Change Management Learnings & Thoughts

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Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
 In 2006, Melcrum lead a research project and best practices consortium called, ROI Executive Communication Forum.  This group is still active and publishes research results periodically in service to business communications professionals. The ROI Executive Communication Forum is comprised of an ad hoc, invitation-only group of senior communication executives at Fortune 200 companies or their equivalent. The ROI Executive Communication Forum has accomplished work to define and measure the presence and effectiveness of Open Communication Cultures (OCC).

“An Open Communication Culture is one in which information flows freely and is easily accessible to both insiders and to the public at large. Consistent with the culture and values of the organization, its leadership enables, advocates and provides open access to information in which employees, customers, shareholders and the general public have a legitimate interest. Proactive communication initiatives and dialogue with and among the various stakeholders are the primary means for achieving open communication objectives. Among the obvious exceptions to the rule are proprietary, regulated financial and competitive information or confidential employee, customer or client information. (”

Their definition can be summed up as an environment and culture where all information that is not proprietary or confidential is shared openly internally and with the public.

Research that supports the purpose and effectiveness of OCC, and the business case that underlines the need for investing in adopting best practices in communications is convincing:

— The cause-effect relationship between employee and customer satisfaction (Northwestern University).

— Communicating a clear vision of the future is the number one factor in building employee commitment (Melcrum).
A culture of communication, integrity and innovation increases employee discretionary effort (Corporate Leadership Council).

— The primary driver of employee satisfaction is effective communication (Northwestern University).

— Satisfied employees create loyal customers. A 5 percent increase in customer loyalty yields a 25 to 95 percent profit increase (Author  Frederick Reichheld in The Loyalty Effect).

— Internal communication is the top factor in determining a CEO’s reputation, which in turn is critical to shareholder value (Burson-Marstellar).

— Companies that effectuated their plans for effective communication had 47 percent higher total returns to shareholders over the five-year period (Towers Watson, mid-2004 to mid-2009).

—Companies with high levels of employee engagement had a return on assets six times higher than those with low engagement levels (Towers Watson 2010).

If you need help measuring the effectiveness of your business communications or want to learn more about best practices for business communications, contact us today. Change Management Communications Center specializes in helping leaders implement communications best practices and powerful communication plans that lead to higher profits.
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
We notice many organizations depend on policy or policy creation to address issues.  When we work with clients, we help create mutual understandings about the purpose, intention and consequences of policies. Policy is not always the most effective approach to problem solving. More importantly, policy alone is never the best approach to addressing challenges. To help our clients realize optimal results when implementing policy, we typically begin by creating a common language about:

— what policy is

— what standards are

— what process and procedures are

— what technical controls are

We clarify that generally accepted business practices and global standards have established differentiations that help guide us in policy creation. Policies are the highest level, long-term, guiding principles on how the organization is to be run. Policies are intended for broad audiences and are applicable to anyone — employee, contractor, temporary worker, etc.  Policies drive standards, procedures and technical controls.

Standards define the process or rules to be used to support the policy, while procedures are specific instructions (ordered tasks) for performing some function or action. Technical controls are mechanisms used to regulate the operations to meet policy requirements (countermeasures).  

The manifestation of policy is like the tip of an iceberg. Policy must be supported by practice in standards, process, procedure and technical controls. Creating, documenting, administrating and implementing policy is larger and more complex than what most managers anticipate. The complexity often comes by way of various levels of understanding of the reasons and intentions for the policy—which is the biggest, and often unseen part of the iceberg. To add further challenge, policy, like any regulation, is usually a fear-based response to a problem or an anticipated problem. We encourage our clients to consider the reasons and consequences (good and bad) for creating, adjusting, implementing or supporting sub-components of policy.

Here are some good reasons to create and maintain policies, standards, processes, procedures and technical controls:

— clarity and uniformity of beliefs, behaviors, products and services within an organization

— creates a vehicle for disseminating beliefs, behaviors, products and services

— establishes common understanding

— reduces the risk of lawsuits (when done properly)

There are also risks to creating and maintaining policies, standards, process, procedures and technical controls:

— management inflexibility and the inability to respond effectively to the infinite and ever-changing issues that arise between people and organizations

— failure to uniformly apply policies, standards, processes, procedures and technical controls leaves the organization vulnerable to lawsuits

— incomplete, vague or ambiguous policies, standards, processes, procedures and technical controls confuses both management and employees and leaves room for divergent expectations

— provisions that are unlawful or allow for an unlawful application

When we work with clients, we explore many complimentary approaches to address issues in regard to policies, standards, processes, procedures and technical controls. Our aim is to holistically serve the highest level of the problem. We co-create solutions that inspire and empower people to act in support of a belief or purpose rather than simply complying to policies, standards, processes, procedures and technical controls. Behaviors are put into practice, not just policy. If you need help addressing challenges at work and wonder about how effective your policies, standards, processes, procedures and technical controls are—give us a call. We specialize in helping leaders advance how they address change.  
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
I have two main goals when I speak to a group: educate the crowd on a specific skill or aspect of my profession and increase brand awareness/interest. After each speaking engagement, I like to hand out a feedback sheet to the audience. Responses to these questions allow me to follow up with leads, improve my presentation and better get my point across.

I recently spoke at Gravure Association of the Americas Global Summit in Florida and I received close to 80 feedback sheets. Most of the sheets had similar responses. They expressed finding value in something specific I said; they thought the style, stories and graphics went well; they would have liked more time for my engaging exercises and overall the presentation got 4-5 out of 5 stars. However, there was one lonely outlier. This respondent gave negative feedback throughout the entire sheet. I tried to think back and dissect my presentation. How could I adjust to bring this audience member into favor? Would that be valuable to me?

Feedback is important, but to an extent. Spending too much time on these small anomalies can be detrimental to your brand or message. Average to high performers pay attention outliers, and might get caught up in spending time and energy on engaging outliers. Top performers are able to let them go and get past them. Being able to look past small issues like this audience member’s negative feedback is an essential skill for great leaders. Nothing is perfect and you’re not always going to be liked, but that’s okay!

You have to understand your brand’s target demographic and audience. If you are speaking on behalf of a brand, represent it well and are well-spoken throughout the presentation, you can’t worry about a small minority of the audience who disagree with you or didn’t enjoy your speech. Those people probably aren’t going to ask for your services or do business with you regardless of the success of your presentation. It is smart to focus on the majority; the individuals or businesses who are open and willing to change and accept diverse opinions. The majority will start the trend. They will show that change can be successful with willing participants and open communication, then the minority will follow suit.

In order to be a top performer or leader, you must be able to look past the outliers or anomalies that may not agree with your brand or message. Are you able to look past small issues or is it something you need to work on?
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
In any sort of transition, people will go through the change curve. This may take a couple of days or a few weeks depending on a person’s experience with handling change.

Leaders, managers and top performers will most likely go through the transition with ease. This is because these people have the skills to be adaptable, think critically, problem solve and find resources. Leaders and managers have unknowingly adapted to change by fulfilling the responsibilities of their roles, such as seeing through projects and managing employees. When managing a project, leaders learn to adapt to changes every time a deadline is missed or when cost estimates rise. The more familiar a person is with going through the change curve, the easier his/her transition will be.  

On the other hand, average associates whose daily responsibilities and tasks don’t waver will have a more difficult time transitioning. These people become comfortable with their roles and what’s expected of them. They do not directly face the pressures of explaining to a client why a deadline was missed or why costs have risen. The change curve is new to them, making it more difficult for them to realize when they are experiencing denial, despair and anger during the process. They run the risk of falling into the “valley of despair” of the change curve.  

With that being said, it’s important to focus on helping average and top performers through the transition. Once leaders and managers are through the change curve, they can help lead the rest of the team by reminding people of the end goal and settling fears that team members may have.  

Be careful of low performers. These are the people who tend to get stuck in the “valley of despair.” Due to their inexperience, they are unable to accept the change and move forward. Most likely these people will jump ship (ie: quit their jobs) or resort to hostility causing the termination of their position. Remember that the longer a person stays in the “valley of despair,” the more difficult it will be for him/her to climb out of it. It’s crucial for leaders to recognize when a team member is at this point in his/her transition and help him/her out as quickly as possible. However, not everyone can be saved; even some leaders get stuck. This is when you need to reevaluate your stakeholders and prioritize the time and energy it will take to transition your team.

Most people will be average performers, so most of your team will transition. Seek help from the high performers to lead the way and give low performers the option to seek new opportunities.
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
Change means challenging the status quo. As a leader, you have to appreciate that challenging the status quo requires a high-stakes conversation. High stakes conversations are discussions between two or more people where there is risk, opposing opinions and strong emotions. The outcome impacts lives, and leading change requires you to get others to adopt a new status quo.

Studies demonstrate that people respond to high stakes conversations one of three ways:
1. Avoid them.
2. Face them and handle them poorly.
3. Face them and handle them well.

Leaders with a highly developed competency in change management are dependable to face the risk and manage it well. It is not an easy competency to develop because high stakes conversations often arise without warning and catch us by surprise. When we are caught up in challenging the status quo, our human biology and behaviors work against us. Our adrenaline runs high and blood flows to our arms and legs. This produces a fight or flight response where we can be easily confused and improvise, often without rehearsal. This leads to self-defeating behaviors where we do or say something that makes the situation worse.

Change Managers are masters skilled in crucial conversations. Contact the experts at Change Management Communications Center to learn more about developing your competency for leading change. You will strengthen your relationships, be influential and get changes accomplished in a profitable way.
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @

Changes in business happens every day, whether we manage it or not. Benefits from change are realized faster and are sustained when change is managed well. Think about when you were part of a change that was poorly managed. Were you the leader or the victim? What dragged down the results? Our clients and research  tell us that most changes fail because people are resistant to them. Time and money are the most common obstacles for leaders and businesses when investing in a competency for change.

What if you had a dependable toolset that could help you identify resistance and the cause of each individual’s resistance to change? Change management tools and techniques are widely available in publications, classes and online. The best tools and practices are often simple in presentation, but these alone are not enough. In practice, change management is an amalgamation of science, knowledge, experience and the art and application of the practitioner. A question to consider when hiring a consultant or assigning a project team or sponsor is “How much practice and success has this leader had with change management tools, techniques and practices?”  Another is “What is at stake if this change does not go well?”

Here is a quick and simple tool that helps assess the risks of change. Think of a change you are working on or intend to accomplish at work. There are three levels of the change to consider, and there are costs and risks associated with each. Create a chart like the one below to assess your ability to recover from potential losses associated with the project. I invite you to create a chart that contains the specific risks and costs (add in the numbers!) associated with the changes you are working on to make this exercise more meaningful to you.  

Contact Change Management Communications Center if you have questions or need more information about assessing the risks associated with leading change. Explore opportunities in developing your personal leadership and your business’s competency for change. Profitable change is what we specialize in.
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
By Tina Schuelke

Most of our clients are surprised when we coach them about communication plans. The most unanticipated part of our conversation about communication plans is centered on revealing best practices pertaining to senders and receivers of communications.  

Research about business communication and more specifically, communication about change, shows us that employees have two preferred senders.  A sender is the person delivering the message. The preferred sender is determined by the kind of message being communicated. Surprisingly missing on the preferred sender list is the project team. Employees are not fond of, and are less open to hearing information and direction about changes from the project team assigned to the change. One of the most common mistakes we see in communication plans for projects and major changes is that communications are being sent or presented directly by the project manager or the project team.  

Here are some research-based tips to help you use the best sender in your communication plans for leading change:

Contact Change Management Communications Center today to co-create a communication plan for your project that ensures your audiences are open to hearing and taking positive action with the messages you need to deliver about the changes you are leading. Effective change communication is our forte.  

Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
By: Tina Schuelke

You are in the midst of changes.  Are the changes successful?  When will you know?  How will you know?  Our clients grapple with these questions, and so do we with every change. It is important to have a plan, but also resources that are benchmarks for what successful change looks like. More important is to set your change apart from others and understand what successful change looks like when you have developed a dependable competency for change.

Change Management Communications Center likes to compare apples and oranges when it comes to measuring the success of your change.  The reason why we like to look beyond “other changes like this” is because the success rate for change has been researched and determined to be very low for more than forty years.  For instance, if you are working on a merger or acquisition, and you know that industry standard estimates only 9% of mergers and acquisitions are profitable over time, do you want to compare your success with “industry standard,” or would you like to compare to the target of your own profitability expectations of the merger? Would you also like to know the impact on stakeholders and what retention rates and customer loyalty look like before, during, and after the merger?

Harvard Business School, Bloomberg, McKinsey & Co, Prosci, Boston Consulting and many others have studied, researched, and reported that most organizations accept that they must either change or die. It’s recognized that change remains difficult to pull off, and few companies manage the process well.  Most change initiatives—implementing new technology or processes, downsizing, restructuring, or trying to change corporate culture—have had low success rates. The cruel fact is that about 70% of all change initiatives fail.   So the question is, when you measure your change success, are you comparing yourself to the apple’s 30% success rate, or the orange’s 70% failure rate?  And, do you know what successful change really looks like?  Here are some places to look in order to measure the success of your change:  

This simple assessment provides insight to how well you are managing change.  Scores between 30 and 40 may indicate that your organization is ahead of most.  Scores between 20 and 24 tend to show that that your organization is on track with a majority of organizations (70% failure rate), and scores below 20 indicate that you are behind the trends.  Contact Change Management Communications Center for a more in-depth assessment of your change success or if you need help developing your business’s competency for change.  We specialize in helping leaders realize profitable, successful change results.