You Changing My What

freak-out

So change agents are some of the most sought after…yet most abhorrent individuals on this planet. 


We all recognize that things can be better, and on one hand, we want someone to come and help us make it so…a change agent!


However, change is painful and frequently results in unintended and unwanted consequences, and so on the other hand, we hate change agents. 


Many change agents may not just change things that need to get changed and fixed, but they may change a lot of things that were working just fine before, thank you.  


Can anyone say reorganization? 


Moreover, change agents may not be changing things for the right reasons like the good of the organization.


Instead they may be self promoters, control freaks who have to do things their way, or they may be serial job hunters–next stop change everything and get the heck out of Dodge!


Change agents may work with people to get requirements, input, and vet the issues and the solutions or they may just be paying lip service to others, only to really shove their or someone else’s agenda down your throats. 


You see there is healthy change that is based on genuine learning, growth, and maturity, and then there is change that is destructive, diabolical, and selfish. 


When you decide to change something, what’s your motivation and your goal–is it to right the wrongs in the organization, reengineer business processes, and introduce new technologies or is it to change for change’s sake alone. 


Yes, we did something. Check the box. Tell the management committee. We earned our keep and oh yeah, then some. We changed something, anything. Hip Hip Hooray. Bonus time!


So either you’ll get an award and promotion or you’ll get asked accusingly and threateningly, “Who told you to change that?!”


Change which has no real support or merit is dead on arrival (DOA), and will be gone, gone, gone long after the change agent is gone.


So don’t freak out–the b.s. changes are either going to kill the organization or simply end up in Fresh Kills landfill.


The real changes may actually make you stronger. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Genius Consultants–Yes or No?

Genius Consultants--Yes or No?

A lot of people think that the McKinsey’s of this world are the business geniuses.

You hire McKinsey, Bain, or The Boston Consulting Group when you need to address big organizational problems–frequently those that involve broad reorganizations, massive cutbacks, reformulation of strategy, and culture makeovers.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek in a book review of The Firm, the notion is that these consulting big boys come in to “teach you how to do whatever you do better than you do it–and certainly better than your competition does it.”

The question is can consultants really do it better than those who do it everyday, or perhaps an objective 3rd party is exactly what is needed to break broken paradigms and set things straight.

These global consultants are usually generalists–who specialize in “rational thinking and blunt talk.”

It’s like going to an organizational shrink to have someone listen to your crazy sh*t and tell it back to you the way it out to be–and then guide you with some behavioral interventions (i.e. the recommendations).

What’s interesting also is that these consulting firms hire the “A” kids right out of school–so they are inexperienced, but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready with their idealistic thinking to tell you how things ought to be done–the question is do they have enough fundamentals under their belts and genuine solid thinking in a real setting to make sense to your business.

Probably the best thing is that these graduates can think out of the box and for an organization that needs to make a leap forward, these newbies can cut through the clutter and give your organizational a fresh start.

One of the problems pointed out is that with these consultant companies, it’s heads they win and tails you lose–if their ideas pan out, it’s to their credit–and if it doesn’t, well you implemented poorly.

Basically consultants are not magicians, but they do listen to your organizations tales of woes, put the pieces together, and tell you what you told them…many times, it’s basically validation of what people already know–but now it’s coming from “the experts”–so it must be true.

Another problem of course is whether their recommendations become more shelfware, collecting dust, or whether the organization can actually make the difficult choices and changes…or perhaps, there is another consulting firm that assists with that? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Don’t Underestimate The Stress Of Change

Don't Underestimate The Stress Of Change

Regularly in IT, we field new technologies and systems.

Often, we don’t pay enough attention to the details of change management and what that means to our users.

A great article in Government Executive Magazine by Dr. Victoria Grady really hits this right on.

Grady points out something that is often overlooked: people have an instinctual predisposition to attach to/lean on objects and intangibles–including things like office spaces, systems, business processes, organizational structures, leaderships styles, and so on.

If you take that away–excuse the simile, but it is like taking candy away from a baby–you are going to get a lot of (often understandable) whining, crying, and resistance.

The key is understand that people in a sense really all have a kid inside them, and they need to be listened to, understood, empathized with, and cared for.

Changing out IT systems, restructuring the office, or doing a reorganization (as much as they may be needed) can cause people huge amounts of stress and the organization productivity losses, if not done right.

Remember, you are changing up people’s status quo, what they know, their security blanket, and you need to be mindful of and implement a robust communication and change management strategy.

What I have found is that one thing that raises the stress tempo is when people don’t have enough information on the change that is coming, how that impacts them, and how “everything will be okay.”

The more unknowns, the more stress.

While you cannot share information you don’t yet have or perhaps that is not yet baked, you can be honest and tell people what you do know, what you are still investigating, perhaps what some of the options are, timeframes, and of course, solicit their input.

To the extent that people are kept in the loop and can influence the process–the more control they have–the better they can cope and adjust.

Not that adults are children, but the analogy still holds, when you take away a bottle from a infant, you better have a pacifier to keep them happy–in this case, the pacifier is the replacement thing that people need to attach to/lean on to feel secure in their jobs.

If you are changing out systems, make sure the new system is well vetted, tested, and trained with the end-users, so they know and feel comfortable with the change–and they have the confidence in you and your team, the new system, and in themselves to handle it.

Same goes for other changes in the organization–you can mitigate stress through communication, collaboration, testing, training, and other confidence building measures.

Adults and babies are a lot happier and better able to deal with change, when they are taken care of properly.

We are all somewhat change adverse and that is a basic survival instinct, so we sometimes need to take baby steps, walk before we run, and work together to change as a group and ensure that the “new” is indeed better than the “old.” 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Reorganization Best Practices

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Sometimes a leader has to consider and implement a reorganization (“reorg”) as this can benefit a organization.

Organizations are not a static environment, but rather are dynamic systems. To survive, organizations must adapt to changes in the external environment and from changing forces within, by reorganizing in ways that improve the organization’s ability to perform.

Harvard Business Review, June 2010, has a couple of important articles on this topic (the articles are actually in reverse order in the issue):

1) “Change For Change’s Sake” by Vermeulen, Puranam, and Gulati

2) “The Decision-Driven Organization” by Blenko, Mankins, and Rogers

In the first article, the authors assert that “even successful corporations have to shake things up to stay ahead of the competition.”

  • Sometimes, this can be driven by changes in the competitive landscape necessitating that we adapt to meet these head on.
  • At other times, it is because of internal organization dysfunctions such as where: routines are stifling innovation, silos are hampering collaboration, and resources have become entrenched with the powerful few—these will hamper performance and potentially destroy the organization if not disrupted.

In the second article, the authors recommend that reorganizations should focus on better decision-making, i.e. on structures that “improves the organization’s ability to make and execute key decisions better and faster than competitors.”

  • Reorgs are seen as necessary for creating the right structure to perform: “Like Generals, they [CEO’s] see their job as putting the right collection of troops in the right place…Nearly half of all CEOs launch a reorg during their first two years on the job.”
  • Results of reorgs are generally poor: According to a Bain and Company study of 57 reorganizations, “fewer than one-third produced any meaningful improvement in performance. Most had no affect, and some actually destroyed value.”
  • Start with a “decision audit”: “Instead of beginning a reorg with an analysis of Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats [SWOT], structural changes need to start with what we call a decision audit. The goals of the audit are to understand the set of decisions that are critical to the success of your company’s strategy and to determine the organizational level at which those decision should be made and executed to create the most value.”
  • Align organizational elements to optimize decision-making: Organize assets, capabilities, and structures to “make the essential decisions and get those decisions right more often than not.” Similarly, align “incentives, information flows, and processes with those related to decision-making.”
  • Avoid conducting reorgs that degenerate into turf battles and horse-trading: “Powerful managers grad decision rights they shouldn’t really own while weak ones surrender rights they really should own. [Further,] people end up with responsibilities hat are defined too broadly or too narrowly, given the decision they need to make…without a focus on decisions, these power struggles too often lead too creeping complexity in an organization’s infrastructure.”

In my opinion, reorganizations are likely to be most successful when they have specific goals such as adapting to changes, creating new opportunities, closing gaps, and fixing misalignments. Simply “shaking things up” is not enough reason.

Secondly, aligning the organization around execution is as important as better planning/decision-making. Therefore, we should restructure around two areas—strategy (i.e. planning and decision-making) and operations. For example, in Information Technology, we could restructure and align the organization to improve:

1) Strategy formulation: This involves reorganizing to improve architecture and planning, investment decision-making, project management oversight, customer relationship management, and performance measurement. (Reference: The CIO Support Services Framework)

2) Operational execution: This involves reorganizing to improve IT execution of network and operations, systems lifecycle, information management, and information assurance.

Thirdly, success depends on implementing the reorg with people, funding, and other tangible changes that will help the reorg to meet its goals. This advances it from “redrawing the map” to giving it “the legs” to work on the ground, and is the most exciting stage in seeing the vision be fulfilled.

By reorganizing with specific goals, focusing on better decision-making and execution, and on fully implementing the reorganization with enabling structural and process changes, executives can broadly and deeply impact the performance of the organization for the better.

>Reorganizations and Enterprise Architecture

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There is an interesting article in Harvard Business Review, June 2008, on “The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution.” (Gary Nielson, Karla Martin, and Elizabeth Powers)

The article states: “Research shows that enterprises fail at execution because they go straight to structural reorganization and neglect the most powerful drivers of effectiveness—decision rights and information flows.”

In fact, “employees at three out of every five companies rated their organization weak at execution.”

Hence, the simple answer is the infamous reorganization.

Enterprises are constantly reorganizing (AKA “another REORG”). The reorgs are supposed to make the organization more efficient and effective, but more often than not, it results in instability, confusion, a reshuffling of bodies and a movement of lines on the org chart without any substantial changes to people, process, or technology. At the end of reorg, leadership falsely claims success and starts the process again, of course collecting their mega sized bonus along the way.

What a crock and what a disservice to our customers, employees, partners, and investors.

“Structural measures [reorgs]…seems the most obvious solution and the changes the most visible and concrete…but in so doing, address only symptoms of dysfunction, not its root causes.”

So should we stop reorging?

No. “structural changes can and should be part of the path to improved execution, but it’s best to think of it as the capstone, not the cornerstone…research show that actions having to do with decision rights and information are far more important.”

It sort of obvious, but most organizations still don’t get that strategic execution depends on having a good plan to begin with and a sound governance structure to manage it!

Decision rights = sound governance.

Here’s how we should implement decision rights/governance to be more effective at implementing strategy:

“Everyone has a good idea of the decisions and actions for which he or she is responsible.”

“Once decisions are made, they are rarely second-guessed.”

“Managers up the line get involved in operating decisions

“It is more accurate to describe the culture of this organization as ‘persuade and cajole’ than ‘command and control.’”

“The primary role of corporate staff here is to support the business units rather than to audit them.”

Information flows = sound enterprise architecture planning.

Here’s how we should implement information flows/EA to be more effective at implementing strategy:

“Important information about the competitive environment gets to headquarters quickly [and the information plans on how to respond get out from headquarters quickly].”

“Information flows freely across organizational boundaries.”

“Field and line employees usually have the information they need to understand the bottom-line impact of their day-to-day choices.”

“Line managers have access to the metrics they need to measure the key drivers of the business.”

The research seems to clearly demonstrate the EA and governance imperative. Even more importantly though, pure common sense dictates that:

We set a strategic direction—that is through our business strategy and enterprise architecture plans.

AND

We enforce it—that is our governance (for authorizing, prioritizing, funding, controlling, and assessing programs and projects).

Reorganizations do not supplant the need for good planning and governance. Without good planning and governance, reorganizations are leadership’s feeble attempts to do something, anything to change the status quo, and often they result in short-term gains only (and sometimes they do not even do that and result in more harm than good). However, a reorganization that is driven by solid planning and governance can have significant and lasting impact for our transformation efforts.