The Change Management Revolution
New advances in science and the ability to share this information instantly through the internet has brought us a reality we’ve never seen before.
It is creating endless opportunities for those skilled in change management.
Unfortunately for some, the burden of change will prove to be too much and these people will inevitably end up as casualties in the race for advancement.
It doesn’t need to be this way! There is plenty for you and everyone in your team, but only if you have the skills to take advantage of the opportunities that change brings.
The people that will benefit the most in this “strange new world” of lightning fast, relentless demand for change will be those most skilled in Change Management.
Learning From the Past
When it comes to winning or losing and success or failure it is very easy to pick which side of the fence you’d rather be on.
Charles Darwin dedicated his life to the study of evolution. His discoveries went on to transform our understanding of the descent of man from our common ancestors. To say his ideas were revolutionary is the understatement of the century!
I hope you’ll agree he knows a thing or two about things changing.
Let’s explore what Charles Darwin had to say about change…
Survival of The Fittest
Thankfully for us we’re not fighting for our lives, but we are fighting for how successful we can be in our lives.
Interestingly, being the best or the strongest at anything doesn’t guarantee your survival in the long term.
And this has been proven time and time again. Our ancestors the Homosapiens were nowhere near as strong as the Neanderthals – but things didn’t work out to well for the Neanderthals, a now extinct species.
Change Management is Easy, Until Things Stop Changing
When it comes to the process of change management, there are a set of skills that, when mastered, will allow you to crush it.
Your customers will love how quickly you can react to their wants and needs. They will reward you with more sales and your boss is going to love you for it!
By change I specifically mean organisational change as opposed to personal or individual change. Before we go through these 3 killer skills, we need to look at why people find change so difficult...
Obstacles to Organisational Change
Overcoming the Challenges to Change Management
These skills are going to get you the changes you want quickly and effortlessly.
Used correctly, they will help you overcome all the obstacles to change mentioned above.
We teach these techniques to the people we work with, and they have gone on to create huge changes within their teams.
If you’re like them, then with a little practice the things you’ve been trying to change for years are only weeks away from being accomplished.
Lets get started…
Planning and Strategy
Another Change Management Problem
Emotions are powerful, they can motivate change or leave someone totally incapable of moving or even thinking!
Let’s get a better idea of why change management is so difficult and look at how traumatic the emotional journey that everyone goes through can be when things change…
Denial is not the only negative emotion people might feel. The more of these emotions you are aware of the quicker you will be able to get people to change.
Step 1 : Planning and Strategy
Is planning even worth doing?
If you go by Mike Tyson’s well known quote you might not think so.
Can this really be correct though?
On the face of it the quote appears to mock planning…
When Mike was interviewed about this quote he revealed that plans are great when the going is good but :
“The bad end of the stick. Let’s see how you deal with it. Normally people don’t deal with it well”
People who get punched in the face for a living are pretty highly motivated to plan well.
As you can see boxers need to have a plan for when things don’t work out well and so should you.
There are other mistakes to watch out for. You can substantially increase the likelihood of success by watching out for these 5 common planning errors:
5 Common Planning Mistakes
1. No Plan B
2.Overestimate your own ability
3.Over promise on what we can deliver
4.Don’t do enough planning
5.No trial run or not enough practice
1 – No Plan B
This is about expecting the unexpected, or at least what could be any other reasonable outcome.
As a boxer, taking the time to think about how you will feel and what you will do if your opponent is better than you is a tough pill to swallow.
Nobody likes to face the reality that they are not as good as they want to be. Failing, particularly in front of people you know, is a horrible feeling.
When you get an unexpected surprise you’re very likely going to feel shocked. This is dangerous because shock can easily lead to panic!
Panic is bad for us and here is why:
Brain Activity Lowers When We Panic
The higher level executive function parts of the brain show reduced levels of activity when we panic.
This isn’t good for us. It means we are making real time decisions without the full use of our brains processing power.
Not all parts of the brain are equal.
Left : Control Right : Panic
What Does the Prefrontal Cortex Do?
The worst part is the reduced activity is from a part of the brain that specialises in:
–Calculating the consequences of risk and reward
Making a plan without the use of this part of the brain is asking for trouble…
Losing in Style
You need to take the shock and the surprise out of what is happening. You can do this by preparing yourself for other likely outcomes
A good backup plan means considering an unwanted outcome. You may end up getting a result you don’t want but at least you’ll have done it gracefully and with some degree of control.
Everyone knows good people can fail and go on to respect them for their resilience, but no one likes a bad loser.
2 – Overestimate Your Own Ability
Overconfidence is so easy to spot in others and so difficult to spot in ourselves.
We know we will work hard and our intentions are to be great at what we do.
But hard work and good intentions don’t stack up well against difficult challenges, especially when experience is needed.
To get a better understanding of what is happening take a look at the Dunning–Kruger effect:
When you think you are better than you are you will have a tendency to bite off more than you can chew:
As a general rule, the less experience you have in something, the more planning (and seeking of support) you will need to do.
It is easy when you think about it. A good rule of thumb is…
If you are doing something for the first time it is going to be the worst you’ll ever do. That’s the bad news, the good news is you’re going to get better.
Just being aware of your lack of experience can hugely improve your end result, because you’ll understand just how much extra help and support you will need to keep up with people more experienced than you.
For example: In the picture above the inexperienced swimmer would have realised his limitations but may still have chosen to swim to France. The difference being he would have known that in order to succeed he’d have needed to be wearing armbands 🙂
3 – Over Promise on What You Can Deliver
When you overestimate your own ability to do something the consequences to yourself are:
-Frustration of failing
-Embarrassment of failure
These are both painful for sure, but there is much more at stake than your ego and your feelings.
Your Reputation Proceeds You
When you commit to doing something, if you want to been seen as trustworthy and consistent your actions need to match your words.
It doesn’t take long to lose a good reputation, even though it is admirable to be seen as the type of person that volunteers to take on more and does their best at everything they do.
However, almost everyone would agree that to be seen as someone who puts in 100% but doesn’t have the skill to deliver is not a desirable image to have.
There’s another angle to consider:
People with bad reputations have far more obstacles to overcome than those with good reputations.
A good reputation will make you more trustworthy in the eyes of the people you interact with.
Nothing kills a good reputation more than other people having unexpected surprises.
People understand that things can go wrong, but they hate having to change their plans because you didn’t do what you said you were going to do.
If you get the reputation of a well intentioned dreamer people might avoid working with you. Or worse still they will plan around your incompetence!
Here’s a better way:
4 – Don’t Do Enough Planning
There’s no worse feeling than failing at something that you could have done, had you known you needed to do more prep work.
Think of this as being interviewed for your dream job.
You’ve spent years training, you’ve worked hard and you’ve got the required academic qualifications necessary to elevate yourself into this new and exciting role.
Only problem is that so have 100’s of other people, and they’re all a perfect fit for the role as well.
You’re going fantastically, up to the point where the interviewer asks you what you know about the company you are applying for.
Whoops…..You didn’t do any research!
Improve Your Attention to Detail
Failure from a lack of planning is extremely frustrating.
You know how to do the prep, you what it is you needed to do, you just didn’t do it.
Most often this is caused by a lack of attention to detail.
A good way to ensure you have all your bases covered is to use a checklist. Especially when the stakes are high.
5 – No Trial Run, Not Enough Practice
If we go back to our Boxing example:
No professional boxer in their right mind would fight a challenging opponent without putting in the time sparring similar fighters.
Practice Makes Perfect
No one starts out being able to achieve amazing things.
David Beckham is regarded as one of the greatest footballers of his generation, in one of the most competitive sports in the world. His journey started with practising free kicks in his local park:
“I must have taken tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands [of free kicks]”
David Beckham – Ref Practicing
People see David Beckham’s unbelievably innate ability to take a free kick – hitting the ball over a wall of defenders and selecting the ball to swerve or dip past a goalie.
They forget to consider the years of practise it has taken to get there.
There’s a saying:
“to get where they are, you need to do what they do”
All world class performers practise what they do before they do it. If you want to avoid unnecessary failures make sure you test, trial and practice what you do before you do it.
Leave the non practised performances to the mediocre players in your industry.
Strategy allows you to manage risk. By taking the time to think ahead you will potentially stop yourself starting down a route that leads to a dead end.
You can save yourself a lot of heartache and even more importantly time.
Good Change Management Strategies can be the difference between never achieving a goal, and being able to do things others can’t do and doing them in record time.
Strategy is long term planning designed to reach your goal.
Good strategy can be the difference between a super engaged team and you coming up against some serious resistance. Not only can that be hard work, it can also be very confrontational and unpleasant for all parties involved.
Not all strategies work out the way they were planned. In fact, 70% of strategies fail.
How do you avoid these failures?
Long Term vs Short Term
There are pitfalls to watch out for in the long term that will not be obvious in the short term.
Want to know the 2 top dangers to derailing your long term strategy in change management?
-Changing too much, too soon.
Smaller changes are easier to make and much less disruptive to the team and organisation.
Bigger changes are possible in shorter deadlines, but this is dependant on your ability of change management, in particular engaging people in your strategy.
Take your time gathering the facts before making a decision to give yourself the best chance of getting this right.
-Sacrificing the good of the team to achieve your goals.
Your strategy should be in the interests of the organization and your people.
No leader or manager is successful in the long term when they are prepared to sacrifice their people to get something they want.
It sounds obvious but too many times people have stepped on others in their team to get what they want in the short term – not realising they are sabotaging their progress in the long term.
You may have done this yourself, or maybe you know others who do this.
Ever wonder why people would do this?
To understand why people would do something as self destructive as stepping on others to get what they want, we need to have another look at emotions.
The desire to achieve and get recognised so you can feel proud and validate yourself is very powerful.
Perhaps even more powerful is the fear of missing out on “that next promotion” or failing and feeling ashamed or embarrassed.
These emotions affect nearly everyone. It is these fears or desires that can cause us to make long term, self destructive decisions just to achieve our short term goals.
Here is a great example:
The crabs are so desperate to get a little bit higher than they are.
As soon as a crab gets a claw on the top of the bucket they are immediately grabbed by the other crabs.
These crabs pull frantically at the crab attached to the top of the bucket in an attempt to climb over it to get to the top themselves.
This always results in all the crabs falling back down into the bucket and the whole cycle starts over.
1 – Identify Changes to be Made
This is simple goal setting. Identify where you are and then where you want to be.
Setting a realistic timescale is also a great tip here.
Every plan has a starting point and an ending point.
2 – How Changes Will Happen
There are a number of points you will need to consider when deciding what areas will be affected by the change.
1. People Changes
2. Behaviour Changes
3. Cost of Change
4. Process/System Changes
5. Risks of Change
Get your ‘why’ right and people will be drawn to helping you achieve your change, get it wrong and you will push people away!
3 – Why Changes are Needed
People resistance is one of the biggest barriers when it comes to creating effective change.
Thankfully this is simple to do if you give it the time it deserves.
When presenting your change strategy look to identify the following:
-Benefits of the Change
-Dangers or consequences of not changing
-How your approach is aligned with both the organisations and teams interests
4 – How you Will Implement Change
This is about communicating your plan to the people who will be implementing the changes. Each should know their responsibilities and what they are accountable for.
Points to consider here:
– Reason Why
– Instructions (how to do it)
– Outline Follow up (this is the method you will use to check their work)
– Outline what to do if they cannot do what they have been asked to do
5. How Changes Will be Monitored
Choosing the correct KPI’s is important. It ensures your people are focusing on the things that make a difference.
It also gives you a platform to identify under performers in a way that is fair for all involved.
Timelines and review dates need to be set for all parties concerned
You’re doing well, you’ve done some solid planning and have a locked out strategy.
With this attention to detail you’ll deliver a clear and concise message to everyone concerned. This is going to greatly increase your chances of engaging all of the people involved, and make your job so much easier.
Planning and strategy helps set clear accountability for changes that actually make a difference.
Feedback is going to make sure those changes are right and that they stick.
Lets dive into the next step…
Step 2 : Feedback
The better you are at planning and strategy, the easier you make the feedback part of change management.
Giving and receiving feedback is how we maintain, deepen and repair relationships with people.
The better you are at receiving feedback the quicker you can review and make adjustments to improve what you are doing. This means if your initial plan wasn’t exactly right you are still able to adjust for more effectiveness.
The better you are at giving feedback the quicker people will understand what they are doing wrong and what they need to do differently to improve. Those highly skilled in Change Management are capable of giving feedback in a way that is both fair and respectful.
In other words:
When skilled leaders and managers give feedback those people do not feel stupid or embarrassed about getting things wrong or doing things badly.
Receiving Feedback in Change Management
A huge part of change management is getting feedback off others in your team on how things are progressing.
This is your opportunity to stop and check if your perception matches reality! That is to say, what you think is happening is actually what is happening.
At this stage you want to become a fact finding machine.
And here’s why:
Imagine a boss, (maybe you know one like this) this person doesn’t control their behaviour very well. They have a reputation for flying off the handle when they get bad news (this person probably apologises a lot). Because of this they accuse and place blame incorrectly.
Now imagine a boss that controls their behaviour very well. They take the time to gather all the facts from multiple sources before making decisions or taking action. Their decisions are nearly always fair. This means that even when someone has done something badly or done something wrong, the fact that they tried their best and wanted to do a good job is also considered, not just the negative parts of what they have done.
When it comes to the good boss and the bad boss it’s clear the good boss gets more accurate information.
The amount of accurate information you have is critical to decision making.
Without Information With Information
Imagine that when you begin your review, you have no information. (This is the equivalent to a completely frosted windscreen)
As you gather more information, more of the windscreen has the frost removed, allowing you to see more of the road in front of you.
Why You Need to Receive Feedback Well
In the frosted windscreen example the road ahead is the direction you want to go. It wouldn’t be very clever to try and continue driving if you couldn’t see through the windscreen, and it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if the car that continued driving with a frosted windscreen later crashed.
When people are not skilled at receiving feedback, the lack of accurate information they get is the equivalent of speeding down the road with a frosted windscreen.
Top tips on receiving feedback well:
You’ve invested hours, days and weeks of your life to this project. The decisions you’ve made were well thought out and now someone is telling you it is wrong.
You’re going to feel an urge to justify your decisions and explain why they were the right ideas.
If you expect this feeling you can be prepared for it. This means rather than a curt, defensive retort that will almost certainly stop the person giving you feedback in their tracks, you need to to coolly thank them for spotting the issue and ask them if there is anything else of value they can add.
It’s as simple as : Become less defensive and you’ll get more truth
Giving Feedback in Change Management
People who have a chronic fear of confrontation really struggle when it comes to giving feedback. I’m going to assume you’re a stage above this and can show confidence when it comes to giving feedback, or at least you feel a duty to give feedback.
(If you do struggle with the thought of telling someone what they did was not good enough, or the work completed was not done within an acceptable timescale, then spending more time on your prep before a conversation will be a big help in preparing you for any likely outcomes)
For people who are comfortable, here is a top tip to help you take your feedback to the next level:
It’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it.
This could easily warrant an article of its own! Here’s some areas to focus on to help you come across the way you mean to.
– Voice tone
– Facial expressions
– Personal space
– Eye contact
– Persistence (they may not understand you the first time you say it, so be prepared to say it a few times in a few different ways)
The Tricky Part of Giving Feedback
Sometimes we have to say things to people we know they will not like.
The important part here is to give feedback in a fair and honest way.
For example: If they have been lazy, you can say this. However you need to take the time to gather the facts and listen to their side of the story before passing judgement about their work ethic.
When done correctly (in my experience) the under performer will actually thank you!
People that are honest in a blunt way will quickly burn their bridges, and in doing so jeopardise their own long term success.
Top tip: For if you say something and it’s taken badly…
If you do get feedback wrong (and this will happen sometimes, regardless of your intentions), then a good technique to get you back on track is to share your vision of the future.
When you do this you want to give a clear indication of wanting to work with that person again.
“After this project is complete, I’d be interested in working with you on another project I’ve just been asked to do.”
The idea here is to ensure the person understands that even though they have made a mistake you still rate them.
Warning: Be authentic, if you don’t think it or mean it then don’t say it. Nobody wants a reputation of being untruthful or untrustworthy!
Over to You
No matter the industry you work in, the process of change management is always the same.
The ability to apply change to any group of people in any organisation makes you a seriously valuable commodity.
As a top performer in change management you will be well on your way to excelling in your role and leaping to the front of the pack in whatever field you chose.
What technique do you find more useful? Planning and strategy or Receiving and giving feedback?