Many years ago, I came across a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal. It read, “Change imposed is change opposed.” A consulting firm that was promoting its change management practice had placed the ad. It held my attention for a long time. I had been familiar for years with the adage “People support what they help to create.” I’d quoted it many times and thought it conveyed what people leading change needed to know about the essence of change management.
However, this new statement conveyed the idea more directly - even bluntly. It caused me to think about how most organizations go about managing change and it caused me to wonder the following all the more.
If imposing change provokes opposition and people do in fact support what they help to create, then why do we continue to manage change in ways that do not truly engage people and do not foster conditions where “meaningful engagement” can occur commonly? Why do we continue to settle for “buy-in” when we want and need so much more?Continue reading →
Since man began to sail the open seas, sailors have used a very simple device to determine how to take maximum advantage of the wind. Pieces of ribbon or yarn attached to the main mast and to the sides of the jib tell a sailor when the wind is up and how to trim the sails to use the wind effectively to make the best headway. These pieces of ribbon or yarn (three red strips in the photo below) are called a telltale and telltales are one of a sailor’s best friends.
When it comes to making headway in organization change, leaders, managers, and change practitioners also have a telltale. It’s called resistance. However, resistance is rarely regarded as anyone’s best friend. To the contrary, resistance is usually regarded as something to be “overcome,” “managed,” “mitigated,” “confronted,” or otherwise vanquished.
What if we reframed resistance and approached it differently?
This is the last of four posts exploring change management as an unconscious competence. In the first post (What If Change Management Were An Unconscious Competence? ), I presented the four stages of competence model and used it as a lens to consider the state of organizational change management ability. I observed that Stage Four organizations – ones where change management has evolved to the level of an unconscious competence – are rare but do exist.
In this fourth and last post, I look at what Stage Four change management competence can produce and why this level of change competence should be the aspiration of every organization. Continue reading →
Effective change doesn’t happen by accident. It is the result of careful planning and thoughtful execution. Leaders play a pivotal role in change because they possess legitimate power to sanction the change, establish the vision, provide direction and resources, and hold organizational members accountable. Everyone looks to the leader for guidance and that person must model the way for the rest of the organization.
Change would be a much tidier process if that were all it took – an effective leader who knows what to do and how to do it and is at the front leading the charge.
But as important as the leader’s role is, it isn’t the leader who ultimately executes change. Change (from simple to complex) is always a matter of people in impacted areas making the transition from the way things are now to the way they’re supposed to be in the future.
Transition at the people level involves, among other things:
Answering their questions about why and what it will mean for them
Describing how things will be in the future
Helping them understand whether or not they will be in that future
Involving them to co-create that future
Providing a credible plan for moving forward that speaks to them at their level
Communicating frequently and reliably about what’s happening now and what will happen next
Learning new skills and applying new knowledge
Becoming part of a new work group
How does this all get done? Who is leading the charge on this? More to the point, whoshould be leading the charge on this? Continue reading →
This is the third of four posts exploring the possibility of change management as an unconscious competence. In the first post (What If Change Management Were An Unconscious Competence? ), I presented the four stages of competence model and used it as a lens to consider the state of organizational change management ability. I observed that Stage Four organizations – ones where change management has evolved to the level of an unconscious competence – are rare but do exist.
In the second post (Change Management Evolved), I explored what we would see if we were to encounter a Stage Four organization. In this post, I will present what I believe it takes to develop Stage Four competency.
Like any form of superior human achievement, reaching Stage Four requires effort and discipline. Superior achievement doesn’t happen by chance. Additionally, however, in an organizational setting where many people in different units are involved, there are other elements that must be added to effort and discipline to complete the formula. I have identified six such elements that help to make Stage Four attainable. Continue reading →
This is the second of four posts exploring the possibility of change management as an unconscious competence. In the first post (What If Change Management Were An Unconscious Competence?), I presented the four stages of competence model and used it as a lens to consider the state of organizational change management ability. I observed that, in my experience, Stage Four organizations – ones where change management has evolved to the level of an unconscious competence – are uncommon but do exist. These are organizations that have purposefully committed the time, resources, and effort to establish a cultural context that enables change management competency at this level.
Let’s push the exploration further. If you or I were to encounter a Stage Four organization – one where change management is a highly evolved competency – what would we learn and see? Continue reading →
There is a conceptual model of skill development that has been around for many years. Noel Burch generally is credited with having developed the model. Most of you will know it as the four stages of competence. It goes like this.
Stage One – Unconscious Incompetence
At this stage, an individual doesn’t understand or know how to do something but isn’t aware of the skill deficiency. Where a particular skill is concerned, the individual is Ignorant.
Stage Two – Conscious Incompetence
At this stage, the individual doesn’t understand or know how to do something but is conscious of the skill deficiency. The individual is Aware.
Stage Three – Conscious Competence
At this stage, the individual understands and knows at an elementary level of skill how to do something, but developing the new skill requires a great investment of concentration and effort. The individual is Learning.
Stage Four – Unconscious Competence
At this stage, the individual has repeated the skill so many times and has become so proficient that performing the skill has become “second nature.” It is performed automatically and requires no particular concentration. At this level, the individual exhibits Mastery.
Everyone reading this post has experienced the four stages of competence relative to something. For some, it may have been when you Continue reading →
Leaving “failure” (however that may be defined) aside, a lot of change efforts, in my experience, fail to reach their intended potential. For all of the effort and disruption that people experience through the process of the change, there is often a considerable gap between what was initially envisioned and what becomes reality. Think of it as the change potential gap.
There are a variety of factors that contribute to the gap. I’m guessing that if I asked you to make your own list it might look something like this: Continue reading →
A colleague and I made a rookie mistake in our very first work system redesign project.
Through a great deal of joint effort over many months, the organization had been transformed from a traditional assembly line where workers could only perform a few narrowly prescribed tasks to a high performance work system where, among other things, workers could:
Build the entire product from beginning to end individually.
Manage all aspects of process and product quality.
Plan and execute their own daily and weekly production schedule.
Continuously improve and innovate the process and the organization.
All of these activities happened in self-managed teams. It was a huge transformation for the organization and its team members.
It became evident pretty quickly that paying people according to their old pay grades, based on now outdated job classifications, no longer made sense.
The organization needed to pay people for acquired and applied skill. The client needed a skill-based pay plan.
Along with the client, we gave ourselves a crash course in skill-based pay plans and even sketched out a framework for what we needed. Armed with our homework, we met with the Director of Compensation in HR, confident that he would see the misalignment as we saw it and come to our aid in putting a solution in place.
I am delighted to introduce Pamela Dennis, Ph.D., a long-time friend, colleague, and former owner of Destra Consulting, who has graciously agreed to share her experience and wisdom on the subject of "change-ability" in this guest post.
I work with executives who want to grow their companies, but they’re concerned that creating change will slow things down and make their organizations ponderous.
When it comes to growth, they want their companies to be racehorses, not elephants.
But did you know that elephants, despite being the world’s largest land animal, run up to 25 miles per hour? Usain Bolt, currently the world's fastest human, averaged 23.3 miles per hour in his world record 100-meter race.
Growth and size don’t always have to make companies slow and unwieldy.
In my experience, the critical factor is having a company that possesses “change-ability” – the natural capability for speed and agility in response to an ever-changing environment.
The 3 Most Important Drivers of “Change-ability”
How do you create a company with speed and agility while at the same time maintaining current advantage? Your company must have these core abilities: