Change Management Learnings & Thoughts

Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
It's touted as a great way to get buy-in: get everyone involved. By that, leaders think they need EVERYONE to be involved-especially on a small team, where everyone has a strong vested interest in the organization's success.  

So here's what happens next: the BIG IDEA (change) is identified and it is time to develop the plans and the result, and EVERYONE is involved. All of the sudden, reviewing and approving changes is easier said than done; people react slowly to emails and it takes forever to get sign-off on action items. With too many people looped into the change process (or if the wrong people are included), the team struggles to get changes in a timely fashion.

Solution: If you're experiencing bottlenecks, chances are there are too many people involved.

Bottlenecks are frustrating, but they can be avoided by making sure only the people who really need to sign-off are included in the process. Common culprits for bottlenecking are those at the VP or senior manager level. This is especially true if that person is someone who wants to see everything, but tends to overestimate their ability to do a million things at once.

A key to keeping momentum on a project with multiple stakeholders is clearly defining stages of the change and the roles of the stakeholders. Leverage trust and buy-in by involving EVERYONE in the early stages identify what needs to be changed and the end result you desire. Get consensus and then transition to a phase where people are empowered to do their part to build and effectuate the change. The high-level change and project sponsors are informed as the major milestones are met and are brought in for sign-off/recalibration if there are significant adjustments to the project needed to get the intended results. A tool to help with defining roles of stakeholders in a change project is a RASCI chart.  

RASCI charts are a cornerstone for creating communication plans during project implementation. The "Consulted" role signifies the two-way communication typically between "R" and "C." The "Informed" role signifies the one-way communication primarily from "R" to "A."

If you are interested in learning more about how to keep your changes moving forward with stakeholders and communications working in harmony, Contact Us. We can help!
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
Tips for Using Your Preferences to Optimize Your Performance With Internal Communications.
Whether you identify as an introvert or an extravert, we know that the self-awareness is a measure of your preferences and not necessarily your behaviors. We also know that when we are stressed it is easy to default to our preferences whether they are adaptive or not. Communication is necessary and brings results we need, but is sometimes stressful and there is no doubt certain behaviors lead to greater (or lesser) success. The following observations are based solely on the experiences and observations of Change Management Communications Center, LLC and are in no way formally studied or "scientific".  However, we hope they will still help you have more rewarding and successful Internal Communication experiences as possible.
Introverts:  You are energized from your inner world more so than the outside world so tend to be more quiet and contemplative.

Strengths - You may think about your customers' problems and your plans more completely before sharing them and thus appear more independent and knowledgeable if you speak up. You may be more observant during business encounters such as meetings and in-person handoffs as you may be less engaged in talking and more engaged in observing.

Pitfalls - If you don't speak up and share your thoughts, at best your team won't know how you are doing, but at worst this can be perceived as disinterest. You may feel more comfortable being off on your own quietly reading or getting your work done, but if others can't find you or don't know what you've been doing, you may not seem like a "team player". Oral presentations may be one of the most stressful aspects of work and as a subject matter expert for you. You may also find it difficult to find enough quiet time to prepare.

1. Make sure you make lots of eye contact and smile, particularly if you are on a more extroverted team.
2. Practice presentations by yourself or with someone you feel comfortable with before you present to the team.
3. Make sure you are sharing your thoughts with your immediate supervisors even if it is one-on-one outside of team activities.
4. Do your quiet reading where team members can find you and share what you are reading (even if it's simply bringing in an article you think is relevant or a written outline and samples of a special case study during a team meeting).
5. Ask how you can help often as this conveys a sense of interest and caring no matter how quiet you are by nature.
6. Ask for specific feedback about your level of engagement- don't expect people to volunteer that they think you are too quiet or not engaged enough.  They still may place it on your evaluation if asked by others!

7. Team work is critical in medicine so it is not bragging when you let team members know what you've been doing.
Extroverts: You are energized by being around others and the outside world so you will tend to thrive in the team-based settings of work like meetings, social events, and interactions with customers.

Strengths - Engagement with people, whether customers or team members, is a major part of business and you thrive being around people. You will tend to rapidly integrate into teams and enjoy speaking with customers and team members. You will not be as intimidated by presentations or asking for help. You also will tend to be quicker to speak up whether it is when being asked by another person or by simply letting the team know what you've been up to. This is frequently interpreted by team members as being very interesting and engaged, which is a good thing.

Pitfalls - At times you may be too quick to speak up or ask questions before thinking about what you plan to say or how to find the information yourself. If done too frequently, this can be interpreted as being too dependent on the team for answers or as being less knowledgeable (if you are frequently blurting out wrong answers as you talk through a problem).

1. Use your outgoing nature to facilitate communication among the team and advocate for your customers.
2. If you are paired with a quieter co-worker or team in general, watch that you don't dominate discussions too much as this can be interpreted as being a gunner.
3. Be careful that you do not interrupt customers or team members in your enthusiasm to be involved in the work that needs to be done.
4. If you tend to have a particularly vibrant and enthusiastic personality, be very careful about tempering it in the presence of customers and coworkers who are in distress or more reserved as it can seem overwhelming at best and insensitive at worst.
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
By Dianna Gaebler

We ask our clients, “What was valuable for you today?” A recent response from a client was both humbling and satisfying at the same time. She said her most valuable take away was actually putting the knowledge we had developed together into practice. Simple, right? And, really - pretty obvious. Or is it?  

Speaking personally, I know I have a gift for complicating things. I can spend more time than I care to admit turning ideas over in my head, ruminating rather than acting. I may learn new things. I have a new tools, I just don’t always think to use them.

Coming from an education background, it was drilled into me that you haven’t really learned new skills until you’ve use them. Book learning, while incredibly valuable, will not bring results until you put it into practice. It’s not until you try it out in practice - actual real experience - that you make this new learning part of you.

So don’t just let your new learning marinate in your head. Try it out. If it’s something that is totally different than what you’re experienced with, try it in a low-stakes setting, where the consequences are less important that the actual “using” of the tool and building experience and mastery. Put your knowledge into practice for really powerful results.

* * *

An example from my professional life: I’ve been given great advice about networking that was only a point of interest until I put it to use. Then it got powerful.  

At my first event, I began making small talk with those in my immediate vicinity. Uncomfortable, awkward, unproductive conversations. Then I bumped into Allison.

“First time here?”

“First time really networking. I’m afraid I have a lot to learn.”

“If I may - here’s how I do it. When I come to an event, I pick the person that is the most intimidating to me. I make a beeline for that person determined to meet them and strike up a conversation. Sometimes it’s a short ‘hello, nice to meet you; have a great evening.’ It doesn’t have to be super long - I just need to do it. It takes all the nerves out of me. I get it over with first thing, and can relax. Not only does it help me with the rest of my evening, but I’ve met some amazing people that way that I otherwise never would have met.”

I smiled and nodded - we parted ways onto the next conversion. I attended more events with less than fruitful results. Eventually, I remembered Allison’s technique, a tool I had not tried yet.  I decided at the next event I’d do as she suggested and evaluate the results.  

There was a tight group of people across the way. They were very engaged with each other.  They were most intimidating to me and I knew that was where I needed to start. I approached them, smiled and listened for a moment. One of the group members made eye contact and I took that moment to introduce myself to him and “infiltrate the circle.” I’d done it! And then I learned. The world didn’t stop! I didn’t have much to contribute, but as I met them and chatted a bit, I realized they did not hold the keys to the kingdom any more than I did. I relaxed. My forced smile became more genuine and I was able to move on with a bit of peace and a laugh at myself. What had I found so intimidating? I moved to a smaller group of people talking not too far away. I liked their energy - they were laughing and had an easy open way about them. I found myself included in their conversation and enjoyed an exchange of ideas.  

Knowing about how to approach networking - or one approach, one tool, so to speak - was powerful. But it’s not until I took action, actually tried it out, did the real power manifest.  

Knowledge is power … action is more so.  

Simple but not always easy - definitely worth your while.

Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
By Laura Dowdy

In June, I attended a leadership breakfast hosted by 4imprint.  We listened to their president, Kevin Lyons-Tar, talk about what he thought the key to success for their business is. Kevin shared a lot of information about the history of 4imprint, and described how 4imprint became the largest direct marketer of promotional products in the United States. 4imprint’s story of growth and market domination was fascinating and it strikes me that Kevin believes 4imprint’s history lesson is best summed up as creating a company culture that serves employees’ development as much as it delights and serves customers.

4imprint strives to create a culture that puts people, especially their employees, first. Kevin believes that what separates 4imprint from its competition, in a fractured market, is 4imprint’s quality of service. His philosophy is that if you expect your employees to treat your customers well, you need to treat your employees well. This goes beyond exercise classes in the break room or decent medical benefits. 4imprint has a set of 8 guiding principles they use as a compass to guide their decision-making process on everything. If something doesn’t fit with what they envision for the company as far as integrity, creativity, how to treat people and so forth, they pass on it. Leadership at 4imprint has learned to be true to putting people first, and it’s working for them.

A great example of this occurred during the latest recession. 4imprint cut costs on everything but advertising and people. The thought was that when it finally turned around, 4imprint was going to need the best personnel to keep up with market demands and pull their company through and out of the slump. 4imprint was loyal to their employees during a tough time, and their employees returned the favor. 4imprint recovered more quickly than they had in previous recessions and faster than the rate for the economy itself.

What is most compelling, however, about the culture at 4imprint is FAILURE. As Kevin tells the story, much of 4imprint’s success today comes from learning from mistakes in the past. From Kevin’s perspective as a leader, learning from mistakes and allowing room for those learning experiences has built a thriving, competitive, successful and ever-changing business model. 4imprint strives to create an environment where employees can take risks and fail without reprisal. Employees are not only allowed but encouraged to try tasks outside their realm of expertise. If a new challenge arises, such as managing social media outlets, 4imprint looks for someone within the company willing to take a risk and give it a shot. These risk takers are also the people 4imprint keeps an eye on for future leadership within the company. 4imprint’s people first culture is a fantastic example of a company creating a place where employees grow as people and individuals. Individual growth empowers everyone at 4imprint to collectively make their business more innovative, agile and successful.
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
By Laura Dowdy, Change Management Specialist

Recently, we got the best feedback during a client meeting.  Our Client told us that from our business name, Change Management Communications Center, she thought we were people to call when you need to get through hard times.   She said, “You are so much more than that!"

-You have all the right connections,
-You share your skills, knowing how to run a stronger, better business,
-You help businesses grow,
-You think outside the box, you help us reach the next level.  
-You even make us aware there is a next level!

We love to help clients work through the process of changes they know need to happen, but also help clients discover how to make their business more innovative, agile and successful in today’s fast paced business climate.

One of the tools we use is the business model generation canvas, found here.  We create a dynamic, visual representation of your business.  Nine key segments interact and are designed to help you find strengths and weaknesses in your model.  When we work with your business model on the canvas, we generate discussion and creativity.  We use our expertise and experience with the canvas to guide our clients through an innovation process and develop the best new model for their business.

We also teach our clients the process of design thinking.  Business leaders design things all the time: organizational structures, processes, and business models.  Business school doesn't teach you to think like a designer.  Designers practice constant inquiry, create entirely new solutions, and hold the “impossible” to be possible.  In doing so they are able to create solutions beyond what any one has contemplated before:  think Apple’s iPod and iTunes or Henry Ford’s automobile.

“If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
– Henry Ford

When implemented properly, design thinking is a valuable tool for creating buy-in with your team.  It is a team process that not encourages all ideas to be expressed.  Design Thinking is a natural way to begin moving your team through the change process.  When you successfully create buy-in and a sense of ownership among your team, the implementation and actualization of your new innovative goals are that much closer.
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
By Laura Dowdy, Change Management Specialist

Mergers and acquisitions are a difficult change to manage.  Depending on whose research you choose to rely on, mergers have a failure rate of anywhere between 50 and 85 percent. One KPMG study found that 83 percent of these deals hadn't boosted shareholder returns, while a separate study by A.T. Kearney concluded that total returns on M&A were always negative.  The causes of the failures are somewhat difficult to diagnose and categorize, and what makes for a successful merger versus an unsuccessful merger is only derived by careful case study practice.  Effective change management, caring for the “soft side of change” can mean the difference between a successful merger, one where key employees stay on and the two companies truly become one, or a merger fraught with infighting, disinterest, and high turnover.

“We needed to communicate better” shows up among the top five reasons for merger failure.  

Face to face communication has been shown to be the best way to communicate for optimal change management results.  This can be a more costly and time intensive method than a companywide memo, but the return on investment will be far greater.  Face to face communication allows the employee to ask questions and for you to “check the vitals” of the people involved to see how the merger is being viewed.  You gauge whether or not your messages are being received the way you intended.  

For example, you may have told an employee not to worry; they won’t lose their job due to the merger.  This seems like a pretty straightforward positive message.  However, the employee may not be feeling very positive about the information they received.  They wonder if their job will change, if their pay/ benefits will decrease, or their manager will change.  It is vital to get that feedback and complete the cycle of communication.  

Getting feedback will allow you to retool your message to be more effective and thereby better manage the people side of your merger.  It could be as simple as needing to rephrase your message or have a different person deliver it.  There could be a larger root cause, such as a lack of trust or difference in company cultures that needs to be addressed.    When you create feedback loops and respond effectively to what you receive back about your communications, you will be one step closer to a more successful, more fluid, and more profitable merger.  

Talk to us at Change Management | Communications Center if you need some help creative an effective communication plan and learn best practices for the change you are working on.
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
By Laura Dowdy, Change Management Specialist

Creating the right kind of culture can be key to creating a thriving, agile, and profitable workplace. As people reach new heights and stretch themselves as individuals, they do the same in their work life.  Reaching and stretching requires change.  These changes create a workforce that is more agile and productive in times of change and therefore more profitable to the company.

How does an organization go about creating this kind of environment?  One of the key elements is TRUST- trusting your employees with leadership roles, tasks and projects that might be just beyond their current skill set and creating an environment where your employees can trust coworkers and superiors enough to reveal their shortcomings.  

The April 2014 Harvard Business Review looked at 2 different companies successfully creating this kind of environment, what the HBR calls “deliberately developmental organizations” (DOO’s for short): Bridgewater Associates (an east coast investment firm) and Decurion Corporation (a west coast company that owns and manages real estate). Here we will look at some of the ways these companies help create that type of culture.

At Bridgewater, when business decisions fail, they look beyond root cause analysis to the individual’s personal traits that led to the poor decision.  As a group, they work to find the problem and allow the individual to use it as a growing moment.  This kind of environment can be uncomfortable in the beginning, for obvious reasons, and requires there be no judgment to be effective. This company also implements an issues log where employees write down mistakes or things that went wrong. Again, this is used as a learning tool and NOT a tool for meting out penalties.

Decurion, also puts problems out in the open by utilizing a “fish bowl” technique.  If a program or project is not going well, several people involved sit inside a circle of the rest of their colleagues to discuss the issues and problems they are having.  The wider group of colleagues listen and add to the discussion. This process, facilitated by a senior manager, allows problems in communication and work flow to be discovered and addressed in a safe, nonjudgmental environment.

Both of these organizations are large businesses, and their methods may seem more intense than what most companies will want to take on. However, a culture of trust and personal development can be achieved in a small business with less uncomfortable methods.  A great example is Nick’s Pizza and Pub in Crystal Lake, IL.  By trusting his teenage dishwashers enough to treat them as genuine leaders and giving his employees meaningful, intentional feedback, Nick Sarillo was able to reduce turnover at his company to 20% in an industry with an average of 200% turnover.  This not only reduces the costs of continually hiring new employees but increases the quality of the employees he has.

Creating cultures that advance change within a company can be scary for both employee and employer, given the high levels of trust required on both sides, but when done effectively it can lead to great rewards for everyone.  In addition, when you have already built up this level of trust, managing change, when it inevitably occurs in the ever evolving workplace, will be that much easier.
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
A recent PMI Report found that strategic focus on change management is one piece of the puzzle in realizing successful implementation of strategic initiatives.  In fact, only 56 percent of strategic initiatives meet their goals.  This is clearly not a great track record but, does it truly affect the bottom line of your business? The answer: a resounding yes!
On average for every $1 billion invested in projects $109 million is lost.  This loss is not constant across all organizations. You can manage your projects and processes to reduce the amount of waste and loss.  Places that do this well lose 12 times less than those that do this poorly ($20 million versus $230 million).  This can have a big impact on your bottom line and the health of your company.
One of the strategies these high performing companies use is change management, in particularly active executive sponsors.  This “champion for change” is one of the top drivers of project success.

The concept of change management can be a tricky one to grasp, let alone implement. If you are having trouble with this don’t feel alone, only 1 in 5 organizations feel as though they have effective change management practices.   The good news is this is a skill that can be learned and utilized time and again, and Change Management Communications Center is here to help you learn.

Laura Dowdy
Change Management Specialist

PMI. The High Cost of Low Performance. 2014
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
At change management Communication Centers, we believe in helping businesses be more productive and resilient by building a competency for successful change.  We also help change the world for the better, in whatever small way we can.  
In that spirit, I'm going "behind bars" to help in the fight against muscle disease.  

Other community leaders and I will be participating in the MDA’s lock-up to help raise critical funds needed to support individuals and families living with neuromuscular disease in our area.  You can help too by donating to my “bail” to get me out of jail by March 19.  Just click here to make a secure, online donation today or check out my fundraising page.  

Together we can change lives.
Tina Schuelke by Tina Schuelke @
One of my clients came to me because he knows managing change is hard.  He paid me the highest of compliments today, “Working with you is easy.”  What my client is working on is not easy.   He is leading a significant change in a workplace where past changes have failed more times than not.   In fact, my client was afraid–but brave enough to tell me–that he missed a critical deadline, and it was costing his business a lot of money.  Worse than that, the missed deadline had the potential of harming the trust he built with people he works with.   He told me the full story.  The depth of the problem was fully revealed, and I felt pretty uncomfortable myself.

Uncomfortable or not, my client needed to respond.  

Together, he and I worked to create a way to adjust for the missed deadline and communicate to his team.   During the process we looked at the problem from each stakeholder’s point of view.  There were moments we could laugh, and make light while we put ourselves in others’ shoes.  We talked about “best case”, “worst case”, “then whats”, and “so whats” until we felt like we had exhausted every convoluted way this darn thing could go . . . .

What happened next was nothing short of amazing.   My client talked with his team about the missed deadline, the additional costs, and the team found a way to make up for it all.  The team had his back, reinforced trust, and appreciated the open and honest rapport with their boss.   My client called to tell me about it, and thanked me for being so easy to work with.  Managing change is hard, but this client’s company is succeeding–by changing how they introduce, lead, and accomplish change.  
I love my job!