Category Archives: Change Management

Accelerating Culture Change Through Leadership Development

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I recently ran across the third report in the Real Work Leadership series of reports from Korn Ferry. Create an Engaging Culture for Greater Impact looks at changing culture through the lens of leadership development. An interesting take.

The report is the analysis of a global survey of views on leadership development fielded in July and August of 2015. With more than 7,500 survey responses from 107 countries, 3 in 4 of the leaders who responded were from their organizations’ business functions; the remainder were from HR. That’s pretty unusual and made the results more interesting. Remember those demographics as you see some of the findings below.

Respondents ranked their top 7 priorities for leadership development within their organizations. Remember, only 25% of the global pool of respondents were in HR.

Korn Ferry 4

I was interested to note that only one of the top seven priorities for leadership development is operationally performance driven:  #4, Accelerating time to performance. Right in the middle of the pack. #1 and #3 were change related, and #2 was talent acquisition related. I find these surprising from a group overwhelmingly made up of non-HR leaders. But looking at the final three – Driving engagement, Diversifying the leadership pipeline, and Becoming more purpose and values driven – enables me to back off of my surprise. If these were the only choices from which to rank the important leadership development priorities of senior leaders, then the only real surprise is that Accelerating time to performance is not rated the top priority.

The survey analysis goes on to suggest that Developing leaders to drive strategic change really means developing leaders to accelerate culture change. That would be really interesting if true. That would mean that 5,625 very senior business leaders around the world think that changing their culture is their very top priority. That would be outstanding. For someone like me, who thinks that culture is the one of the most critical business sustainability dynamics, this is music to my ears.

The report is mostly about leadership development. That’s a big part of Korn Ferry’s business. So that makes sense. And there are a number of interesting data points that you might want to consider in your business. Things like the following:

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But this:

Korn Ferry 2



Korn Ferry 3








Remember again that the vast majority of respondents in this survey were not HR leaders. But the data ought to give HR leaders all over the world ammunition to begin to link their leadership development strategies to their organization’s business strategies in new and compelling ways. Especially as they relate to culture change. Perhaps this from the report is one of the most simple descriptions of the interconnectedness of culture, leadership, and strategy – and so, performance:

“The starting point for organization alignment is mission, purpose, and strategy. Ideally top leaders define these elements, the path to execution , and the values and behaviors that will support implementation and success.  Once they have done so, these individuals must communicate this information clearly, consistently, and repeatedly throughout the organization.”

I liked this survey analysis. We talk about culture all the time. (Well, I talk about culture all the time.) We don’t often talk about culture through the lens of leadership development, though. And as this paper reports, leadership development – particularly as we are in the midst of a demographic sea change of Biblical proportions – may be an integral strategy for moving cultures forward for performance, for talent acquisition, and for business sustainability.



Filed under Change Management, China Gorman, Culture, Data Point Tuesday, Demographics, Korn Ferry, Leadership Development, Learning/Development

Pump Up Your Change Management Competencies

Data Point Tuesday
recently released an executive report: “Making change work… while the work keeps changing – How change architects lead and manage organizational change.” The report, based on data from their latest “Making Change Work Study” seems a very pertinent one for the times. As a whole, we know that this is a period of significant change for the workforce, we talk about these changes, and how they can and are affecting organizations, but there is significantly less talk around how organizations are successfully managing such change – which is exactly what IBM’s report dives into. As IBM states, “the gap between the magnitude of change and the ability of organizations to manage it continues to widen.” While many organizations are struggling to close this gap, IBM identifies a select few – change architects – that have “found the keys to making change work while the work keeps changing.” IBM’s data is based on survey results from almost 1,400 individuals responsible for designing, creating or implementing change across their respective organizations.

In IBM’s study, they consider only the top 20 percent of organizations to be highly successful when it comes to change management. These “Change Architects” are organizations that indicated at least 75% of their projects were a complete success (i.e. a minimum of three-in-four projects met all predefined goals).Avg. success rate of projects

Change Architects capitalize on “the vortex of change permeating every aspect of business.” Such organizations are considerably more successful at managing projects. Compared to the average in IBM’s survey, Change Architects have at least 56 percent more projects that were a complete success. What do Change Architects do differently to manage change in their organizations? IBM identifies three critical imperatives that allow them to be change-effective:

  • “Lead at all Levels”
  • “Make Change Matter”
  • “Build the Muscle”

When it comes to managing change, organizations must lead at all levels. Many organizations fail to successfully manage change because they have do not embrace a “change-centric” culture, despite, as IBM points out, that change is the one constant that organizations will always face. Driving a change-centric culture must begin at the top from executive management and cascade throughout all levels of the organization. Survey respondents view “Top Management Sponsorship for Change” as the #1 most important aspect for organizational change:

Most important aspects of change
Despite this fact, only 66% of respondents state that their top management is enabled to act as change leaders (for Change Architects, this jumps to 77%). How are top management at Change Architect organizations driving change? IBM identifies three key characteristics that enable leaders to drive change across the organization:

  1. Role modeling throughout the organization.
  2. Engaging employees with a compelling case for change.
  3. Empowering new and passionate change leaders at all organizational levels.

Another critical responsibility of top management in regards to effectively managing change is making change matter. Managers must make sure that if change management programs exist, employees thoroughly understand the activities and benefits of those programs. The majority of organizations invest only 5% or less of total project budgets in change management activities on key projects, and 87 percent of respondents indicate that not enough focus is currently placed on change management in critical projects.

Budget allocation project management vs. change management

Respondents report that when change management activities are incorporated into the overall project plans from the beginning, successful project results are more likely. What then, is preventing change management activities? According to survey respondents, there are five key barriers that keep organizations from pursuing new change capabilities:

  • Change management benefits are not clear (69%)
  • Change management activities are not clear (53%)
  • Role of change professional is not clear (49%)
  • Lack of skilled change management resources (43%)
  • Change management is too expensive (26%)

Last but not least, Change Architect organizations – those that are successful at managing change – have a focus on “building muscle.” 60% of organizations in IBM’s study confirm a formal career path for project managers. This is opposed to only 25% for change professionals. Change Architects often establish a formal career path for change professionals (42% more than other organizations). They use this formalized change discipline for central change coordination; to drive consistent methods, change-related trainings, career developments, asset reuse, company-wide knowledge and best practice sharing.

Formal Change Management methods
While organizations that we can truly call “Change Architects” may still be few are far between, the good news is that between 2008 and 2014 the use of formal change management methods increased significantly. This indicates that awareness for this organizational management need is, at the very least, rising on companies’ radars. Managing change is tough, as we all know. This report suggests that making change management a core competence in our organizations may just make our change experiences more successful in every way. Building and exercising change management muscles may make all the difference!


Filed under Change Management, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, IBM

#NextChat: Change Management

Join me Wednesday, November 28 at 3:00 pm EST for SHRM’s #NextChat!  Follow @WeKnowNext, me — @ChinaGorman — and hundreds of HR professionals and SHRM members for an interactive Tweet Chat.  Our topic is Change Management.  Follow the hashtag #nextchat and join in the conversation!

Here’s the deal:

You’re introducing a new software solution for…performance management, rewards and recognition, time and attendance management…your choice.  The solution will impact every employee.  You’re heading up the change management project.  What’s next?  Check out this post before you join us on the next #NextChat.

Change management model?  What’s your favorite?

  • Kotter
  • Lewin
  • McKinsey Seven S
  • Bridges

You have the project timeline.

You have the budget.

You have the communication plan.

What are you missing?

Here are the questions we’ll be discussing.  Give them some thought and join us!

Q1:         What’s your favorite change management model and why?

Q2:         What one thing would you recommend to others as the “make or break” piece of your successful change management project?

Q3:         What member of senior management is the most critical to have out in front of a change management process?

Q4:         How much time and $ should a change management plan focus on training?

Q5:         How do you know if your change management plan was successful?

Never been part of a Tweet Chat?  Then just lurk in the background as you follow this hashtag on Twitter:  #NextChat.  You’ll have fun — and learn a lot as well.

See you on Wednesday on the interwebs!

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Filed under Change Management, China Gorman, NextChat, SHRM, Tweet Chat

Competence: Enemy of Change?

When organizations are planning to introduce some kind of change into their system – structural change, new technology, new leadership, the merging in of an acquisition – planning for the implementation is key, right?

Usually a change management model is chosen on which to build the process, and there are lots of them:

  • Bridges
  • Kotter
  • McKinsey Seven S
  • Lewin
  • Nadler Tushman

Each of these models places an extreme value on communication.  And rightfully so.  Most experts advise that when you think you have communicated enough about change…communicate some more.  Not bad advice.

But the advice that almost every model neglects is this:  spend more time training than communicating; spend more money on training than on communication; spend more leadership time and energy in training than in being visible; spend more innovation on training than on well, innovation.

Here’s the deal:  adults like to be competent.  It’s important to them.  It’s motivating because it generates feelings of mastery and gives the sense of control.  When you introduce change that suddenly makes them incompetent, productivity plummets.  When you make them incompetent, morale decreases. When you make them incompetent, turnover increases.  When you make them incompetent and don’t give them a fast path to competence, your change management process is sunk.

Burch’s work for GTI that identifies the pathway from unconscious or conscious incompetence to unconscious or conscious competence ought to be at the heart of any change management process.  You want your employees to adopt your new technology solution?  Be sure your change management process focuses primarily on moving your employees out of conscious incompetence to conscious competence ASAP.

Because guess what?  Communication doesn’t cure incompetence.  Telling doesn’t change behavior, training changes behavior.  So change management plans that focus more on communication than training don’t achieve the desired adoption outcomes.

All but the most change hardy in your workforce – that small percentage of Early Adopters – will resist changing because being competent is everything.  And that old technology solution you decided to replace?  Well, everyone was competent on it.  And now, with the decision to move to a Cloud-based, mobile-enabled, SaaS solution, you’ve made them all incompetent.

So help them out.  Communicate like crazy.  And get the C-Suite involved.

But spend every waking minute ensuring that that training on the new solution is available 24/7.  That it’s available in classrooms and webinars.  In every language your workforce speaks.  In every location your workforce reports to duty. During every shift your workforce works.  Multiple times.  Let your employees participate in the training more than once.  Make it easy and convenient to get competent.

And when the project goes long and over budget, don’t you dare touch the training budget.  In fact, if it goes long and over budget, increase the training budget.

Because competence is the enemy of change.


Filed under Change, Change Management, China Gorman, Concious Competence, Concious Incompetence, Connecting Dots