IQPC Interview on Change Leadership – Talent Management Summit Preview

This coming September, IQPC holds their next Talent Management Summit in Las Vegas, and I am honored to be a guest speaker on the topic “Change Leadership: When Change Management is Not Enough“. Late last week, Katherine Mehr of IPQC, interviewed me for a podcast related to this breakout session that will post later in July. Of all the postings on my blog, the Change Leadership posting has proven to be one of the more frequently visited, so I thought posting the interview dialogue may also be of interest. Following are notes that follow the exchanges in the interview.  A link to the podcast will be added to the blog when it is released.

Katherine:   How would you define change leadership?

GW:   I think the best “short definition” is this…
Change Leadership (CL) is Change Management (CM)…PLUS…additional activities that drive three key leadership attributes:

  • Inspiration,
  • Influence, and…
  • Strategic Integration

Here is an example:

Desired results of virtually any change initiative are positive outcomes or results – What drives results are human performance – action – new or changed behaviors. All too often, “supporting new or changed behavior” represent our primary target, and that is where traditional CM can come up short.

The more cross-cutting the Change…meaning the more organization-wide the affect…or the more transformational the Change initiative may be…the tougher it is to drive changed behavior within the limits of traditional CM tools.

This shortfall is where inspiration, influence, and integration come to play…if for no other reason than they impact “thinking”…they address the human ingredients of values and attitudes, which in turn shape the way people think about things. How we think about things represents our unique behavior biases. In other words, many of us do what we “think” we should do in a given situation. Lacking any other influence or inspiration, our choice of behavior defaults to how we think we should act.

If we neglect to influence and inspire new thinking…all the CM efforts in the world will not move the human performance needle to the point of sustaining capability…which, by the way, is the ultimate target of any effective Change initiative.

Katherine:   In previous conversation, you have mentioned that change and leadership must be consistent, collaborative and comprehensive. Can you elaborate on that?

GW:   For me…the concept of consistency begs the question – “How can you be consistent when virtually every change is different …or has different implications?”

Consistency is not intended toward the language of “what is said”……as much as it is “what are the component parts” of what is said. To that end, we work within a replicable model that addresses the same key components regardless of the actual change, be it department level or broadly reaching transformational change. To shape “thinking” we have to anticipate the unspoken thoughts/questions of those on the receiving end of change. Things like:

  • People want to know what’s going to happen to them and why.
  • They want to know what is expected of them…what’s at risk if nothing is done?
  • Who is impacted by their contribution?
  • Who is going to prepare them to be successful…how? …when?
  • Where do they go for help?
  • Who else believes in this change?
  • How will we know if we succeed?
  • Is this temporary or permanent?

Collaborative – implies cross-level interaction opportunities:

  • From a visible, accessible Sponsor early and often throughout the change effort;
  • To formative input venues like focus groups or interactive discussion forums…which, by the way, represent a great opportunity for using Social Media venues like blogs, wikis, & communities;
  • To cross-functional change teams;
  •  To downstream [post GoLive] feedback loops to harvest issues, challenges and best practices that manifest post GoLive.

Comprehensive – The best examples surface in communications – in particular communications that are “localized” – meaning…audiences across the organization are segmented so the most impactful and relevant value proposition is communicated to each segment directly.  No one-size-fits-all propaganda messages are used.

In short, comprehensive implies we treat Change as a continuum – We PrepareWe DeployWe ImplementWe Adjust.

Note that I have distinguished deployment from implementation. Deployment gets us to GoLive. Implementation speaks to routinizing the change into day-to-day work. This point of differentiation highlights where CM often fails to sustain capability. We effectively manage Change up to the point of GoLive, and then we move on to the next project. Treating implementation as a separate CL component enables our shift from surviving change as an event or a transaction to a sustained capability.

Katherine:    What is change management’s role in organizational development (OD) intervention? (Discuss how we only leverage CM to tactical advantage….talk about what we are missing)

GW:   Change Management is a standard tool in any OD Practitioner’s toolbox. I get the sense; however, that the focus of OD has shifted over the last few years from a top-down management of organization-wide change to facilitating from bottom-up.  Responsibility of individuals and their engaged contribution play a greater role when it’s bottom up.

Success stems from engaged and empowered individual contributors and teams that contribute to momentum and help build critical mass. Never has the need been greater to expand the OD toolbox to include attributes of Change Leadership to bring inspiration, influence, and integration into the effort.

The OD Practitioner (and in a lot of cases this may default to the Learning & Development function) are tasked with sustaining change. To do this effectively, Change cannot be viewed as an event to survive or a transaction to complete successfully.

The organization should be treated as an “eco-system”…a system of systems, if you will, where different motivations and contributions are scattered across levels and functions. As such, our approach must become more holistic than ever before. The tactical aspects of CM are not robust enough to meet the velocity of change we face today without recognizing the implications of Change within each “system” of the organizational eco-system.

Katherine:   How does effective leadership exemplify a positive business culture for change?

GW:   I’ll answer this with two words –Empowerment and Sponsorship

To put this into an example, I will recall for you one of those moments in my life that I would classify as a defining moment.  This quick story is based upon a Change initiative that was cultural in nature and impacted an entire organization.

In a previous life, I managed the Sales Training function at one of the top three long distance carriers. The competitive environment was intense to say the least. The new Business Sales Group President was making the rounds to each department and dropped in on our staff meeting as a guest. Sales were sluggish and his mission was to turn that around. He said simply…

Our mission is to sell minutes on our network. If what any of you are working on does not promote the sale of minutes to the network, you have a responsibility to raise your hand and question the activity!”

Short and sweet and to the point. I cannot recall ever feeling more empowered to accept his challenge to change the sales culture at our company, particularly when I was not directly “selling minutes”…I managed a sales training team tasked to prepare our sales representatives to successfully sell minutes.

Looking back on that defining moment, it was amazing to me how that single, simple visit he made transformed our momentum to sustain change. He empowered us with the ability to question and to challenge our activity to ensure alignment and contribution to the mission. There were no major meetings, no fanfare, no gala events…simply a direct “localized” communication tailored to a group with a specific task – effectively train the sales force to sell minutes.

The third of ten components of the Change Leadership Model just so happens to be  SPONSORSHIP, and it addresses selection and recruitment criteria for identifying and engaging an effective change sponsor.

The key leadership characteristic I seek in a sponsor is… “Willingness

  • Willing to be a vocal advocate for the Change
  • Willing to be visible across the organization, both horizontally and vertically
  • Willing to be accessible for receiving input and sharing opinion/advice to both the Change Team and the general population

There are certainly more attributes that exemplify effective leadership than empowerment and sponsorship, but these are two of the most critical for leading change that are typically outside of traditional CM activities.

Katherine:   What are a few critical success factors for leading change?

GW:   Actually, there are ten critical success factors in the model I will introduce at the conference in September. We do not have time in this interview to do justice to each of them in detail, but I can provide a quick hit for you now:

  • Validation – Articulate a compelling business case for change.
  • Calibration – Define tangible business performance indicators of successful change.
  • Sponsorship – Recruit and engage willing leader(s) to be visible, accessible advocate(s) throughout the Change effort.
  • Value Proposition Cascade – Render a “localized” value message at every level impacted by the Change.
  • Road Map to Readiness This one and the next two represent the guts of CM – Define explicit plans to communicate, prepare, inform, equip, sell, train, and support the Change event to and for the user population.
  • Mobilization – Identify and empower resources needed to engage and execute the readiness road map.
  • Deployment – Define concise scope and logistics of the GoLive event – Is there a pilot launch or an en masse flash-cut for GoLive?
  • Implementation –Integrate Post GoLive activities into routine workflows.
  • Impact Assessment – Define what really changed. Identify how and when and who measures the outcomes. (see Calibration)
  • Sustained Capability – Effectively communicate and celebrate success – Capture and share best practices – Harvest downstream learning and feedback – Integrate findings into future refinements/adjustments.

At the Talent Management Summit, I plan to share a CL template and worksheet that provides key questions and actions required within each of these ten critical success factors.

Katherine:   What are some best practices for actually implementing these factors within an organization?

GW:    In reality, the ten critical success factors I briefly described in your last question play a “best practice” role. To extract something worthy of best practice status out of those ten factors, I would have to say:

“Make the tenets of Change Leadership something that is REPEATABLE!”

I guess what I’m suggesting is to always use these principles to ensure a consistent approach to Change Leadership across the organization. This ensures that there is a standard expectation within the rank and file that leadership has “got their back”, and Change will be effectively and efficiently handled every time. By replicating these ten success factors, we “routinize” the expectation of how we will lead Change across all levels of the organization. Replicating these ten success factors creates a consistent expectation for two significant groups:

  • Those on the receiving end of Change, and
  • Those tasked to initiate and drive Change

Regardless of where you are in the organization and what your individual role may be specific to the Change initiative, there will be:

  • A beginning point that is relevant to each role involved;
  • Answers to the “why, what, how, when, etc” questions we owe everyone impacted;
  • Line of sight from individual contribution to the affect on business mission, and
  • A transparent accounting of success or failure with the Change initiative

Katherine:   How do you get your key stakeholders to take an integrated approach to executing these initiatives strategically?

GW:    If we successfully routinize Change, leading it becomes what I categorize as “ordinary work” as opposed to something extra that we need to do. One key step to encourage that outcome is to engage a cross section of key stakeholders in the formulation of the Change Leadership Plan. Engaging key stakeholders early and often and providing an input and feedback conduit are great ways to encourage both a holistic and an integrated approach to leading Change.

Another benefit that can promote adoption is the byproduct of a compressed timeline for building the CL plan. The template-driven approach provides a clear structure to ensure key success factors are not overlooked, and it promotes visibility to key players who should be involved…from visible Sponsor(s) to key stakeholder segments impacted by the initiative.

Bottom-line for me is this – the most successful Change strategy is one that is manifest through effective tactical execution that yields a sustained capability. Effective Change Management is not enough. To ensure sustainability, we should wrap the added power and momentum that these principles of Change Leadership give us around our tactical execution of effective Change Management.

At that point, Katherine wrapped up the interview with details around the Summit in Las Vegas on September 27 – 29. I anticipate having access to the actual podcast link  later in July and will post here on the blog. If any of you are going to the Talent Management Summit I hope you will stop by and participate in this breakout session, or at least to say hello.

Best regards to all!

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker 
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning