Category: Change Management


How to be a Boss without being Bossy – Part 1

We are all leaders in one respect or another.  In business, we lead firms, divisions, and projects.  In our professional growth and personal branding, we speak at conferences, write white papers and post blogs.  In our personal lives, we are moms and dads, we serve on boards, and we lead community groups.

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Finally an explanation of Transformation that I can relate to

Recently a client told us that their organization spends an excessive amount of time ‘navel gazing’ in absolute fascination of their own internal structures, processes and, let’s face it, silos. This fascination can’t help but influence the type of information that they create in order to conduct their business and share information with their external world.

When asked what they should be doing differently, they replied that they need to stop ‘navel gazing’, and start providing the information that clients and/or those external to the organization are looking for.

Finally, an explanation of transformation that I can relate to.

Assuming this to be true, isn’t it time the whole of the Government of Canada started thinking and acting like the one big team that they really are? They are one team tasked with providing information and services to Canadians. The average Canadian isn’t very interested in how the service is delivered, so long as the service meets their needs.

The optimist in me hears the distant sound of silo walls coming crashing down, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Remember that we generally don’t play well together and that many organizations are actively resisting any suggestion that may result in their silo walls being lowered, let alone removed entirely.

The realist in me only has to attend departmental meetings currently being held to increase collaboration and build partnerships. Without fail these meetings turn into an opportunity for functional managers to resist all proposed changes and further cement the mortar on their own silo walls.  The actions and outcomes don’t even remotely resemble the original intent of the meeting.  So much for us all acting like one big team!

What this tells me is that people don’t really consider themselves to be one big team.  It further tells me that TBS could be doing a better job at building awareness and sponsorship for the GC transformation.  Information does not travel on its own, it must be carried forth by human beings in order to be heard.

What it also tells me is that we are not effectively translating the messages coming from TBS into our own operational or service reality.  We hear the messages, yet continue to conduct business as usual (i.e. navel gazing) and will do so until a large force acts upon us and sends us into another direction. The laws of physics are at play here.  The major problem with this approach is the large impact that it has on staff, emotionally, physically, and professionally.

Here’s my wish list for a better transformation world:

1. That TBS would create a powerful sponsorship / leadership coalition, comprised of representatives from all departments, and arm them with the information and authority to guide and enable the transformation. This powerful coalition could help us all to feel and act more like one big team.

2. That departmental leaders would embrace consolidation and centralization, and seek more information from TBS, SSC, etc to guide their departmental strategic planning efforts, even (and especially!) if it challenges their current mandate. This strategic alignment would save time and effort on misaligned priorities, and deliver internal efficiencies in short order.

3. That departmental leaders would embrace collaboration and innovation, and start partnering with one another in a more meaningful way to find new and creative solutions, even (and especially!) if they come from outside of their silo walls. This collective ownership of true collaboration would spread throughout departments and deliver solutions that actually exceed expectations.

4. That departmental leaders would embrace effective communication, and start driving messages down to their functional management teams for translation and alignment with ongoing activities. This shared management responsibility for transformation would save time and effort on project delays, and also deliver internal efficiencies.

5. That departmental leaders would embrace change management, with their actions instead of just their words, and start weighing the human factor in their decision-making. This compassion and engagement of staff would increase morale, improve productivity and build teams ready and able to deliver on the transformation objectives.

We all know this is not business as usual, so the faster we all stop behaving in the ways of the past, and start building the bridges for tomorrow, the more successful the Government of Canada’s transformation will be for all of us.

Three Key Ingredients for Achieving Horizontal Collaboration

The key to effective horizontal collaboration may only be found by first looking vertical. For years I have tried to see things differently, and focus less on the vertical reporting structures (that were all the rage in the private sector) because clients have simply been asking more about horizontal collaboration.  But can you have strong horizontal collaboration without first having strong vertical alignment?  The answer is no, particularly if you are driven to have more factual, evidence-based information.

1. Vertical Alignment

Vertical alignment is the state of having all levels in an organization focused on the same priorities. It is achieved through the ongoing review and validation of detailed information across Staff, Team Leads, Chief/Managers, and Directors. Once validated, this information is then ready for sharing with senior management and horizontal partners.

People are frustrated about their inability to get the facts rights (and the right facts), resulting in the cry from all leaders in government to deliver more factual, evidence-based information.  A noble cry for sure, but how does one go about getting more of this type of information?  The answer lies in dashboards.

2. Dashboard Reporting

At the centre of my new (and old at the same time) discovery lies the dashboard report.  Lots of government departments are embracing the idea of a dashboard, and if created and implemented well, it serves as the impetus for strengthening your vertical alignment.

It can focus all individuals within a functional work team on the same priorities.  This same exercise can be repeated in all functional work teams across an organization.  When the buzz around certain priorities gets loud enough (goes viral), momentum can’t help but kick in. How does one go about creating buzz?  The answer lies in communication frameworks.

3. Communication Framework

A well designed dashboard report is definitely important.  It then must be anchored within a communication framework to ensure the right information is being reviewed by the right people at the right time (on an ongoing and consistent basis). Only then can it move mountains.  This is not pie in the sky thinking, I’ve seen this happen many times in my thirteen years implementing them in the private sector.

 The quest for meaningful horizontal collaboration lies in first achieving and implementing three things:  vertical alignment, dashboard reporting, and communication frameworks.  This is the straightest path available for gathering the factual, evidence-based information required for sharing effective information with senior management and horizontal partners.

The news is good here. The path is straight. The path is well trodden. For those who choose the path, success is right around the corner. 

 

Footnotes on Communication Frameworks:

How do they work?

Just think of the letter V – it starts at the top, dips down to the bottom, and then comes back up.  A Communication Framework works through the chain of command in the same V shape.  Strategic priorities are defined by Senior Management and they are then translated down through the chain of command.  And in return, operational performance results based on those priorities are reported back up again.  Everyone along the way is providing the right people the right information at the right time.

Why is it called a Communication Framework?

The process of leveraging the chain of command (described above) serves to validate information. Armed with the right facts, people will communicate more effectively and more timely information. Over time, people will develop better communication habits enabling them to more consistently meet their organization’s communication needs.

Change Management, Transformation, Consolidation – Where do we go from here?

Over the past three years, I must confess that I have been confused by the terms change management, transformation, and consolidation.   And lately, I have found myself ‘finding and replacing’ these terms in documents in a rather random and interchangeable manner.  They are obviously very distinct terms and processes, as evidenced by the definitions presented below:

  • Change Management is a set of tools and techniques for managing the people side of change.  It is also the principle that must underpin all major projects and initiatives that impact people.
  • Transformation is a process of radical change that takes an organization in a new direction.  It implies a basic change of character that will have little or no resemblance with the past configuration or structure.
  • Consolidation is a process of combining two or more organizations through purchase, merger, or ownership transfer to form a new organization.  It involves the combining of assets, equities, liabilities and operating accounts into one financial statement.

The difference in their definitions is significant, so why all the confusion?

I believe the answer lies in our history and proven track record as task masters.  I don’t think we spend a lot of time considering their definitions.  When presented with a new challenge or term, we simply get busy assigning tasks and start working on deliverables.  After all, definitions are secondary when we are on such tight timelines to show results.

I have seen a fairly technical approach being applied to the way departments are approaching the new GC direction as a whole.  After all, this task-based recipe has delivered results in the past, so why wouldn’t it work in the present environment?

The present environment is not business as usual.  The present environment will not respond to recipes from the past. 

In fact, many change management practitioners claim that 20% of a change implementation is technical, and 80% is tactical.  So any organization approaching their change management, transformation, or consolidation efforts in a technical manner are just getting started, as 80% of the work still lies ahead.

Note: Technical refers to the development of plans, objectives, tasks, deliverables; Tactical refers to the implementation of the technical plans through engaging people, changing behaviours, managing resistance, communicating effectively.

I believe that leaders throughout the Government of Canada right now are beginning to realize this reality, but are unsure of what to do to achieve the other 80%.

Here’s some ideas:

1. Embrace that change management, transformation, and consolidation are big initiatives. They involve an intricate web of process, technology, and people changes that require enterprise-wide approaches.

    • Pick your leaders carefully, it’s directly correlated to an initiative’s success
    • Do not assign critical responsibilities to already over-tasked staff,  dedicate the resources required
    • Start accepting that trade-offs are a necessary part of the process (i.e. lower service levels, extensions on other initiatives, etc.)

2. Accept that people cannot even begin to think in terms of changing, transforming, or consolidating services until they first understand the process of changing, transforming or consolidating themselves and their teams.

  • Place organizational end state decisions as the highest priority
  • Do not require people to work in uncertain conditions for extended periods of time
  • Stop under-estimating the importance of defining where people will ‘live’ (it’s a basic need in their Hierarchy of Needs)

3. Get real about progress made to-date, and commit to achieving the other 80% on a go-forward basis.

  • Commit to adapting the overall approach, it’s never too late
  • Build a powerful coalition consisting of both tactical and technical experts
  • Accept ideas that may not fit with past practices, remember it’s not business as usual

Throughout the ages, top management teams have been challenged by the implementation of complex changes in their organizations.  This is hard stuff, not to be underestimated. The ultimate test for all teams has always been their ability to be agile and adaptive throughout the change process.

The recipe for success is not fixed, and differs from one organization to the next. However, it has always contained a balanced combination of technical and tactical ingredients. It is encumbent on all of us to find that balance, and deliver change, transformation and consolidation implementations that not only achieve their intended results, but do so in a manner that considers the people in the process.

After all,  change is not accomplished by an organization, it’s accomplished by individuals.

The Staff Perspective: Top 5 Challenges associated with Transformation

I’ve always been fascinated by the complex machinery of large organizations.  And I don’t think organizations get any more complex than large government departments.  If that isn’t enough, these complex large government departments are now implementing large scale transformation agendas, which include new organizational models, major program changes, and new service models all contained within the same initiative.  Let’s just say that my levels of fascination have hit new heights.

All across the country, government departments of all sizes and mandates are forging ahead with their transformation agendas fueled by sheer determination and a massive commitment to deliver on all fronts.  Now that they are well entrenched in their detailed planning and implementations, many common challenges are being identified. Let’s check in and see how we’re doing so far, from the staff perspective.

Here are 5 of the most common challenges that we have come across:

1. Expected outcomes are defined at senior levels, and are not always well understood by those being asked to implement them.

  • Staff are asking for less concept and more concrete information that will allow them to better visualize the organization (and their role) in the future or end state.
  • Possible Solutions:
    • Define the organizational end states as early in the change process as possible
    • Describe characteristics of the end state in terms that people can relate to
    • Communicate to staff in plain language that is easily understood
    • Present more opportunities for open forums where staff can ask questions

2. Trade-offs are not being accepted as a necessary part of the process.

  • Workloads are continually increasing (with no end in sight), yet organizations still expect their staff to deliver high levels of service excellence and/or to continue to meet an ever increasing number of deliverables.
  • Possible Solutions:
    • If new priorities arise and work must be added, management should strive to understand their staff’s current work capacity, and when required, identify other work that can be removed or delayed.
      • Is the new work required? (or nice to have?)
      • Is the new work a higher priority than other work already assigned?
      • Can some work be extended in its timelines?
      • Can some administrative work be delayed or eliminated?
      • Can certain meeting participation be reduced or eliminated?
      • Can any work deliverables be delayed or halted entirely?

3. Client expectations are not being re-set or re-communicated during transitional times.

  • Organizations are not sharing with clients the short-term impacts of the change on their services and/or relationships, requiring staff to bear the burden of sheltering the client from any and all impacts.
  • Possible Solutions:
    • Clients should be engaged early in the change process and made aware of the pending changes. There should be an open discussion around impacts and potential changes to service levels during the transitional times.  Clients should be provided a contact person in the event that extraordinary impacts are felt, or should they require additional assistance at any time.

4. Staff engagement is a popular term, but one that is not well understood or implemented in practice.

  • Staff engagement is not an event (e.g. annual employee survey), rather a systematic approach to prioritizing, planning, implementing, and following through on the involvement of staff in the achievement of an organization’s objectives.  (Note: Low morale is a clear indicator that it is not going well.)
  • Possible Solutions:
    • Staff engagement should be a measured indicator in the performance measurement framework within every organization. It should have its own unique section on every dashboard in every organization.  It should be the responsibility of every manager at every level.  Some indicators could include (in addition to annual survey results):
      • # of regularly held 1×1 meetings (or bi-lats)
      • # of regularly held team meetings
      • # of employee recognition events
      • # of ADM/DM Open Forums (two way meetings)
      • # of improvement ideas submitted
      • # of hits on the “tell us what you think” button
      • # of page visits (i.e. news, highlights, etc.)

5. The role of internal communications is massive during times of change, yet it is approached in an ad-hoc and reactive manner.

  • Everyone says that internal communications is a top priority throughout times of change, yet it is seldom integrated into the transformation approach or structure, rendering it too late to the party to be truly effective.
  • Possible Solutions:
    • Assign dedicated internal communications resources directly to change initiatives, starting in the early planning stages
    • Create horizontal teams of cross-functional experts in the areas of transformation oversight, change management, project management, and internal communications
    • Create centres of expertise for critical competencies related to change management, i.e. internal communications, project management, change management to ensure the expertise is available to better structure these approaches and activities

Perhaps the largest lessons being learned so far relate to the gap that exists between what we say and what we do.  In order to be more successful in this next phase of transformation, it would be prudent for us to better bridge that gap.  Sure there are limited resources, and challenges associated to this approach.  But we’re up for the challenge.  We all know who will be implementing the changes at the end of the day, the staff, so we should all make it a priority to better position our organizations (and our people) for transformation success (and sustainment).