this allows them to operate more from their Being. Put your Being first, and your leadership will thrive and your portrait will become a true work of art.
As we start 2011, what aspect of your self portrait are you going to work on this year?
Greetings change leaders and consultants and welcome to The Change Leader’s Network Blog. The purpose of The Change Leader’s Network is to serve conscious change leaders worldwide with development, collaboration, and methodology. This blog is the Network’s first resource to support that purpose. We will be adding more as we go.
In the blog, we will focus on leading change, specifically organizational change, but pesonal, relational, team, and social change as well. Think of it as “all things change related.” We will focus on not just any type of organizaitonal change, but specifically, transformational change, the type of change that can produce radical breakthroughs in results.
Transformational change is challenging; change leaders fail at it more often than they succeed. But that is what makes it so interesting. In this blog, you will learn how to radically increase your success as a transformational change leader or consultant. We will provide tips, techniques and methods that we have developed and refined over the past thirty years with great success for our own clients. We will share cases, tell stories and take you into the trenches of working with senior executives of Fortune 500 companies, large government agencies and global non-profits. The names will be withheld to protect the guilty, but you will learn what to do and not to do based on the successes and failures we have observed.
We will engage you in dialogue about what we see is cutting edge in the field of change leadership, specifically conscious change leadership. Conscious change leadership is an emerging field that combines learning, insight and methods from a number of other fields, in particular, systems theory, chaos theory, integral theory, organizaiton development, organizational learning, change management, project management, transpersonal psychology, and evolutionary science. We have begun to describe this emerging field in our two books, Beyond Change Management: How to Achieve Breakthrough Results through Consious Change Leadership, and The Change Leader’s Roadmap: How to Navigate Your Organization’s Transformation. We suggest you read these books if you are interested in conscious change leadership as they provide the foundational knowledge and change tools to enter this worldwide dialogue and advancement of this field.
Through the blog, you will get an insiders look into The Change Leader’s Roadmap, the nine-phase change process methodology that we have been developing for thirty years. You can apply the Roadmap to any type and scale of change, and we’ll show you how. The online version of The Change Leader’s Roadmap has been closed to new subscribers this past year, but we will re-open it soon and make it available to Change Leaders Network members. More on that to come.
Our audience for the blog is both change leaders and consultants. Some people suggest that we ought to focus on one role or the other, as executives and managers have very different worldviews, responsibilities, educaction, and needs than do consultants, but we disagree. Why? Because the boundaries and separation between these two critical roles is often a huge detriment to leading organizational change successfully. And, leaders need to learn many of the skills change consultants bring, as well as develop more of their worldview. The same is true of consultants: they need to develop more of a leadership mindset and skillset. So what better way to promote this symbiosis and development than address both roles and the people in them as one? In fact, when we refer to “change leaders,” 95% of the time we mean both change leaders and change consultants. So please keep that in mind as you read the blog entries over time.
My partner, Linda Ackerman Anderson and I will both be posting to this blog. There will be other guest bloggers along the way as well, all leaders in the field of transformational change and leadership. Some will be authors you know and whose books you have read. Some will be consultants on our team or outside our organization who have valuable insights about the nuances of succeeding at organizational change. Some will be futurists, others professors, and of course, executives telling their stories of what is working and not working in their organizational transformation and organizational culture change efforts.
We will be making entries to the blog on a regular basis, so I suggest you subscribe to the RSS feed so you don’t miss anything. Also, subscribe to the Results from Change Newsletter. We’ll send you emails announcing updates to the blog and other valuable tidbits about leading organizational change. We will hunt for cool and effective methods for transformation and send them direct to your inbox.
Ok, there you go. That’s the overview. I think that covers everything, certainly enough to get us started. Now, I’d like to ask you a couple questions:
What are your needs?
What would you like to see this blog focus on to be most valuable to you?
What are your most pressing challenges as a change leader or consultant?
Please respond and let us know. See you soon.
All the best in change!