Are you a GPS unit or a traffic cam?

I have an old Ggps free to usePS unit in my car – the kind that needs to have maps downloaded, which I haven’t done for about five years.  Mostly it’s accurate, but on one memorable occasion it wanted me to drive across what is now a pedestrian foot bridge. The voice was getting a little bit testy as I tried to find a way around it.

traffic camOn the other hand, I often look at the traffic reports before I travel to an unfamiliar location. They give me immediate feedback about which routes are preferable given current conditions. I seem to have encountered more than the usual amount of road construction this summer and it has been very useful.

As leaders, one of our important roles is to help project teams understand the traffic conditions. While the team is focused on the vision, goals, and tasks related to a particular change effort, leaders and sponsors need to be aware of the bigger picture.  This means we need to understand what else is going on.

For example, if your campus is anticipating an accreditation visit, searching to fill two senior leadership vacancies, and implementing a technology upgrade, now might not be the time to purchase a different HR information system (HRIS). The timing might have looked good on the HR master plan, but key staff are clearly already involved in other projects.  It’s probably wise to detour that project.

As leaders, we want to be sure are maps are up to date and accurate. We also want to check the current conditions and know where the road blocks might appear.  No matter how often the GPS unit told me to take the foot bridge, it was not going to happen. Sending a project team on that route with that map would be setting them up for failure.  As a leader, I need to steer them in the best direction by knowing how things have changed and what else is going on in the environment.

–Dee Anne Bonebright

Engaged, me?

We saved the hardest for last!  The 5th critical change management action identified by McKinsey &carter-who-me Company that Dee Anne described in her post, To support change – five to-do’s and one don’t, is to ensure that you, the leader, are fully engaged in the change.

In addition to clearly defining accountability and expectations, communicating and over-communicating, providing autonomy, and building that talented team, you also need to dive head first into the change and be a role model for action! Your people need to see you behaving differently before they do. Your actions demonstrate priorities, provide motivation and build confidence that it is ok to make a change. As defined by the MnSCU leadership competencies  in our 2013 blog posts, effective leadership starts with “leading yourself.”

The “P” or “practice” in the  C-P-R tool  I shared earlier this summer, can help you clearly identify the specific behaviors and actions that will increase your influence and demonstrate your full engagement. For each specific change outcome or action desired, a leader can identify the behaviors that they need to practice or demonstrate. The actions need to be visible and repeated over time to make change stick!

Watching you, their leader, try out new ideas and new behaviors will inspire others to take a risk and try something new and unleash the potential of your team and your organization. Give it a try!

Todd Thorsgaard

Form a talented team!

carrying log team“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”  – Helen Keller

Forming a talented team to move change plans into action is critical in driving transformation through an organization. But what should leaders consider when forming talented teams?

According to Michael Marquardt, author of Optimizing the Power of Action Learning, leaders should consider the following criteria and issues when selecting members for a team:

1) Commitment: members must have a commitment to and stake in getting the problem solved or the task completed. The change effort should be one that individuals care about and that needs to be implemented for the well-being of the organization.

2) Knowledge: one or more members should have some knowledge and understanding of the problem. Although expertise may be sought from outside the group, it is advisable for the group to have some knowledge within the team.

3) Power to Implement: ideally persons within the team will have the  power to implement the change. Alternatively, the organization or leader with the power to implement action has assured the group that the strategies proposed by the group will be carried out.

4) Familiarity: one or more members should be familiar with the context in which the change effort resides. Those with familiarity can provide background and depth to the other members. (One caution: individuals who are familiar with the issues may have a more difficult time seeing “outside the box.”)

5) Diversity: team members may be chosen from all different hierarchical levels of the organization, as well as diversity of race, gender, education, etc. Different perspectives enriches the team’s process and decision making.

When you think back to the most talent teams you have formed or have been a part of, what criteria was used for selecting members?

Anita Rios


Failure and success

A key strategy for leading change is to empower others to take initiative to support an organization’s change vision and goals. And one of the most important ways a leader can accomplish this is by creating a climate where it is safe to make mistakes.

As we all know, one of the side effects of innovation is failure. You can’t be part of major change efforts without taking risks, and not all risks work out. How we as leaders deal with failure is critical to creating an environment that fosters innovation.

failure free to useThere’s a new trend among some creative companies – the “Heroic Failure Award.”  This award is given an honored place along with the more typical recognition for success. The Wall Street Journal quoted an executive from one of these companies who believed that “if employees try something that was worth trying and fail, and if they are open about it, and if they learn from that failure, that is a good thing.” (Read the article here.)

A contributor to the Harvard Business Review blog made the case for failure even more strongly in a post on “Why I Hire People Who Fail“:

We don’t just encourage risk taking at our offices: we demand failure. If you’re not failing every now and then, you’re probably not advancing. Mistakes are the predecessors to both innovation and success, so it is important to celebrate mistakes as a central component of any culture.

Most of us have a hard time celebrating failure – our own or others’. This mindset may be holding us back from creating the kind of new and innovative solutions we need to address tomorrow’s challenges.

Can you identify a time when you tried something new, failed, and learned from it?

How do you typically respond to employees or colleagues who have failed?

Dee Anne Bonebright

Energize to act!

If you could double your investment without risk, would you? success-chartSeems like an easy question to answer. Assuming the offer was legal and ethical, I know I would take action and make that investment. According to a 2012 study by McKinsey and Company, ongoing communication doubled the success rate of transformational change. As a leader, you have the opportunity to double the likelihood of successful change in your organization by investing in communication.

We have highlighted the importance of communication in previous Higher EDge posts, including; Communication for buy-in, Communicate, communicate, communicate!, The 8th message, Creating a stakeholder communication plan, and Again? Yes! among others. If you are looking for communication tips and resources I encourage you to revisit a few of them.  The phrase, “eight times, eight ways” weaves through many of our communication posts so I hope you are not surprised that I am sharing the importance of communication again!

Why eight ways you ask? It actually may be overkill but recent work in neuroleadership demonstrates that individuals react differently and take meaning differently from the same message. In fact, Scott Keller and Carolyn Aiken, authors of An Inconvenient Truth About Change Management report that only about 20% of people are energized by the same style or type of message as you are! They describe 5 sources of energy or meaning. Most of us only “hear” one of them.

  1. Societal good
  2. Customer satisfaction
  3. Organizational success
  4. Work team well-being
  5. Personal fulfillment

To energize your stakeholders and move them to action you must first know what is important to each group of stakeholders. Next, leaders need to craft multiple stories to ensure that you connect with the different sources of energy individuals in each stakeholder group resonate with.  Eight times, eight ways is just the beginning.

Communication during the action phase of change helps provide the energy that people need to take accountability and ownership for actually changing their behavior and doing things differently. It also requires energy to continually communicate to multiple stakeholders, to use multiple methods of communication and to apply rigor and discipline to ensure engagement.

Your investment in communication creates the energy your people need to take action during transformational change.

Todd Thorsgaard

Increase ownership for change!

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!  – Peter Senge

Over the last couple decades, I’ve worked with many leadership groups going through small  and large-scale change efforts. In the process, I have also helped them explore their own attitudes towards change.  What is often very clear is that people are always more comfortable with change efforts  if they are involved in designing the change or are responsible for implementing it. It is much more scary to be on the receiving end of change, to have to adapt to changing processes or roles, without having a say in them.

In fact, according to a 2007 benchmarking study on best practices in change management, employee resistance to change is often due to the following factors:

  • Lack of understanding of why the change is happening and “What’s in it for me?” or “WIIFM”
  • Loss of control and ownership of work processes
  • Fear of the future state, including concerns over job security

One method of addressing these issues is to increase employee involvement in the change by recruiting employees to serve on implementation teams and to increase ownership by clearly defining roles, responsibilities, and levels of authority for each member of the team.

As Todd outlined in his “Who’s on first” blog: “Helping your teams discuss and document accountability, decision-rights, and roles allows cross-functional teams to understand each other better and take action.” He cited the RACI  tool, which is a simple matrix that can help  provide structure in clarifying roles, responsibilities and levels of authority.

If you haven’t checked it out yet and you have a complex change project with multiple stakeholders and team members, I’d encourage you to give it a try. It just might help you on the road to increasing ownership for change and reducing resistance.

Anita Rios

To support change – five to-do’s and one don’t

beyond performanceDuring the summer break, our team has been learning more about leading organizational change.  One useful model is from the book Beyond Performance by Keller and Price of McKinsey & Company.  They propose a “5A” set of change stages:

  1. Aspire: where we want to go?
  2. Assess:  how ready are we to go there?
  3. Architect: what do we need to do?
  4. Act: what steps do we need to take?
  5. Advance:  how do we maintain momentum?

This model provides a useful framework to consider large scale change such as MnSCU’s Charting the Future initiatives. While all the steps are important, this month we’ll focus on #4 – taking action. As we’ve looked at change leadership models, they have a variety of ways to describe the initial steps of planning and goal setting. But eventually, they all have a step that talks about actually getting things done. Without strategic attention to this step, none of the others will result in useful outcomes.

In their research on what it means to take action to lead change, McKinsey identified five critical actions and one pitfall that should be avoided in order to lead successful change.

DO:  Assign accountability:  Define roles, responsibilities, and ownership of the change activities.

DO:  Communicate:  Use a wide range of strategies to inform and involve leaders at all levels, and remember to celebrate successes and milestones.

DO:  Empower employees:  Provide the information, resources, and autonomy to allow employees to take initiative toward the change goals.

DO:  Form a talented team:  Develop internal leadership capabilities, and provide enough resources to move the change forward.

DO:  Identify influencers:  Know which senior leaders are responsible for setting and communicating goals, designing initiatives, and providing resources; then make sure they are engaged throughout the change process.

 DON’T:  Over-emphasize process.  Make sure that committees, meetings, and governance support the change; they should not be ends in themselves.

Have you found these steps helpful in your change activities?  Which of these have been most challenging for you?

Dee Anne Bonebright