Five Places to Anticipate Support Alignment Before It’s Too Late

A colleague and I made a rookie mistake in our very first work system redesign project for a manufacturing organization.

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It became evident pretty quickly that paying people according to their old pay grades, based on now outdated job classifications, no longer made sense.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.

His reaction surprised us.

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When It Comes to Change, How Fast and Agile Is Your Company?

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:

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How Do I Create Meaningful Engagement?

This is the third post in my series on meaningful engagement. You can check out the other two posts in the series here:


Meaningful engagement and the co-creation of change can produce much more commitment than simple buy-in can.

Organizations that settle for buy-in, rather than aspire to meaningful engagement, miss out on the opportunity to:

  • Deepen commitment to the change process
  • Stimulate co-creation of solutions
  • Build business literacy and other important business skills, and
  • Accelerate the pace of change.

I define meaningful engagement as:

Any authentic involvement that allows people to make consequential contributions to the process and the outcome of a change and deepens their understanding of it, their commitment to it, and their ownership of it.”

As I wrote in Meaningful Engagement vs. Buy-In: What's the Difference and Why Should I Care?, leader commitment – including the belief that ordinary people can make extraordinary contributions and the willingness to commit time, effort, and resources to enable them to do so – is the pivotal difference between enabling meaningful engagement and settling for buy-in.

Without a leader’s resolute commitment to authentic involvement, the full measure of meaningful engagement will not be realized.

If we know that meaningful engagement is what we want and need in our organizations, how do we go about creating it?

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Meaningful Engagement vs. Buy-In: What’s the Difference and Why Should I Care?

Group Of Designers Having Meeting Around Table In Office

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 many 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

Leading Change in the Middle

Leading change is challenging enough even when your job title is President or Chief Executive Officer. However, when your title isn’t President or Chief anything and you lead in the mid-level of your organization, leading change is even more challenging. That’s because:

  • YOU didn’t get to decide on the change
  • YOU didn’t get to set the vision
  • YOU may or may not have been involved in developing the change plan or the messaging
  • But YOU ARE expected to execute the change for the unit you lead

Businessman Addressing Meeting Around Boardroom Table

What can you do to lead change effectively in the middle? Continue reading

Who Should Be Responsible for Managing Change?

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 authorize 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

Pregnant Businesswoman Leads Boardroom Meeting

How does this all get done? Who is leading the charge on this? More to the point, who should be leading the charge on this? Continue reading

Impacts of Organizational Change

People prefer stability. It may seem odd to read that as the opening sentence of a blog on the subject of organizational change, but let me say that again. People prefer stability. It’s part of the human condition. For all of the inevitability and necessity of change that we talk about, we actually prefer things to be stable and predictable.

When change occurs – and it always does - we find it disruptive. Exactly how disruptive a change may be is highly individual. The amount of disruption we experience is a function of how much the change affects our individual construct of reality – the routines, preferences, habits, patterns, and ways we understand things. As we all know, this disruption can range from minor inconvenience to the “sky is falling.”

Sparks of blue water on a white background ...

It is axiomatic that the level of change management that must be applied to a change effort is directly proportional to the amount of change people will experience. If this is true, how do you assess the impact of change in order to plan for the level of support? Where do you look and what do you examine?

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The Utility of Resistance

Since man began to sail the open seas, sailors have used a very simple device to figure out 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 them most efficiently to make the best headway. These pieces of ribbon or yarn (three red strips in the photo below) are called a “tell tale” and “tell tales” are one of a sailor’s best friends.

Sailing image

When it comes to organization change, leaders, managers, and change practitioners also have a “tell tale.” It’s called resistance. However, resistance is rarely regarded as anyone’s best friend. Quite the contrary, resistance is usually regarded as something to be “overcome,” “managed,” “mitigated,” “addressed” or otherwise “eliminated.”

What if we thought about resistance and used it differently?

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Leading Change: The Special Case of the Middle Manager

Leading change is too difficult and complicated to accomplish alone. It requires a support network to augment your personal sponsorship and direct leadership. Much has been written about building an effective sponsor network and it’s all relevant and true. However, there is a significant resource at your disposal that is often over-looked and untapped.

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