September: The 14 best Change Management articles, podcasts, and videos

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Covid-19 is still affecting our lives. In some countries, the first wave is still the main challenge. In other places – Europe in particular – the second wave of lockdowns are now affecting us. This is the biggest change I have ever experienced. It came suddenly, it is affecting all, and it completely changes how we do work. There has never been a time in history where effective change management can make a difference. To me, this is meaningful work we are doing.

Many of this month’s articles focus on the effects of Covid-19 and New Ways of Working; how do employees feel like working from home, how to reignite purpose, how to deliver training in the future, how to embrace agility in the future etc. But that is not the only challenge we face. How we do change management in this new environment is also completely changing.

Let me know of resources you have found interesting in September. Or if you have written anything, we all should know about. I’d love to hear about it. As always, comments and reflects are welcome.

So in no particular order, let’s get started…

ARTICLES:

1. DAVID WILKINSON. Is the change curve a myth?

You probably know the change curve. You may also know that it was developed in a completely different context – namely by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969-1970 for individual grief. The change curve has since been used in corporate settings and in times of change. Especially the curve developed by Schneider & Goldwasser in 1998. The question is then, is the change curve real? That is the question David Wilkinson is reflecting upon in his article in the Oxford Review.

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David looks at several validated research studies and papers and argues that the change curve is no myth. For example, the paper published entitled “The Death Valley of Change” found that 13 of 15 previous studies had found valid evidence for the existence of all the elements of the change curve. Other studies conclude the same.

However, seeing that the curve is no myth, is a drop in performance also unavoidable then? David argues that the drop comes from unlearning old habits. Hence, it is difficult to avoid in any time of change.

I think it is essential that we validate our models. Change management is notorious non-evidence-based. So, any input to the debate is welcome. Thanks, David.

2. BENJAMIN HARDY. Take ownership of your future self

Change managers can learn a lot from literature about individual change. We are, after all, changing many individuals when we do change management. So how can we change individuals? This article looks at our future self and how we can imaging that and uses as a catalyst for change. I found it inspiring for change practice in general.

The author, Benjamin Hardy, starts by asking if you are the same person as you were 10 years ago? Most people say no. But when it comes to the future, most of us find it more difficult seeing the potential for change in the future. Nevertheless, change is inevitable. But it’s not out of your control. He provides three strategies to help you become your desired future self.

Step 1: Distinguish Your Former, Current, and Future Selves. We tend to cling to our current identities and speak in incredibly definitive terms about who we are now, i.e., “I’m an introvert,” “I’m not good with people,” etc. But, your present self is not equivalent to your future self. When you assume a label about yourself, you stop seeing alternatives. Instead of labelling yourself and focusing on who you are today, recognize how much you’ve grown and changed from your former self.

Step 2: Imaging your desired future self. It’s much easier to default to the present than to imagine a different future. But if you don’t take the time to imagine who you want to be, then you’ll reactively become whatever life drives you towards. However, in order to shape your future self, you need a clear goal to shape the process.

Step 3: Change your identity narrative. Your identity narrative is the story you tell about yourself: past, present, and future. Acknowledge that your future self is, in fact, a different person than who you are today. You’re not your future self yet, but that’s where you’re going.

This short recap does not do the article justice. I really recommend to go read it. Benjamin outlines a clear path to becoming the best version of who you want to be.

3. MARC BERMAN, JENNY DAVIS-PECCOUD & JOHN HAZAN. Giving people hope by reigniting your company purpose

Now more than ever is a time to give hope to employees and customers. How? Companies have rediscovered the power of uniting behind a common purpose. Five people from Bain & Co have written about the importance of a common corporate purpose.

Bain & Co has surveyed 1,000 global employees and found that being connected to a strong company purpose helps in these times. I believe it will make change management more effective as well.

The authors propose four steps to defining a such statement.

  1. Consider what has brought your company together during the pandemic
  2. Formulate your purpose statement in a way that encapsulates what the company, its employees, its customers and its wider community want to support and achieve over the coming years
  3. Communicate the new purpose statement across the company in a way that engages employees’ heads and their hearts.
  4. Adapt the statement in a way that accommodate the company’s processes and business reality.

Among employees whose satisfaction with their company increased through the pandemic, 86% said that their employer has a purpose that its people are passionate about and find meaningful.

So, if you haven’t already defined a strong purpose for your organisation, now is the time to get started. 

4. AMII BARNARD-BAHNDon’t shoot the messenger: How to deliver bad news without being hated

Sometimes we must communicate bad news. That’s part of our job description. But delivering bad news is never nice. Reading this article, it may get a little easier. Amii Barnard-Bahn – a top executive coach, addresses the issue of delivering bad news. 

Amii provides her audience with 5 pieces of advice when you have to deliver bad news.

  1. Provide an advance warning to psychologically prepare your audience. Sometimes just saying “I have some bad news” is enough warning. Sometimes you need more.
  2. Rehearse your delivery. If you are better prepared means you are more present.
  3. Be fully present, and do it face to face. Email is just never the right way to do it.
  4. Express your empathy and convey benevolent intent. Good intentions and empathy goes a long way. 
  5. Make sure to give an adequate explanation to your critique. Don’t justify – just explain. 
  6. Avoid the temptation to reframe bad news as a net positive. People see through that.

Give it a try next time you deliver bad news, and let me know how it goes.

5. JACQUI RIGBY & LINZY PERRY. Why should business agility matter to your organisation?

In the past six months, businesses have been forced to set aside their usual strategic plans and respond to the rapid changes in society. They have demonstrated significant business agility.

This article is not about software development or tech teams using Scrum. Instead it is about business agility and joining the dots across the organisation from process and behaviours, to structure, relationships and leadership. It has much broader cultural implications for leading and operating a business.

But why do business agility matter? Jacqui Rigby and Linzy Perry both have a background in Change Management answer this through a number of questions.

Is your business truly oriented around the customer? It might be worth considering if your organisation could make customer feedback available to everyone. Reviewing these insights together builds a shared understanding of what matters

Is your business prepared to manage the current uncertainty as well as the next curve ball? Organisations need to build capability and capacity to respond and adapt quickly, to place smaller bets on smaller pieces of work, search out good feedback and move on when changes don’t hit the mark.

Is your business an engaging place to work? Employees who enjoy the work they do, and feel aligned to the purpose of their organisation, leaders and peers, will be more loyal, productive, innovative and positive.

As for everything else, there is no ‘one size fits all’. However, a more agile business approach is beneficial in times of change. 

Agile used to be a way of working mainly in IT. Now agile is as much about mindset, culture and a general way of working. This impacts in narrow terms how we help on projects but more importantly in the context we operate. Change management simply looks different in an agile culture.

6. JOE FOLKMAN. Surveys shows how employees really feel about working from home

This article I by Joe Folkman from ZengerFolkman – one of the people who inspire me the most. What I like about Joe is that he let numbers speak and he follows the evidence. So rare and so important in the context of management and leadership.

The article is about employees’ level of satisfaction when working from home. As you can see from the chart below, there is a strong corelation between satisfaction with working from home and satisfaction with our manager. Not surprising but important.

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Based on his research, Joe concludes the following:

  1. The majority of respondents like working from home. Despite the fact that there has been concerns about the level of productivity, Joe remains optimistic about remote working.
  2. The engagement of those working from home has not significantly declined.
  3. A secure positive connection with a supervisor is among the most essential factors in terms of satisfaction and engagement when working from home.
  4. Working from home makes males feel more overwhelmed than females. Joe proposes that men are doing more household than they are used to, which causes them to feel more overwhelmed than usually. 

I felt really optimistic after having read this article. People are overall satisfied with working from home. Thank you for a great article, Joe. 

7. JEREMY BAILENSON. Is VR the Future of Corporate Training?

Covid-19 changes so many things for change managers. Take training as an example. Not only has agile made big-scale class-room training obsolete but on top of that Covid-19 has made them impossible. Maybe Virtual Reality (VR) is the answer?

We have used VR for training of soldiers, surgeons, and astronauts for many years. But VR has so far been exclusive for high-stakes lines of work. Today, the cost to deploy VR has taken a drop, which makes it accessible to new industries. In this article, Jeremy Bailenson explains in this article published in Harvard Business Review, how organisations can use VR for training of employees.

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Jeremy is the founding director of Virtual Human Interaction Lab, and the co-founder of Strivr, a virtual reality immersive learning platform provider. In other words, he knows a lot about VR. He suggests the use of VR for 3 different kinds of employee training: 1) learning physical procedures, 2) learning conversational “soft skills” and 3) learning a corporate culture.

VR was beginning to catch on before Covid-19, but the global pandemic and the push to remote work is fast-tracking the need for such tools. To support his claim and exemplify the use of VR, he provides us with three cases of organizations, that have used VR for employee training.

I am a big fan of VR (and have just ordered oculus quest 2, which I should receive on October 13 – so excited). Read the article and let me know what you think. Is VR going to be future within corporate training?

8. DAVID GROSSMAN. 8 Steps to active listening

Effective communication is not only about what you are saying. It is at least as important to be a good listener. But what does that mean? It means that you must mast the active listening style. Expert in communication, David Grossman, highlights the importance of active listening in this article.

Active listening is a sign of value to your employees, and it generates engagement and positive relationships in an organisation.

He provides us with eight steps to enhance your skills as an active listener:

  1. Approach each dialogue with the goal to learn something.
  2. Stop talking and focus closely on the speaker.
  3. Open and guide the conversation.
  4. Drill down to the details.
  5. Summarise what you hear and ask questions to check your understanding.
  6. Encourage positive feedback.
  7. Listen for total meaning.
  8. Pay attention to your responses.

I am a better speaker than a listener. But I know the value of good listening skills, and I would like to be better. This article gave me some good advice, which is why I highlight it here. Being able to listen require us to utilise the most effective means of communication: face-2-face. Maybe we should put listening skills as a core skill for change managers?

9. KAREN BALL. Why Strategic Alignment is Essential to Enterprise Change Planning?

It is difficult to go from project-based change management to change management as a capability. Why? Because, as Karen Ball from Prosci writes in this article, you now need to align your efforts with the organisational objectives. And that is very different from aligning them with your project’s business plan.

Karen has more than 30 years of experience and has done this many times before. Her advice is, therefore, valuable. She proposes 6 steps to align your change management capability with your organisational objectives.

  1. Define your ambition. Have you defined your future desired state? If your change leaders, leadership and others are misaligned, your efforts will be too.
  2. Gauge your maturity. Measuring your precise progress and maturity in each of these important areas is the only way to accurately inform your planning.
  3. Understand the Prosci ECM Strategy Map. This is the organising framework for building an effective enterprise change management (ECM) strategy.
  4. Map out your organisation’s unique approach. The result is a detailed and targeted planning document, which you can follow well into the future and check your progress along the way.
  5. Identify actions. What steps will you take in the short term? Who will execute what and when?
  6. Plan your communications. Strategic alignment clarifies the importance of communicating about change management and enterprise change management within your organisation and helps you develop key messages, talking points, and elevator speeches to share with others.
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These steps will enable you and your organisation to move forward with confidence in times of change. In light of COVID-19, this is more important than ever. 

10. MORTEN KAMP ANDERSEN. CM is facing two new challenges due to Covid-19

Change Management practitioners have a lot on their plate. Why? Because we now face two new challenges due to Covid-19; ensuring a safe move to the “new normal” and changing how we do Change Management. In this article, I describe how both will affect us and why they matter. 

1.“Moving back”: Look beyond the urgency to provide meaningful answers. Returning to the workplace (RTW) might feel like stepping into a new world. Changes will impact every aspect of our work. One of the most pressing needs is safety for all. RTW has brought with it a myriad of policies, protocols, contingency plans; you name it. But how or if people adopt these changes is what really matters. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for getting people back in the office. The “RTW hierarchy” from Prosci shows the complexity of the task.

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2.“Moving on”: Master the new ways of doing Change Management. We must as CM practitioners realise that Covid-19 is a before-and-after moment in the history of the discipline itself. In plain terms, we cannot afford to do CM the way we did it a year ago. Remote work involves significant adjustments to how we do CM. Kick-off meetings, workshops, coaching, assessments, etc…, must switch to new formats. How well CM can create virtual engagement will condition its ability to lead the change in the new reality .

Leaders must step up their involvement with the change, and sponsors must raise their game. This means finding ways to be equally or more visible despite operating partly from a distance. The same goes for managers in charge of cascading the change to frontline employees. CLARC roles must now be performed in a volatile environment that significantly limits face-to-face interactions. It is more difficult to spot resistance in such conditions.

I think these two topics will be important for all of us for the foreseeable future. Let’s tackle them together. 

11. DARRELL RIGBY, SARAH ELK & STEVE BEREZ. Start stopping faster.

What can today’s business leaders learn from the cheetahs? Of course, their top speed is an impressive measure. Nevertheless, the three Bain & Company partners, Darrell, Sarah and Steve suggest we can learn most from the cheetahs’ agile ability to stop and turn incredibly fast.

In the executive hunt for innovation, we tend to accelerate the pursuit of new ideas. However, the three authors argue that we are equally bad at stopping those innovations – even though we know they probably won’t succeed. This is an expensive way of doing business.

Therefore, they propose three ways to make your organisation more agile.

  1. Make more decisions reversible. In doing so, you ensure that a company won’t have to live with bad consequences for very long. It thwarts risk aversion and accelerates experimentation.
  2. Make work more visible. Increasing visibility is good for everyone. It helps senior executives uncover valuable initiatives, recognise the people pushing them, and accelerate their progress. 
  3. Overpower fear. Astute leaders realise that fearful workers will cling to the current work no matter how unproductive. They can do several things to overcome that fear. E.g. reduce the cost of stopping projects, reward those employees taking prudent risks etc. 

A would really recommend you to read the article if this has caught your attention. They provide us with applicable tools and good examples as to how you can implement these three suggestions. 

12. MICHAEL HALLSWORTH & ELSPETH KIRKMAN. The Future of Behavioral Insights Demands Human-Centered Design.

Behavioural insight – or nudging – is popular and has been for many years now. And with some success as well. But if you take a look around, you may notice, that governments still rely on economists for their core policy decisions. Every day, people experience services that are far from easy, attractive, social, or timely. So, how can design thinking become key in structural and political change?

That is the question Michael Hallsworth and Elspeth Kirkman are trying to answer in this article. It’s a great article, and their main arguments for why the public sector should apply a human-centred approach are:

  1. Human-centred design focuses on exploring people’s needs and goals, rather than starting from a target behaviour. The goal for behavioural insights is to pay more attention to people’s needs while also using its tools to understand the strategies people are using to try to fulfil these needs.
  2. Human-centred design places greater emphasis on people’s own interpretations of their beliefs, feelings, and behaviours. We think there is room to give more weight to how people view their own experience, and to broaden out from the focus on revealed behaviour.
  3. Human-centered design encourages active participation from users (and staff members). Some applications of Behavioral Insights disrupts the automatic system and engage people’s reflective system.
  4. Behavioural insights can spark a wider engagement. 

I believe that nudging and behavioural insights have oversold and underdelivered in the past. But that should not take away from the fact that it has enormous potential. Companies and the public sector, in particular, should systematically embrace it more. This is a good article which made me reflect, which is always a good thing. 

PODCASTS:

13. WHAT MONKEYS DO: Let go of control – Do yoga for the mind w/Aisling and Trish Leonard-Curtin

Psychological flexibility is key to change. And a crucial part of psychological flexibility is how to deal with your emotions. Know that you are not responsible for your emotions. But you are responsible for the way you choose to react to them. In this episode of What Monkeys Do, Trish and Aisling Leonard-Curtin will teach us how to let go of control and accept our unwanted emotions. Essentially, how to become more psychologically flexible.  

Being present, making meaningful towards-moves and accepting our emotions is essentially yoga for the mind; They help us become more flexibile. Psychologically flexible. Aisling and Trish are experienced therapists and have written the excellent book “The Power of Small”. They will explain how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help us move forward.

They talk about

  1. Why you should stop trying to control what is in fact out of your control 
  2. The power of small. Leave your comfort zone once a day. Just don’t go too far. Instead, move into your Self-care zone
  3. How to accept your unwanted thoughts and emotions – don’t blame yourself for having them
  4. How to commit to the present and the Life Worth Fighting For

VIDEOS:

14. AUDRA PROCTOR. How to successfully map your Change Management activity to an Agile approach

Agile is a key new concept within Change Management. But how do you take a more agile approach to CM in your organisation? Audra Proctor, CEO of Changefirst, outlines how you should adjust your CM to fit into a more agile environment. 

I think the more we can discuss and become wiser about how to do change management in an agile environment the better. So, thanks for the contribution Audra.

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