Navigating Organizational Change? We’ve Got Your Answers

to do and not to do

What to consider before you get started, overcoming obstacles, fighting fires, spreading the message and even knowing when it’s time to go…along with a few laughs.

Start Here:

How to Tell the Team and your Customers:

UGLY Conversations

Prioritizing:

Ruts, Stalls and Backlash:

Shifting Gears:

Lean Startup Techniques in Organizational Change:

Taking Care of YOU

Side Notes

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

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Rolling out your Plan for World Domination? Do this first!

bullhorn to deliver messages to employees

Is your plan brilliant? Not if they don’t hear it. Three things to consider when delivering a new plan to your team.

Eureka! You’ve done it! You figured out the master plan to explode your team’s revenues, destroy the competition, and single-handedly catapult your company to the head of the Fortune 500 list. But before you roll it out to the troops, here are three things to figure out first! (Details, details,  I know. Clearly I am a killjoy.)

The HOW:

What tool(s) will you use to deliver your brilliant plan? First, consider what you know about your team (henchmen/evil co-conspirators/devoted followers– feel free to select the description that applies to your bunch):

  • Are they readers? Note, I am not asking if they can read, (although in some audiences that is a very important question), I am asking if reading is their first choice for learning new information. Hint: if your team would prefer to listen to “The One Minute Manager” or “Who Moved My Cheese?” on an MP3, they aren’t readers.
  • If they are readers, do you need to sum up the whole idea in 3 bullet points or deliver the plan complete with a story-type framework and pictures? Do they just read “above the fold” (i.e. preview pane only) in an email?
  • Not big readers?  Can you record it in a podcast type format? Or create a video? (Don’t just read from a powerpoint if you create a video, make it interesting, after all, world domination is on the line here!)
  • Do they need an in-person meeting for the information to penetrate? (And will you need to confiscate all of the blackberries, cell phones and technical devices at this meeting?)
  • Will a webinar work? If you use a webinar, will the team multitask throughout the webinar and miss the most salient points? (See below for a Jeanne’s formula of the vector at which the quantity of multitasking during webinars obliterates any and all value of the information being presented).
  • Any special considerations? Need to accommodate an international team and reduce all “slang” and idiomatic language? (Much harder than it may seem.  Go back through these first few bullets and eliminate the American idiomatic language. Good. Now do it again. One more time. Nope, still got some in there.)

The WHO?

Give serious thought to who is the best person to deliver your message. Internal? External? Peer? Computer generated Hologram of a dead celebrity? Consider your options:

  • Should it be delivered by a trainer? Or would it be better to bring an “outsider” in the form of a consultant or third party in to deliver the message? What about having peers or respected colleagues roll it to their teams? Some of the best change teams have influential team members become subject matter experts in key areas of the change plan and help deliver that information from the team. They then become the “go to” people for the team as the team works through the change. This helps the entire team “own” the outcomes right away, and work together through difficulties.
  • If the message will take more than 30 minutes to deliver, consider using multiple presenters, if only to vary the type of voice and to keep the team awake. It is the rare individual who is fascinating for more than 20 minutes (ever notice that TED talks are short? And those folks are pretty darn fascinating).
  • If the message is vital to the ongoing success of the team’s mission, of such critical nature that life as the team knows it is about to change, make sure you rehearse that delivery several times. (Back to those TED talks folks, you do know they rehearse it right? And that they work with consultants to help them with their delivery when they make it to the “big” conference?) If possible, get some non-team members to critique it (spouses, kids and friends in other fields come in handy here) to punch some holes in it. They may not know all the technical terms but they will know when you’re boring, vague, or delivering bravado without substance. Try teenagers who are not feeling too kindly towards you at the moment. They will not pull their punches.

The FOLLOW UP:

And now that you’ve laid out your brilliant plan…

vector of listening vs absorption in a presentation

You will have a “need for speed” if laying out your master plan in a room full of multitasking listeners!

  1. How are you going to make sure that the team begins to act on what they learned? Ending a rousing presentation with “Go Forth and Conquer” is good, but not if they forget to “Conquer” because they stopped off at the 2:1 Happy Hour immediately afterwards.
  2. Is there a follow up plan to reinforce the plan within smaller groups/teams in the coming months?
  3. Is there a way to measure the participation of different sub groups in the plan? If the work flow goes Team A to Team B to Team C, nothing may be coming out of Team C but it may be because Team B isn’t playing by the new rules. Figure out how you’ll check for effectiveness.
  4. Did you plan any sort of recognition or public acclaim for those who embrace the plan and drive results? Better yet did you get the “buy in” of a few highly respected, key team members to visibly model the behaviors you’re looking for before you even rolled the plan? (For advice on who you want, read this.) You want to make sure the thought leaders and star players are on board because if the only people following the new plan are your “weaker” players, this sort of recognition will backfire.
book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Even if your plan doesn’t quite resemble world domination, you still want to work out these key items before you roll out any major changes to your team.  Need to know what else to consider before changing things up at the office? Read our 10.5 rules on turnaround here.  If you’d like our free guide, Reading the Terrain which helps you “speed read” an organization, just sign up for our weekly newsletter.

What else do you think you need to consider? share your thoughts in the comment section. Or feel free to share your plan for world domination and we’ll critique it.

When it’s Time to Reframe, it’s Time to Rearrange.

can you reframe a business problem by changing your perspective?

Sometimes you need a new angle.

Sometimes the best way out of a dead end is to look up. Or back. Or down. If the project you’re working on appears to be seriously stalled, due to lack of resources, internal or external politics or even a lack of enthusiasm by the team, it may be time to reframe.

“Reframing” is the act of stepping back and changing your perspective, which then allows you to move forward. You’ve likely heard people label business problems as “opportunities.” What if you looked for the opportunities in your stuck?

  • Could the lack of resources help you create a better, less complex solution?
  • Did the resistance put up by the team reveal a deeper issue, or an ingrained habit that your solution could mimic which would help the team embrace it?

Step back from the solution or plan you made and reevaluate. Go back to review the original issue you tried to solve for and ask some reframing questions about it. If you’re trying to create a customer service solution, go ask some customers what great customer service looks like to them. Trying to cut expenses? What if you grew revenue?

What problem can you reframe today?

Still Stuck? Try this. Get your copy today

 

Are you Settling?

If you settle too often you might as well quit swinging

What’s your batting average? When was the last time you swung for the fences?

There are times when only a “duct tape” fix will do. You may not have the resources to do things exactly as you wanted or planned.  It may have to wait. But at what point do you need to insist on doing things YOUR way?

If you are ALWAYS settling, and your products or projects are becoming something you wouldn’t really want to put your name on, or can’t imagine talking about if asked to describe any career highlights in the last year or so, it’s time to do a self-inventory.

1. Are you settling to get something truly more important done?

2. Are you settling just once, or does it happen every time?

3. How important are the details you are compromising on?

I realize this might sound contradictory to the advice to consider a minimum viable project, but being an effective change manager means you try to hit a delicate balance that ultimately, moves the team forward. Holding out for perfection at all times gets you nowhere, but compromising into an endless series of “meh” results also will get you nowhere.

“Sometimes you win, Sometimes you lose, Sometimes, it rains” Bull Durham.

What’s your batting average? Are you winning? Are you losing? Bunting? When was your last home run? If you’re losing more than you’re winning, it may be time to change your approach. Or at least your batting stance.

Pick your pitch and connect. Hard. Get the free steak (but put your headphones on if you’re watching in the office! )

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

If you can’t figure out why you’re losing, maybe you need to look at your company and your place in it with fresh eyes. Get our free guide to Reading the Terrain and do a deep dive on what’s going on.

 

Uncomfortable Conversation #1: “We need to shut down a business line”

 

Empty interior of building

Making the Tough Call isn’t Easy

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” Tim Ferris

The Situation:

Your team, after doing your research, running the numbers and looking at a challenge from every angle has come to the conclusion that a business line or project needs to be closed.  This will impact staff, facility leases, and even some customers who have come to rely on the services or products of that team.  You need to present the information to the Sr. Leadership team, two of whom made their careers by working in the very business you are proposing to close, and some of their protégé’s are working in that division right now.

What you wish would happen:

  1. Someone else would do this. Anyone else. Maybe that external auditor could suggest it.
  2. You could just drop the anonymous suggestion in a suggestion box.
  3. A recruiter would call you with the job of the century this morning so you could skip the conversation entirely.

Things to have with you:

  1. A clear, simple visual of financial projections that can be viewed at a glance, along with much more detailed information in a separate package. Graphs or charts are a good option for the overview.
  2. A plan showing the impact of keeping the line open, vs. the costs and impact of closing the line. Do one for best case, worst case and average scenarios for each option.  Be sure to incorporate your country’s or state’s requirements for staff reductions etc., in your projections (i.e. legal notice, severance. Also include the non-staff costs – leases, equipment etc).
  3. A clear proactive plan for notifying staff, customers and media (if applicable) along with a budget and timeline for the wind down effort.

Having “The Conversation”:

  1. Pick your spot. Don’t just slide it in during a random meeting or a regular staff meeting. This calls for a special meeting to just focus on this issue.
  2. Line up your sponsors beforehand.  This means having lots of one-on-one small, private meetings with discreet senior people to serve as advocates.  If everyone at the meeting is grappling with a new idea at once, the normal response would be to shoot it down or delay it.
  3. Expect that there will be delays.  Most executives will want to do a deep dive on your methodology and your numbers. (That’s what the supporting details in Item 1 of “things to have with you” are for.) However, make sure one of your exhibits shows the costs of delaying the decision by more than a month.
  4. Be sure to acknowledge the human costs involved as you discuss the topic. This is a fine balance; do not recount every detail of every family that will be affected (“Of course we’ll have to cut Mike Smith, and he’s the sole provider for his widowed mother, her six children and he has a disabled son at home”) but don’t go to the opposite extreme either, treating staff as widgets that need to be offloaded.  That will make people question your judgment. Suggest areas of opportunities for the people in the affected unit, by pointing out growing units that require similar skill sets or staffing. If there truly is no internal option, suggest an outplacement strategy.

What will happen next (most likely):

  1. Understand that once you have “dropped the bomb” you lose control of how the information is absorbed and acted upon. Don’t be so strongly wed to your proposal that you devalue attempts at compromise or restructuring. Simply stay firm, polite and open to input. Use your alternative case scenarios to help look at various options that may be proposed.
  2. Once the decision has been made, having the clear communications and action plan ready is imperative.  If you have executives who argue for delay, and it appears that even with delay, the company will have to cut the unit, you will want to point out that doing it sooner rather than later may allow the company to allot a greater amount of resources towards the displaced staff than waiting will.
  3. Take the heat. No matter who makes the final call, you and your team will eventually be “outed” as the architects of the plan. That means you’ll have some team members, even those who get to stay, looking at you in a different way.  Respond to inquiries with a firm, compassionate response and rehearse other team members as well. This is also not the time to upgrade to a better car (even if you’ve been saving forever for it) or take a long exotic vacation.  Low key empathy is the best response.

This post is part of our “Uncomfortable Conversations” series. Our next Uncomfortable Conversation: The project budget has cost overruns. Big Ones.

Have you ever been the “lucky” person who got to deliver this piece of bad news? Share how you did it and what did or didn’t work in the comment section!

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

 

Rule #5: Find your Allies

It takes a village, pick the right villagers to gather their pitchforks and join you!

It takes a village, pick the right villagers to gather their pitchforks and join you!

Every great caper takes a team (see The Sting, Ocean’s Eleven, Trading Places).  There may be someone leading the charge but it takes a village to pull off a victory. Smart change agents make sure they have the right villagers charging by their side. Here’s some to start looking for right now:

  1. EF Hutton: No, not the real E.F. Hutton (he’s deceased, be very, very worried if he shows up). You need the “opinion leader,” a team member with enough gravitas, experience and respect from the other team members that they pay attention when this person speaks.  In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell describes in “The Law of E.F. Hutton” that the person who is the “real” leader of the team is most likely not the official leader. When they speak, everyone listens.  Get this person on your side and you’ve won half the war.
  2. The Human Calculator: You know this person. They can calculate it all in their head, run data up, down and sideways and spit it out in record time. They look at data and see patterns others miss, usually saving you a few serious mistakes.  And it’s effortless for them, like breathing.
  3. The Historian: The Historian knows everything that has been tried before and may even know where the bodies were buried. Sometimes this person can be a bit of an Eeyore (“Well Sonny, we tried that in aught eight but it just didn’t fly”). The historian you’re looking for is the one who remembers bits and pieces of systems and research that were built for other projects that just might be useful and knows who worked on those projects.  You slice a great deal of learning curve by talking to people who have tried similar things.
  4. The Top Producer/Chief Rainmaker/Revenue Generating Machine: Often this person will be a contender for the EF Hutton slot but if not, they are a valuable source of feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
  5. The Fixer:  The backbone of many teams. This person can take a statement like “IT says it will take 200 hours to build the interface so they can’t get to it until next year,” roll the situation through their head and come out with “Okay, the platform they’re using in sprocket accounting is nearly the exact thing that we want and they have lots of bandwidth because we really only care about counting widgets here. They also have a student intern this summer, let’s hijack the intern and see if we can copy over the system and have the intern recode the smaller piece that needs to be changed.”  This is also the person that knows that Mary in Customer Service is dying to change her job and move into project management so she’ll volunteer her time for any task or project that might get her closer to that goal. They have lots of people’s cell numbers and can get them to answer day, night or holidays. They usually talk 800 miles per hour and you can see the wheels turning when they do.  They have lots of favors on deposit in the favor bank.  Very handy to have in your corner.
  6. The Front Person: This is your smooth talker. Speaking in perfect “corporate-speak” they are the official face of your change. They need to be well liked, reasonably respected and easily able to talk their way to those at the top of the house.
  7. The Executive Sponsor:  In an ideal world you’ll have an upper level sponsor who stands behind what you’re trying to do. You’ve convinced them of the importance of the plan and they have the will and ability to pull resources from other departments to help jumpstart your plan. They also are the first to back your Front Guy when they’re presenting to the top of the house. If you don’t have an executive sponsor, you will absolutely need to have #4 in your corner.

Draft each one of these players on your team well before you make any public announcements about your planned changes.  It’s usually going to take drinks, lunch or coffee for you to get them on board.  Be prepared to change your plan based on the feedback they give you. Let them punch holes in it and knock it around a bit. You’ll end up with a better plan.

What other team members have you found invaluable when you’re creating a change? Share your suggestions in the comments section.

P.S. If you’ve ever wanted a great explanation of exactly how Billy Ray Valentine and Louis Winthorpe III beat the Duke brothers on the commodities floor in Trading Places listen here.

Want to see all 10 Rules for Beginning a Turnaround? Start here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

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10 Rules for Beginning a Turnaround

improving your results

Things to consider as you plan how to get from “here” to “there”.

 

  1. Know if you’re an Aspirin or a Vitamin.
  2. What you Knew on the Very First Day is What you Need to Know Now.
  3. Weigh the Opportunity Cost.
  4. Do the Math – Follow the Money.
  5. Find your Allies.
  6. Build a Measuring Stick.
  7. Locate the Elephants.
  8. Understand the Art, Science and Use of Duct Tape.
  9. Change Does Not Occur in a Vacuum.
  10. Communicate and Celebrate the Victories – even the small ones.

+ The Super Top Secret extra rule you always need to know from the beginning!

We’ll drill down on each of these over the next ten days, and share lots more info on the details over the next few weeks. Looking forward to your comments.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Get our free guide to understanding the corporate landscape by subscribing in the box at the right. 

© Jeanne Goldie 2015