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The Art of Progress Change Management Inc. - The Three C's

The Three C's

Posted on Jul 14, 2013 by Kait Dinunzio

The history of change management isn't a sexy one.  Well, some might argue it is - what with Connors and Kotter and their realizations and the early adopters (GE, AT&T and the like).  I don't think it's necessarily sexy.  I see it as a scramble to become and stay relevant.  Right now, we're relevant, but I don't think people realize the full reason behind WHY we're relevant.  Sure, someone sees the benefits - but when we have CEO's and Executives in large-scale companies continuing to question the value or need, perhaps we're missing something.  

We don't win brownie points when something goes right, that's just business as normal.  Someone wrote a good code, user acceptance testing was done properly.. maybe we had a good web master ... It's all just SN (Situation Normal).  On the other hand, if something goes sideways, it's politics; poorly executed change management. We're SNAFU'd (Situation Normal All F&^$(@ Up).  When we get SNAFU'd, it can come down to a few things.  Generally it comes down to the mismanagement around expectations, or a lack of transparent and effective communication, or deficient planning and execution around transition points.  Worse yet - we could forget to communicate with our Champions and maintain them as such. 

We can go around and around about the quality of change management and the methodologies and the toolkits all day long. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, tools are tools and methodologies are methodologies.  The largest deficiencies with change management as a practice comes down to the "NEED" factor and the people behind the tools and methodologies.  Do our clients even know what they need?  Are we overselling them?  Or perhaps we're underselling them!?  Better yet, we keep regurgitating Kotter and Connors, show off our stakeholder management maps and share our little impact assessments during slide shows at lunch and learns... and we expect a CEO to be enamored by this?? Sure, the science - it screams, "WE'RE CREDIBLE!!!!!"  That should create inclusion and demand ... right? 


My clients don't care about the science they care about the ART!  Simply put, we're not managing the change of change management very well and this is reflected in the astounding ratios of continued failure of business change.  We're spending too much time talking about the science and not enough time showing them how the art looks.  I'd liken it to buying a new vehicle. I definitely care about what's under the hood; not more than the navigation system, moon roof and air-conditioned seats, though!  For me, as a consumer, comfort and value (okay, and looks!!) of a vehicle are far more important.  That's kind of how my clients are with change management.  They don't want to see it - and in fact, when they don't see it is when I'm most successful.  It's almost like being the Wizard of Oz....


Keep your coins - I WANT CHANGE!


I believe that a bit of the root cause to the "relevance" card in the market right now comes down to people who are not PEOPLE people getting PROSCI certified.  While I see no downside to people becoming certified and aware of the practice of change, I do see a problem with someone who has the personality of a sock getting certified and calling themselves a "change manager".  In my opinion, there are three distinct personality traits one should possess in order to be an effective change practitioner:

  • Emotions - if you can't feel empathy or haven't shed a tear since your dog Skip died in 1991.... Yikes.  If you can't or don't care, this role really isn't for you.
  • Creativity - a change practitioner is like the Pied Piper - you have to be able to produce a tune that's different; you have to be able to bring people along the journey. 
  • Effective Communication Skills - Can you breathe through your nose? While speaking? And making eye contact? While taking notes and showing emotion?  Bingo.  We want you!! 

People are messy, and in order to minimize the difficulties, you need to be able to engage them in a meaningful way.  If you're genuinely someone who cares about the people in change, can articulate the vision and share the map on how to get there, people will follow you. I always think of the "Three C's" when developing an engagement strategy or getting started on a new project: 

  1. Competence - Are you competent to be talking about what you're talking about? Prove that you know something about your project.  Take the time to develop a project briefing with your project manager or change lead. Understanding the magnitude of the transition will help you be empathetic to someone's needs during the change.  Sure, your login screen changing would be no big deal to you, but to the Baby Boomer who has only ever used the computer at work and still plays cards with cards - that might be a HUGE change for them.
  2. Credibility - Who are you? How can they trust you?  You're just a "corporate spy" as far as they're concerned.  Make the effort to get to know people on a personal level.  Don't expect them to come to you - if you do, you'll be waiting a long time.  We all love the chase - people are no different in business.  Give them the chase and share the benefits and the vision of the change.  Listen to their concerns and bring them back to your project team to address them.
  3. Contribution - Once you've shown that you're competent and credible, people will invite you to contribute.  Spend time listening (quit talking about your stakeholder maps!!).  Attend as many meetings as you can.  Eat lunch in the cafeteria or lunchroom to hear what people are thinking or feeling.  Be objective.  The change is never about you; don't take it personal when people aren't coming along as fast as you'd like them to.  Use their feedback or cynicism as an opportunity to shift the outcome of your project.

This is all foundational stuff.  I believe that if we take a more artistic view toward our work and take an attitude of continuous learning to improve our own engagement skills, we'll see amazing benefits and growth as a practice.  

Change On!!! 


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