Transformation – The Change Problem

Change initiatives are like race cars (Source: Brabham Automotive)

Last week we looked at building the highway of transformations and this week the focus is on the racecar – the change initiative. Obviously if the highway is uneven or the race car is not tuned, the outcome can be disastrous. But what are the key components of a change race car? Any change requires three components:

  1. Solving the business problem – the actual reason for the change and the ongoing problem solving throughout the process
  2. Facilitating the organizational change – the project management from past state to a desirable future
  3. Ensuring the individual transition – moving people from awareness to action at individual speeds

Solving the business problem

McKinseys 7 step problem solving method is powerful (Source: McKinsey, BSG)

Have you ever wondered why some people are extremely effective at solving thorny problems and others are… well… not? 50 years ago, McKinsey noticed that some of their engagements were highly successful, while others failed even with the same teams or clients. This started a revolution in problem solving and today all top tier strategy consultants use the McKinsey 7 step method.

The approach starts by really nailing the problem definition. As Lewis Carroll said: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”. The next step is breaking down the problem into a mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive set of logical components. For example, if you wanted to buy a more expensive house, what could you do? Well, you would either need to reduce your costs or increase your income – in the next level of break down, you would then look at possible new or improved income streams. After this you prioritize the most potent ideas to speed up, build an effective work plan, have the best people conduct the analyses, and synthesize the whole thing (and no synthesis is not the same as summary😊) before building your presentation for maximum impact.

Sounds easy right? When I joined Qvartz (now Bain) – I was lucky to get the best mentor in the company – the one who trained everyone else. I will never forget the first thing he told me: “I have been doing this for 25 years, and I will never be good enough”. This is the most powerful business toolbox, but it requires discipline.

Facilitating the organizational change

The 6S model highlights the key areas for organizational change (Source: BSG)

Once a problem has been solved, it involves a change in one or several of the 6S model components. Each of these warrants their own article (or books), but the focus here is on the project management.

Anyone who has been through Prince2 certification will probably agree that this is also an area of its own, but once you have completed some of the biggest and most complex cutting edge technology projects on time and budget, you realize that coordination and filling out endless forms is really not the point. It is a bit like taking a classic board education with focus on duties, controlling, recruitment, finance and press. You might think you are ready, but this will never get you selected.

Sure, you need to nail the project definition, manage your risks, budget the project and plan your activities, but by far the most important thing is your stakeholders. And no amount of coordination and form filling will prepare you for that. This is all about leadership – listening, involving, influencing and driving the initiatives forward.

Ensuring the individual transition

The ACCA model – like ADKAR – is a model of individual transition (Source: Colley, BSG)

Some people prefer ADKAR, but either way it is just a model of the transition that you want the organization to go through (ACCA is originally developed for advertising communication). The key insight is that it cannot be completed in one sitting and is individual. But how do you create a unified program that is also individual? There are two key approaches that work in tandem:

  • As it cannot be completed in one sitting, you need to build several touch points. It makes no sense to save it all for that infamous town hall meeting. Instead prime your organization with small bits of information even as you start building your new strategy or business approach. Your organization can handle that you in the beginning of a development process writes everyone to let them know, that you have just started on an exciting strategy review. They want you to do that. It is your job. In fact, it is a bit scary when management does not seem to be worried about a strategy gone off tangent. Keep the information flowing in various well planned time slots and touch points to get everyone used to it.
  • Each individual touch point can be made flexible either in time (for example by video or eLearning that can be viewed when there is time) or in content (for example leader led mini workshops), where different types of concerns can be handled related to the what, why and how of the change. The what and why is often about hitting the right amount and type of detail for the specific audience, thus leader led solutions are often powerful. The how is more about helping people pre-plan for the change. What will this mean for their job, what kind of obstacles will come from that and how will they handle it. Research shows significant difference in meeting problems prepared instead of having to think on the spot – both in terms of individual experience but also how everyone else around are affected.

Now all of this is manipulation – and next time you will see quite a lot more of that. But keep in mind that you cannot not manipulate – but you can control whether you manipulate towards something universally desirable and how massively you do it. Ethics are key.

It is great to see all the people contacting with questions, comments and potential projects – you can also do that at brian@behaviouralstrategygroup or +45-23103206.

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