I post the best change management articles, podcasts and videos each month. Why? Because although our discipline is maturing, we need to share our knowledge and experience with each other so change management becomes a must-have in all organisations. And also because work will be so much more fun if we manage our changes in the best possible way.
This is a collection of my 10 favourite change management articles posted in June 2020, and I hope that they serve as a useful resource for those of you who are interested in this subject.
I don’t obviously see, read or hear all that is out there, so if I am missing either an important source or you have noticed or written something that you think is valuable, please note it in the comment section.
So in no particular order, let’s get started…
1. CHRISTINA GRAVERT: Why Triggering Emotions Won’t Lead to Lasting Behaviour Change
Nudging is an interesting concept – or tool if you like – within change management. Nudging is essentially a way to design the environment to influence the behaviour and decision making of a group or individuals. In this article – published on the excellent BehavioralScientists.org site – Christina Gravert reflects wisely on how to make nudging work in the long run.
Christina is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Copenhagen and the co-founder of Impactually, a behavioural science consultancy.
Christina distinguishes between popular and fun nudges, which may draw attention on YouTube, but often do not have a long-lasting effect on one hand and nudges, which will have the desired long term effect on the other. She writes “Emotions are, by definition, temporary. So is attention. Using activity-mobilizing emotions such as fun, hope, anger, or fear can work exceptionally well to kick-start a new habit, but we still have months or even years of behaviour change ahead of us. What we need is a cocktail of policies—including regulations, incentives, and nudges—that will promote good habits, even when our motivation has died down”.
She mentions one example of how not to do it. In 2009, designers created “Piano Stairs” at the Odenplan subway station in Stockholm. Each step was a piano key that made a sound when it was stepped on. The idea was to make it fun and easy for commuters to pick the healthy option of going up the stairs instead of taking the escalator. And it worked—for a couple of days. I can only imagine how fascinated and then annoyed commuters must have been at this installation. The initial excitement of your very own Tom Hanks-style dance from the movie Big must have quickly given way to the reality of rush hour, as commuters trampled over keys going up and down the stairs. To no surprise, the piano disappeared.
To create lasting behaviour change, we need instead to design choice environments that convert the initial emotional high and focused attention to long-term habits and norms that we will follow without emotional triggers. In her article – and other work – she goes into detail about how to do that.
What I took from this article was that lasting change does not come easy, and even short term gains based on fun nudge-based events do not last long. Nudging is effective if it is designed well – and most gimmicks may not be that.
2. JARRET JACKSON: Ending Racism Will Require Change Management For 300+ Million Americans
Change management is not just something we do in our business life. Change is required everywhere. #BlackLivesMatter is a (very!) important movement, which requires many people to change mindset, biases and behaviour. Now!
Jarret Jackson – the CEO of Magpie Insights – has written an important article about how change management concepts relate to end this racism.
Jarret notes that #BlackLivesMatter began in 2013, and today it is 2020. Could we have done more in that time? The answer is certainly yes but the reason we haven’t may still be getting in the way of real change now.
The article is not about racism or public policy as such; it is about change. Change is about people, and people are complex. Jarret talks about issues such as unconscious resistance and habits which stand in our way of making a change. Such that people are inconsistent. We often say one thing and do another. We lack self-awareness, so we don’t always see our behaviours, let alone how they impact others. And we are influenced by the people around us: We want to belong.
He says that resistance is often unconscious and that is preventing change. People cannot see their resistance. Sadly, racism is also a habit – and one that is unconscious for many.
But Jarret offers optimism. He says that changing the social norm – a key bias we have – to antiracist is possible. But to make it work, it needs to be real and not rhetoric. He offers four different examples of how we can do this and link this to change management.
The article is excellent, and I was happy to read it. The link between changing a society’s bias to change management is as evident as it is insightful but with both not easy at all.
3. NADYA ZHEXEMBAYEVA: 3 Things You’re Getting Wrong About Organizational Change
In this article, posted on Harvard Busines Review, Nadya suggests that we need to flip key assumptions about change on its head to succeed.
Nadya believes that companies need to reinvent themselves every 3.5 years (see her TedTalk about this) as the risk of disruption continues to go up. But the trouble is that although we recognize and may even anticipate the risks, we are not good at adapting to them.
She suggests that there’s something profoundly wrong with some of our underlying assumptions about how change works. Her own experience dealing with clients indicates that many of our change failures come from our three fundamental, ingrained assumption about what works. It’s by flipping these assumptions that we get results.
- From: Follow Best Practices, To: Share Your Failures.
- From: If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It, To: Fix It Anyway
- From: Control Your Assets, To: Share Your Assets
I like articles that challenge our beliefs about what works in change management. I am personally a fan of best practice research as a foundation for change practice, but Nadya challenges an element of that in times of disruption. I took away from the article that we should always consider how much past experience can help us in this particular situation.
4. TIM CREASEY: 5 tips for creating captivating virtual engagements
Tim works for Prosci – one of the leading change management research organisations in the world. It is a must-go-to source of information about what works (and what does not) in change management. Tim is their head of research, and his articles are always worth a read.
In this article, Tim observes that even if your business model hasn’t changed as a result of Covid-19, much of the work of change management professionals must now be done virtually. Team meetings, one-on-one coaching, project kick-offs, working sessions, workshops and training, ideation and brainstorming, impact assessments and more all require digital approaches.
So creating captivating virtual engagements is vital because the virtual world is here to stay.
Tim shares his five key lessons:
- Pivot around purpose. In the face of crisis, we generally have two options: chaotically flailing or pivoting. The difference is knowing who you are and being grounded in your purpose
- Create a virtual engagement language. Any time we interact with someone, we need pathways to exchange ideas and information. That’s what language is. Virtual engagement needs these pathways too.
- Master virtual facilitation. Facilitating virtually is a different experience that requires far more preparation and intentionality. Because you lose some of the flexibility you had when you occupied the same room with people, you must be mindful of the issues that arise and how you will address them.
- Avoid boredom and distraction. In a virtual engagement, boredom and distraction are your biggest enemies. We established a rule of thumb that we try to follow in all virtual settings: the learner needs to do something other than listening and watching every five to six minutes.
- Embrace what is uniquely virtual. What can you do in this virtual environment that you couldn’t have done otherwise, and how will you amplify those actions?
As a bonus, I will highlight Ask Agger (from Workz) and Malene Kingo’s (from LEO Pharma) article about the ‘Five Overlooked Benefits of a Virtual Leadership Summit‘. They discuss in detail some of the benefits of virtual meetings.
I like these kinds of articles because creating Awareness and Desire for a change is always hard, but to do it in a virtual environment is extra tricky. But that is our reality. How to do it in the best way is crucial for us to know.
5. CHRIS HAVRILLA: Change your mindset about change
Chris is VP at HR Technology and Solution Provider Strategy at Deloitte Consulting. Her article is specifically addressing new HR software by HR departments. In her article, she writes that the inspiration for Deloitte’s High-Impact Technology Strategy research was less about technology and more about solving a puzzle. Organizations spend big money on their HR technology and expect it to drive change and transform the HR function, the organization, and the overall workforce. But why didn’t they realize the promise, outcomes, or value from their digital transformation? Why didn’t change occur? The answer is that their approach is not right.
Chris explains that traditional change management focuses on training people in using new or updated technology. Instead, they should be taking the leap of training people how to work differently given the new tools.
Chris argues that HR departments tend to fall in love with technology and the thought of a cool “easy” button for change. While difficult to execute, systemic change—changing structures, work, behaviours—leads to progress. Technology can be a catalyst for change, and she suggests that you should start with knowing your:
- Strategy: The what and the why of this journey (business and talent outcomes)
- People: The who (all members of the organization, not just HR)
- Data: What to capture (and what not to capture)
- Information: What to provide (and what not to provide)
- Processes: The how of “the work” (beyond job architecture) and the how of the journey (experience)
Deloitte has a lot of useful HR resources and research. For example, I will encourage you to download and read the ‘2020 Human Capital Trends report‘. It is always worth a read.
Audra Proctor is Director and Head of learning and Development at Changefirst. She has written an excellent article about Agile Change Management. She argues that before Covid-19, agile was as more of an ambition but that it now has become a necessity for change teams.
Traditional approaches to Change Management need to be completely reconsidered with the advent of agile according to Audra. In a post COVID world – with social distancing, increasingly remote teams and a complete inability to consistently get Change Management “boots on the ground – the additional “rider” is that you also need to be able to deliver this new model digitally. To respond to a raft of new and different challenges and continue to remain relevant and successful in your Change Management efforts.
She identifies four drivers.
- Need to evolve faster than ever. Traditional Change Management is slowing things down, and we need to engage more people faster and build flexible plans.
- Impact of digital transformation. People adoption is more critical than ever, and we need to provide up-front change management and integrate with agile project plans.
- Availability & transparency of data. Change Management data needs to be more readily available, which requires better change management tools and dashboards as well as we need to gather and distribute people data across the organisation.
- Competition for Agile, capable talent. Change Management needs to be everyone’s business and change is no longer the responsibility of the ‘expert few’ and change processes, tool and learning need to scale to suit critical roles.
I like this article because it recognises that Agile is an important aspect for change management to embrace and because it provides – via links – definitions of Agile Change Management, identify critical drives and suggest solutions to each of them. There are some excellent infographics you can download here.
This is an excellent podcast by McKinsey. In it, Simon London speaks with Bill Schaninger and Alexander DiLeonardo – both McKinsey partners – about organisational change. They state that to be successful with organisational change, you not only need to conceptualise and plan at the organisational level, but you’ve got to approach people at the level of individuals. Although that requires a lot of work, it is a good forcing mechanism to get very clear on what you’re trying to do – how their individual day-to-day work will be different. In the past, this was close to impossible, but with technology, that is now something we can do. How? Well, listen to the podcast to get some concrete ideas for this.
I enjoyed this podcast for many reasons. One of them is that it speaks to a key assumption in change management, which is that organisations don’t change, people change and that if we are going to be successful, we must get all the way down to the individual level however hard that is.
8. DR. LISA LANG: Theory of Constraints Approach to Overcome Resistance to Change – the Change Management Matrix
You may have heard many times that people don’t like to change. That it is somehow part of our DNA to resist change. Or a System 1 vs System 2 thing. That resistance is a natural reaction to change. Dr Lisa Lang has posted a video on Theory of Constraints (TOC) and its approach to resistance to change. Theory of Constraints is a well-established concept and a methodology for identifying the most critical constraint that stands in the way of achieving a goal and then systematically improving that constraint until it no longer stands in the way.
This 6-minute video explains why people DON’T resist change and a simple Theory of Constraints (TOC) change management tool you can use to make change easier. The tool is called the Change Management Matrix, and it’s based on the TOC Thinking Process tool called the cloud or the conflict resolution cloud.
You can read more about what Theory of Constraints is here
9. SIOBHAN McHALE: Culture Lies and Lessons: The Truth About Culture Change & How to Make it Happen,
Siobhan McHale is the author of “The Insider’s Guide to Culture Change”, in which she describes ten myths about organisational culture. You can see an overview of them here
In this video she talks about two myths; 1) Myth 1: It’s HR’s role to fix the culture and 2) Myth 2: Culture = Values & Behaviours
She introduces The Culture MAPP, which is a workplace culture model
- Mental Maps – what people think and feel
- Actions – what people do
- Processes – reinforcing mechanisms
- Patterns – ways of relating
It is a great video, where she introduces culture and some of the common myths and misunderstandings about culture. Well worth watching.
10. PANORAMA CONSULTING: The Role of Organizational Change Management During COVID-19,
During these unpredictable times, many organizations are finding the need to reinvent their strategies and how they work. In light of this, Panorama Consulting Group recorded a webinar featuring their organizational change management experts. They discuss change management tips for keeping employees optimistic and productive amid significant organizational and global changes.