When Is The Change Journey Done?


Most organizations (and many individuals) undertaking major iStock_000011474136Small 2
change end their change journey way too early!


The simple answer is, improper planning. The root cause, however, is a little more complex.

Major changes in our organizations promise some very specific results. We will generate new market share, or penetrate new markets. We will strengthen customer loyalty and retention. We will increase the delivery of our charitable services to a significantly larger percentage of those in need of them. As a foundation, we will ensure the nonprofits we fund obtain the program results they promise when they apply for funding.

In our personal lives, the changes we undertake are often equally significant. We may plan on changing employers, or careers, to provide ourselves and our families a better life. We may choose to relocate for the same reason. We may enter into, or end, a long-term relationship, seeking “happily ever after.”

Whether organizational or personal, the reason these changes all-too-often fail to come to full fruition is that we confuse “installation” with “realization.”

Achieving the types of outcomes that large-scale changes promise is referred to as “realizing the benefits” of the change. It is the promise of realization that underlies the decision to move forward, to invest the necessary resources to make the change happen.

Then, the planning process begins. It may involve organizational design. New technology may be specified, or these days, a move away from local servers to the cloud. New software specs may need to be developed, and training scheduled. Perhaps there are new processes to be established and rolled out.

At the personal level, a similar path is taken; though there may not be a formal “plan,” we call out in our minds (or create a check list) of all the things that need to be put in place.

All too often, this is where we stop…and why our changes don’t deliver on their promises. We plan to install the components of the change, somehow believing that “if we build it, realization will come.” 

Planning cannot stop at installation. Nor should you plan to start working toward realization once installation is completed; doing so is more costly, and less likely to yield success.

Plan for realization from the outset. How do you and other leaders in the organization (or, at the personal level, you and others significant to the success of the change) have to think and act differently in order to achieve realization? How are you going to ensure those changes occur? What do you have to put in place to prepare the organization for the disruption that will occur during the transition? How will you effectively communicate both the “what” and the “how” of the change, the experience of the journey, and life in the future once realization is achieved? What is needed to ensure that the change progresses, that risks are surfaced early and mitigated, and that the integrity of the desired intent is maintained? Do you need to change some of the “foundation elements” that under-gird your organization (or personal life)? This might include things like changing compensation plans, how time is allocated, family budgets, etc.

The change journey isn’t done once the new system goes live, the merger is announced, or the honeymoon is over. A lot of work remains before the benefits can be fully realized. Don’t promise realization, and then fail to plan for it. You, and all those who bought into the promise, will be disappointed in the outcome.

What has been your experience with improper planning? What lessons have you learned? Please share them below.

When It Comes to Change, There Is No Immunity.


vaccineChange: A Disruption in expectations. You think it’s going to be sunny, and get caught in a rain shower. You plan on retiring from the employer you have been with for twenty years, and find out they are closing their US operations. You are contacted by a recruiter who is asking you to apply for a position that would be a significant promotion.


What you see as a minor change may be significant to me. What I see as a positive change may be a negative change to you.

Change is an inherent part of life. There is no immunity. Whether it is a personal change or work-related, there are an almost infinite number of adjustments that are made just to maintain the status quo. You spend a little more than you had planned on your children’s back-to-school wardrobe, and cut back for a week or two on the grocery bill. Sales are up for the third quarter, and you treat your sales department to an unexpected night on the town. The old service delivery model is not working as well as it used to, but there is another tweak that can be made to help it last a bit longer. Sometimes the changes are that minor, and sometimes they are transformational.


Some people will tell you they avoid change as much as possible. Others will tell you that they embrace change.

I am one of the latter, so let me tell you what that really means to me. I look forward to the challenges of change. I look forward to the lessons that I will learn, the growth that I will experience, in going through my own change or guiding another through change. i look forward to the opportunity of sharing my forty years of change experience with others so that they can learn what I know, and I can continue to learn and grow. 

Let me tell you what else it means. I look forward to change selectively…Not coming at me from every direction, not thrust on me unexpectedly by others. I look forward to enough change to keep me challenged, but not so much change that it overwhelms me. I look forward to change when I am able to balance it with stability and equanimity at the same time.


There is no immunity.

There are, however, inoculations that will help reduce its impact.

First, no matter who initiated the change, don’t allow yourself to be victimized by it. You may not be able to call for the hand to be re-dealt. You can control how you respond to the hand that you get.

Next, learn the patterns of human response to change. Knowing how you and those around you will be responding as you travel through the life cycle of a change gives you back some sense of control. You can be prepared for the response. Perhaps you can even be doing something to accelerate it if doing so will help move the change forward more quickly. Or, you can take steps to mitigate it, if the next step in the pattern (left unaddressed) will disrupt the forward momentum of the change.

As an example of the former, knowing that “experimentation” follows “positive perception” when you are building commitment to a change, you might develop a means for your early adapters to begin to experiment with the new tablets before you roll them out across the organization. As an example of the latter, knowing that resistance is inevitable in the case of major change, and knowing that resistance is driven by either willingness or ability, you may focus early on communicating what will be done to help people develop the skills they will need to succeed with the change.

The third way that you can reduce the disruption of change is to strengthen your own resilience, the resilience of those around you, and–for organizational change–the resilience of those throughout the organization.

Resilience is the ability to re-calibrate to disruptions with minimal impact on your productivity or the quality of the work that you do. In essence, what this means is that the more resilient a person is, the more quickly they can be back to 100%, and the less what they are doing will suffer in the interim.

We will be covering more about resilience in future posts. In the meantime, know that: while each of us starts with a baseline of resilience, there are ways that it can be strengthened; when working with other people, it is possible to build on the resilience strengths that each of you brings; and it is possible to hire for resilience. This is always a good idea, since whatever skills the individual is bringing to the job will most likely become obsolete sooner rather than later; you want people who are able to re-calibrate to your changing needs.

If you want to find out more about resilience before I post on it again, feel free to contact me directly. Also, check out Dr. Linda Hoopes’ radio blog and her website.

What are you doing to help reduce the disruptive impact of change? Comment below. Share your experiences.





Track Your Path to Success (Organizational Change)


cumulative effect GOLDLast week we looked at an approach for tracking your path to success for a personal change. This week we will look at the same topic at the organizational level. Many elements of the approach are the same in both cases; and, there are also some differences.

Throughout this post, I will use the following example.  You are moving your advertising firm’s office to a new location. In doing so, you are also looking to drive a more collaborative culture. To help foster this shift, the new space will be designed with only a few enclosed conference rooms. Day-to-day, employees will be moving from private offices to open space. Your reasoning is simple. All-too-often you hear, in one way or another, ideas that would have significantly strengthened a project, but that were neither solicited nor offered. And, you are losing longer-term clients who are finding the thinking behind what you produce “old and stale.”

Begin by thinking through what both installation and realization might look like for this change.

Installation milestones might include locating the new office space; signing the lease; hiring the architect; approving the final plans; touring the new facility with the staff for the first time; and moving in. They might also include defined changes in how projects are staffed.

In thinking through the change, you might determine that realization will be achieved when you have achieved a 75% retention of clients from one advertising campaign to their next.

As you map out your key indicators for both installation and realization, engage others within the organization in the process; my recommendation whenever possible is to involve both formal and informal leaders. This will help do at least three things.

  • It will help create a greater sense of ownership and understanding of the change within the organization.
  • It will help inform you as to how the change is perceived by others.
  • You will gain understanding and insights beyond your own.

What are the major adjustments that people will have to make in how they think, as well as what they do? In this example, that will most likely have to do with things like relinquishing pride of ownership (“It’s my idea!”); competition vs. collaboration; and defining one’s work space. People will benefit by learning more about one another’s individual strengths and weaknesses so that they can build stronger teams, and seek out help from the best available resources. (“I like working with Janice because we both think alike, but on this project I should probably ask Phil to work with me. He is much more creative and causes me to think things through instead of just doing them by rote.”)

What are the changes that will have to be made in the organizational infrastructure to reinforce the mindset and behavior shifts you are seeking? Do performance management processes need to shift? What about the criteria that are used for making decisions regarding promotions, raises, bonuses, etc.? Should changes be made in selection criteria so that you are hiring strong team–vs. individual–players?

Are there people who you believe cannot, or will not, make the shift? When major change is executed successfully, there are always some people who are there at the beginning, but not at the end. (Some measures put this number as high as one in three.) The problem is, all too often those who remain are the very ones least able to change, and those who leave are the ones most capable of changing.

Focus time and attention on retaining the people that you want on board going forward, the ones that can and will help you be successful in achieving your change objectives. And support those who are unwilling or unable to make the change journey; help them to make a graceful exit. (The importance of doing this cannot be overemphasized. Years ago I was with a consulting firm that was doing work in a recently deregulated industry. Having less-than-successfully made the transition, a potential client came to us to see if we could help them turn their situation around. As they put it, “We used to be an elephant in our industry. We wanted to become a jaguar, but instead became an elephant on Slim Fast.”)

Develop a “realization map.” While there are many approaches to doing so, the one I have found most useful is relatively simple. it seeks to answer the question, “What 2-3 outcomes do we need to accomplish in each of these four domains in order to achieve full realization?” The four domains are: People/Culture; Process/Internal; Customer/External; and Business/Financial. In our case, they may be something like this.

  • People, Culture: Zero solo practitioners; 80% of new hires referred by current employees
  • Process, Internal: There is a “Right Resource” staffing process; 100% of projects staffed by teams, vs. individuals
  • Customer, External: 75% of clients select our firm from one advertising campaign to the next; we obtain 5 new clients from current client referrals each year
  • Business, Financial: We experience 10% annual growth in profit; we receive the advertising industry’s “Ad to Action” award.

The example below shows what this map might look like, including the relationships between the different indicators. (Email my at [email protected] for a PDF of this example.)

realization map

Using your realization map, think through whether there are any additional changes required that you have not already identified. Once you’ve listed all of the changes in thinking and behavior you can come up with, grab some sticky notes and a pen or pencil. Put each one on a separate piece of paper, and put it up on the wall. You may want to use different colors for the different levels of the map.

Now you can begin to group these together. What you want to create are a series of work streams consisting of related pieces. For example, there might be an “internal processes” work stream; an “office relocation” work stream; an “organizational infrastructure” work stream; and a “creative culture” work stream.

For each work stream, what are the key realization metrics along the way? What needs to be put in place (installation) in order to be able to achieve those realization metrics? Be sure what you identify is measurable.

Let’s look at some of the metrics of an “internal processes” work stream.

  • We have defined a “Right Resource” process for staffing projects (installation).
  • The “Right Resource” process is applied on 100% of projects (realization).
  • Unsolicited client feedback recognizes improved creativity in project deliverables (realization).
  • Etc.

    Revisit each of your work streams. If you achieve all of the indicators in each of them, will you achieve the business/financial results that are the catalyst for this change initiative?

just as was suggested last week for personal change, keep a record of what you have on the wall. It will change over time. You don’t have all the answers now; you don’t even know all the questions. Things will change around you. So, your indicators will have to change as well. Nonetheless, you are well on your way to planning, and preparing to launch, a very big, and important, organizational change.

What has been your experience with tracking the success of major changes in organizations? Do the promises at the outset translate to results at the end? Share your insights and lessons learned in the comments below.

Telling Your Organization’s Change Story…


iStock_000007755704iconIt seems self-evident, but is so often forgotten. And, the larger your organization, the easier it is to forget… Organizations don’t change; change occurs through shifts in the way that people think and behave. Your organization–large or small, public or private, for profit or nonprofit–succeeds, or fails, through the people inside of it and their interactions with both one another and with those you intend to serve. This is why writing your change story is fundamentally no different for your organization than it would be for a personal change. Depending on the nature of your change and of your organization, you may need the press releases, the media announcements, the calls with investors. You do need your organization’s change story. It is the story of people changing. It is a personal story for everyone in the organization.

Not unlike last week’s post (Telling Your Personal Change Story), the first person you need to tell your organization’s change story to is yourself. Quite simply, if you don’t feel it and believe it, neither will anyone else. If you are not going to take the change to heart, neither will anyone else. If you believe “they have to change,” or “the organization has to change,” but you don’t, you–and your change–will fail. If this is a really big change for the organization, it means it is a big change for you as well.

Whether you are the person who is ultimately responsible for the change, have a position of authority elsewhere in the organization, or are someone with informal influence, you next need to tell the story to those who are in a position to drive the story throughout the organization. This will include, but should not be limited to, your direct reports. It should also include others who are highly influential even though they may not be part of the formal hierarchy.

Each of these people needs to feel and believe the story as fully as you do. They need to make it their own, and to tell it in their own words. And, they need to keep it whole. All of the guidelines for writing the story (What’s Your Story? Parts 1 and 2) hold equally true in its telling. Let’s take a look at the guidelines as they apply to telling your organization’s change story.

  1. Start with your “why.” Why the change is important to the organization should be a constant, regardless of who is telling the story. But it is also important to tell why it is important to you. As Simon Sinek tells us, your why is in your heart. With this is mind, don’t try to tell others why it is important to them. Each person needs to determine that for himself or herself.
  2. Write from the future. Tell the story from the future.
  3. Identify how you will know when you have arrived at your destination. What are the indicators that tell you that progress is being made, not just in putting things in place, but in actually shifting the thinking and behaviors that need to change? The story identifies indicators at the organizational level; you need to tell people what these indicators mean to them.
  4. Establish your time frame. The time frame in the story is the time frame. However, it will also be important to tell people (when it is known) what the time frame means for them.
  5. Create a “sparkline.” Nancy Duarte describes the sparkline as the constant flow in the story between “what is” and “what could be.” The story has a sparkline, and it is there for a purpose. Use it. The sparkline helps people let go of the current state, and find hope in the future.
  6. Determine who the participants in your story will be, and their roles. You may not know who will elect to make the journey, and who will opt out. You may not know the job titles, or the names, of those who will complete the journey. When you know these things, they should be addressed. In the meantime, you do know the attributes of those who will succeed in the future state. Be clear in articulating them as part of the story. For example, Today we celebrate individual achievement. As we move into the future, our focus is shifting to acknowledge how much we need every person to achieve, and how much we are dependent on one another. This time next year, the individual who positions himself or herself as the star will be the outlier. Those teams that are strong contributors to our success are the ones we will be acknowledging.
  7. Honor the past. There is an organizational past to be honored. And, there is a personal past, both for you, and for those to whom you are telling the story.
  8. Respect and believe in yourself. As you tell the story, if you do not respect and believe in yourself, those who are listening won’t respect and believe in you.

During change people need to hear what it means to the organization. They may need the  data, the number of projects or initiatives, the revenue projections, and all of those things that are a part of “the rationale” for initiating such a major initiative. The “big announcement,” whatever form it may take, will be enough to excite some (or even many) to begin the change journey.

But if the journey is long, if it is difficult, they need more. They need a consistent story across the organization, but not the same story. They need to know what the journey means to them, and what is required for them to succeed in the future that your organization is creating. They need to know that you believe in that future, not just in your head, but in your heart as well. They need to hear the story and make it their own.