Change Management & Leading

Where Are We Going?

Change Management (CM) is quite the buzz word in business lately – everyone knows they need it, but few organizations truly understand the science or the way to go about leading and managing change for their organization. Many companies are still fixated with tossing it into a separate department or onto a specific project for the middle managers or project managers to ‘figure out’. For many companies, especially project-specific ones, the focus appears to only be on getting buy-in for difficult changes.

“Let’s wrap a little change management around that.”

It’s a frustrating phrase we hear quite often in our consulting practice that not only demeans change management professionals and the means by which change is successfully adopted, but it also makes it sound like the people were the afterthought – like a dictator suddenly realizing three minutes into a coup that they may need a strategy for placating the masses.

“Change Management is about bringing the people with you through change, not shoving it down their throats in a more digestible fashion.”

~W.Blackstaffe

Change Management is just a small bite of Organization Development, not the whole meal. Leading change for the entire company is best accomplished by the leadership within the organization first. It is not enough for an executive body to decide to make a change, there are some very important readiness steps that are often missed. Projects that are completed fully through to implementation before the organization decides it’s time to bring on a change manager miss the most important steps to successful change.

In this article by Forbes, Donna Wiederkehr offers some very poignant advice on preparing the change at the leadership level in her commentary on change.

  • Have a clear vision
  • Articulate the vision
  • Give your teams a reason to believe
  • Use transitions for inspiration, not just explanations

Most of this is prepared in the decision-making process, long before project start or during implementation, and the heart of it is developed at the leadership level. Read more of her article to dig a little deeper into Donna’s thoughts on change.

Our point is this: A watered-down Change Management effort designed solely for last minute buy-in is not going to be as effective as creating an organization that is Poised4Change™. Your organization needs to be capable of handling the many forced changes through market disruptions, environmental change and technological shifts that businesses are facing today. Companies need an overall change strategy that reaches the heart of the employees who are being asked to make changes on a continual basis.

What do you see missing in change efforts you have been involved with?

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Open Letter to Criticizers of Restaurant Manager as new MLA in Alberta – no matter what party you support

restaurant_managementDear Criticizer,

RE: Graham Sucha voted in as MLA for Calgary Shaw

Both a daughter and a son in our family are restaurant managers, and I take great exception to the insinuation that restaurant managers are of a lower unqualified class of flunkies as portrayed by the comments I am seeing on several news posts. Let me make myself clear, restaurant management is one of the most complex, detailed, and difficult businesses in which to succeed and the companies that run them do not select flunkies to be in charge of their margins. 

So, for you salaried employees who work a 40-60 hour work-week, who are not in charge of your department’s budget, marketing, training, staffing, or procurement – perhaps you have a bit to learn about just what kind of a job this is.

The Restaurant Business is a Business!

It is hard-won, always changing, consistently challenging and one of the most difficult roles to take on because you must give up your whole life to make it successful. The dedication of someone who chooses restaurant management is tough, they must be responsible for much more than most MBA’s will have to experience in a life-time. Their fiduciary responsibilities go beyond duty and care, they are the stewards of the entire operation and must do so with fewer resources to support them than the average business.

Data Analysts

Restaurant managers must make good business decisions, and they must do so in good economies and bad. Data gathering and forecasting for both supply and service is a detailed and constantly moving target. They must gather data, understand the meaning behind the data and use that data to ensure consistency of service at the same time costs are being tightly controlled.

Re-engineering Gurus

Policies, talent management, streamlining, constant quality improvement, minute-by-minute business and resource optimization and continual response to environmental shifts outside of their control are all necessary for a restaurant manager to be successful. They are hit by more outside influence than most businesses and they are required to react on an instant.

Ultimate Customer Experience Experts

Few people either understand or care to learn about all that goes into your customer experience within an organization that gets an hour or two of your time while you are enjoying yourself. But to give you your water, wine and put a meal out in 12 minutes that is the right temperature, high quality, delivered with exceptional service in an ambiance that meets with your high standards is nothing short of miraculous. Restaurants require a high level of collaboration of all its parts, both front and back of house, and is like a well-oiled machine. Only an exceptional manager can achieve this kind of coordination from all their employees.

Business Management

I reiterate, restaurants are a BUSINESS. They have margins and budgets, supply, demand, service, and staffing issues. Unlike most businesses which are affected by occasional outside influences over the period of a year, restaurants deal with outside factors on an hourly basis. A downtown-city restaurant can have one day where they pull in $1500.00 in receipts to another day where $20,000.00 of receipts are brought in – all within the same week. This fluctuation of supply and demand cannot change the quality or experience to the customer, thus making their job extremely difficult. Budgetary forecasting, review of multi-year actuals, detailed understanding of the complexity of their location, client base, city events, sporting events, special days like Mother’s day, Father’s day, Canada Day, and more – are all on the agenda for pre-planning long before a customer even considers them. And as for competition, they have 8 other stores down the street that are vying for the very same customers so they must be dedicated 24/7 to win the hearts and loyalty of their customers, and they don’t do it by being lazy flunkies.

Personal Commitment

I’m guessing that some of you may head into work on a day off on occasion, that’s because you are dedicated! But did you know that the average restaurant manager is there on their ‘scheduled’ day off almost always as a rule? They are dedicated to their craft, they miss out on all of your fun events because nights and weekends are their busy times, they miss a lot of family functions, they are lucky if they marry a thoughtful spouse who is willing to manage children, house and home while they are consistently raising the bar to compete with the other store down the street, and at a lessor salary than you. So why do they do it?

It is a vocation, it is a love of people, of service and is a dedicated craft that involves dealing with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. They are faced daily with incredible experiences and for a moment are brought into the lives of their patrons who are celebrating, enjoying and feeding their lives through experience.

Yes, even the arrogant, entitled people who look down their noses at restaurant management as a lower-class choice in work leave with a meal served in only minutes with a high quality of standard and their glass filled.

Compared to a few MLAs of the past, I am thinking perhaps a little business management, by a people oriented person, would be welcome in our legislature, regardless of what party you support. The fact that this one chooses to seek advice from someone who is familiar with public life, is right out of the books of some of these folks.

Kind Regards,

Patti

NOTE:

I happen to know the young man that has been voted in as NDP MLA in Calgary Shaw and have witnessed his dedication and commitment, I am certain he will apply it as steadfastly to this new role as he has in management, and learn just as quickly. 

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Walter Blackstaffe – Hall of Fame Inductee

Congratulations to Walter Blackstaffe, one of our founders, for his induction into the Canadian Ski Alliance, Alberta Region Hall of Fame.

We are extremely Proud of Walter and happy to see his talent recognized. Walter has taught skiing all over Canada and in Switzerland and has made a strong contribution to the industry in many ways. He says he is most proud of taking part in mentor-ship programs with young people shaping their confidence and talent and his volunteering with CADS Alberta (Canadian Association for Disabled Skiers). Walter remains a continued positive influence to us at the office, to his students, his clients and the companies he works with.

Walter inducted into hall of fame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Use Your Simplicity Super Powers

Super PowersWhen I am with a coaching client, it is my job to focus on that client without distractions. They are often grateful for the time because they are able to focus on their own personal goals without their usual complex environments filled with distraction.

Finding simplicity in a confusing and chaotic world can be as good as a vacation. I can hear the resounding “ahhhh” now as all you readers begin to imagine your lives with less stress, less connection, less of everything. Not feeling the simplicity love? Use your superpowers.

Simplifying

The Tiny House movement is one example of how many people are feeling burdened by the trappings of what was once a lofty goal – big house to hold lots of things and more and more gadgets. And yet there is a feeling of great weight that seems to have loaded people up to the point where more and more people are sharing, dreaming and talking about tiny houses…but not living in them.

Real Simple, the magazine, strikes deep longing breaths as one paws through each page longing for less pressure, less clutter and less hassle, yet it gets stacked in a pile next to all the other interests beside the couch in a living room filled with so many children’s toys one can barely move.

Software websites that once held flashing reminders to buy, buy, buy have simplified to beautifully designed simplistic pages with a small scattering of visual-based links that draw the mind into believing solutions are simple, but people are failing to purchase because the choices of similar software are far too grand and need more investigation.

Not Really Simplifying

The thing is, we want and crave simplicity, less distraction, less of all the millions of messages hitting us on a daily basis, overwhelming our senses and distracting our focus – but actions and wishes do not always match. Goodness knows, I am guilty of getting sucked into the ‘always on’ mentality!

Human beings crave attention – and the digital age has provided us with an attention banquet unsurpassed in history – often at the expense of giving attention to those we are with. We have at our disposal, hundreds (if not thousands) of attention getting gadgets, platforms and media to fill every minute of our day and keep from every getting anything of value accomplished.

Sit in a coffee shop and watch the throngs of people sitting with each other but all looking down on their phones. Sit in a meeting and notice how many people are actually listening compared to how many are checking phones. Notice how many people on their drive home from work are texting, talking or handling their handheld devices – in spite of legislation that tells them it’s illegal.

We crave simplicity, yet we ignore the many avenues for gaining it. I find I am most successful when I drop the gadgets and start listening and doing and that requires super powers!

Use Your Super Powers for Good!

All your gadgets, devices, applications and digital connectors to your world have hidden super powers. That’s right – and we are going to show you a few.

  • Voice Mail: For meetings, driving, paying at the till, walking your dog, getting stuff done. This little super power of your cell, desktop and home phone gives you the power to organize your life. Stop running to answer and be respectful of the people who you are actually with.
  • Airplane Mode: This is great for tablets, laptops, phones and other devices we may not know about. Can’t get something done? Shut ‘er down, my friend and finish that project.
  • Flag or Close Your Email: You are the hero of this story – you get to decide when you check your email and you get to decide when you will get back to someone. Prioritize who gets instant gratification from you.
  • Stop answering texts – hit the call button. Are you getting inundated with texts? They take time, especially if you are a slow texter. Hit the call button and call them back when you are finally alone, make it quick and answer fast.
  • The power button, on your T.V., computer, or any other distracting electronics. This ultimate of super un-power gives you those long craved for moments – go for a walk, soak in a tub, play with the kids – escape the time suckers.
  • Turn off Social Media Notifications – you don’t really need to check EVERY ping and knock from your social media, it’s not like it’s going anywhere! Check it after a nice lunch – perhaps

You get the hint – take control, because the attention you are getting from a text, social media notifications, email, or any other distracting forces in your life is taking you AWAY from simplicity and pulling you toward loneliness and complexity.

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One Man One Kit

own-itI have a friend who was in the military and one evening over dinner he and his wife were discussing their training for an upcoming lengthy backpacking trip where the wife was slowly increasing weight by adding 10lb bags of sugar each week in order to build up to the experience. It was the first time I’d heard the expression, “One man. One kit”.

Those four little words convey so much meaning.

A military ‘kit’ is comprised of 90+ lbs of military supplies used while deployed on mission or training. The expression is clear in its understanding – it is your job to take care of your own equipment. You pack it, you haul it, and you bring it back. (I am not military – so please, if you are, feel free to correct me if my understanding is incorrect.) What impressed me the most about the saying ‘one man, one kit’ is its use is very applicable for our roles in companies.

You have a job to do, it is your job and you are responsible for the outcome.

On a military mission, there will be roadblocks, challenges and one might even encounter the enemy, no matter what happens, you are responsible for your part of the mission and your own kit. This doesn’t mean your squadron or troop won’t step-up when you are down, it means you are responsible for your part in the mission.

Used in accordance within a company, if everyone owns and takes care of their own ‘stuff’ it becomes much easier to work together, have each other’s backs, and work as one so no person is dragged down by having to bear the weight or ‘kit’ of another unless that person truly needs a hand. Unnecessarily over-burdening another when you are fully capable of doing the job builds resentment and frustration in a team. There are always exceptions to a rule or times when one needs to get a little help, but the point here is to be responsible and accountable for what you were hired to do.

Owning your own ‘stuff’ contributes to a healthy organization. One man. One kit.

There are many leadership lessons that translate from the military to corporate, do you have any to share?

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A Little Bit of Anarchy

People will meet performance evaluation before they exceed expectation.

People will meet performance evaluation before they exceed expectation.

Many businesses going through a transformation do so for two reasons:

1. Their business is struggling and they need to stop the bleeding.
2. Their leadership is intent on maintaining a continual path to improvement and growth as they remain competitive.

The latter speaks for a leadership who understands that a little bit of anarchy or disruption can feed innovative solutions, and perhaps create innovation itself. But these leaders don’t make change for the sake of change.

Fear of change is a well-documented and well-understood reaction to ‘doing things differently’, but it is not necessarily true that people don’t like change itself. Ask anyone who is on the hunt for a new car, a bigger house, a better job, or who has solved a significant problem – change is exciting and worth the anticipation. The kind of change people dislike is the kind that is thrust upon them, without consideration of the impact it has on lives, jobs, teams, or culture.

Companies that ‘change right’ are open to positive anarchy and growth disruption. Their leadership does not need to pretend they know it all, they make great efforts to be involved with the process and are open to learning from their front-line experts.

Leaders who fight change? Sometimes it comes down to ego and those egos might just need a shake while they learn to measure for what they are seeking from their teams.

· Measure performance like you want your teams to innovate, and they will live up to it.
· Measure performance solely based on cost cutting and your teams will live up to it.

On average, people will meet performance evaluation before they exceed expectation.

Straight across cost cutting does not grow a company. Innovative companies that grow are not afraid to investigate ways to grow, many stick to the 70-20-10 rule. 70% of time on core business, 20% of time in supporting efforts for the core business and 10% of time reaching outside the core to innovate and grow the business, and they measure their teams’ performance accordingly, creating an environment for innovation.

Funny, companies with a top-down structure have a fear of disruption, and are often unwilling to change, yet they are the companies who eventually land themselves as the first example; they will struggle and be forced to change to stop the bleeding – somewhere down the road.

Which company do you work for?

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Why Buy-in Isn’t Enough With Change

readiness-123rf-16527177_sIn a nicely written post titled, “Resistance is Not Futile” by Jon Tveten about managing resistance, he indicates the C-level suite is often surprized by the resistance to change. To quote Jon;

How could people not be falling in love with their brilliant new strategy? How could they fail to see the benefits to be wrought by this wonderful change?”

And Jon’s post goes on to discuss the importance of listening as a selling tool of the change.

This brought the word ‘dialog’ to mind. With information coming at us 24/7, high-speed technical advances, doing far more work with far less resources, being inundated with the pressures of shareholders and a highly competitive landscape, it seems we have failed at knowing how to maintain honest and transparent dialog.

The industry uses words like “stakeholder impact analysis” and “process evaluation” to describe a couple of change techniques, and yet we as consultants often hear the words – “Just get them to buy-in” from leadership we also hear; “We were never asked our opinion” from the front lines.

Getting Buy-in

Buy-in sounds great, but what does it really mean? Basically, it tells you that others have agreed to go along with a decision. GREAT! But, is it enough they have agreed to go along? We don’t think so.

Truth is, this isn’t necessarily as great as it sounds. Consider this scenario;

Marcella, the CEO, and Dean, the VP of technology, make a decision to transition the global team to a new HR management system. This involves a complete shift in how the organization manages staff in 8 different countries. The reason for the change is that the VP of technology pays for the cost of the software out of his budget. At present, the annual enterprise costs for this system require a yearly investment, a maintenance, and service contract, and the company is beyond initial warranty so they also pay for each upgrade. By all intents and purposes, Dean looks to save $15,000.00 a year on his budget by putting in a new system. The numbers were crunched, the spreadsheets shared and Dean made a very compelling case for change based on a budgetary bottom-line.

In the yearly strategy session, Marcella makes the announcement to the other VPs and director-level staff that this change will be made in the New Year, deferring to Dean for an explanation. The project will be a 6-month effort and they will bring in the consultants from the new HR management system software company to help implement the solution. It is assumed that everything will transition smoothly.

What’s right about this?

Sounds familiar and straightforward, right? Fiduciary responsibility is what these folks are hired for.

  • Business is business, the deal is that a company needs to generate more income than output in order to continue at the very least and grow at the best.
  • The C-Suite is where these decisions need to be made, and the final call should be theirs.
  • The VP of Technology likely did his homework in doing a technical comparison of the two pieces of software and believes he made a great selection that weighs both price and functionality.

What might be wrong about this?

Stakeholders! This is where the word ‘dialog” comes in and below are the questions rarely asked up front – prior to decision making. This is a big part of readiness for change.

  • Was this decision made without Rob, the VP of Human Resources? This decision impacts and affects his entire department and every individual who works for him.
  • Was a use-case study of how the current software is being used by the HR team done prior to making the decision and is the new software a major improvement or is it at par?
  • Was an end-user impact analysis done to understand how this HR management system affects every employee’s access to their benefits and employment information completed?
  • Will any current, highly utilized functionality be lost or are there tightly linked 3rd party or custom applications highly dependent on the current system? (Sometimes only front-line staff can answer this).

The readiness piece is missing in this fictional scenario, but it doesn’t sound foreign to many people who have been through a similar change. While the compelling case in numbers makes sense, there are a myriad of hidden costs associated with a change such as this. “What will break?” Answering that question can identify much of the dollars, then there are the costs of the transition such as training, etc. Without a solid change strategy prior to decision making, companies are time-and-again finding themselves with over-run project costs, delayed implementation schedules, stronger than expected resistance and a very frustrated staff-base and implementation team. Bringing in a change team to ‘manage’ the roll-out is too late – failing to hand the change team the ability to gather data prior to decision-making is where most companies cripple their change initiatives.

Open Dialog

Making decisions in large companies is a complex dance that is not taken lightly by the C-level leadership. Every decision weighs heavily on them and the pressure to perform is constant and ongoing. Many leaders hesitate to strike the fear of change into their employees by even hinting about an upcoming change. The fear that the larger collective will ‘get-wind’ of something they don’t like and a campaign against a change will start before a solution can be found can break down transparency and dialog. Let’s face it – as Jon says in his article – people don’t like to change their habits.

Companies who invest in up-front use-case and impact work on an on-going basis as part of their readiness and decision-making process is far ahead of those who don’t. The C-level decision makers count on the teams to provide the right data, too often there are many numbers left out in the analysis of bottom line costs associated.

Leaders who fall into the trap of believing they have all the answers will miss some very valuable solutions. Continual evaluation of what and how technology is being used, or ongoing reviews of process and policy with all stakeholders makes for good business.

Readiness is more than a line on a piece of paper, readiness is about being Poised4Change™ and is best applied when built into the way companies do business every day. Creating a solid platform for preparing for ongoing change on a continual basis means they have better information for decision making. As my colleague and friend Jeffrey Summers of Summer’s Hospitality Group said recently, “Companies need to adapt, innovate or embrace change in order to remain relevant.”

Remember ‘Buy-In’?

Just because the strategy session ended with everyone saying they will “go along with” a decision does not mean they agreed with it. Dialog and well-managed readiness, inclusion, transparency and consideration of the stakeholders up-front prior to making decisions will move the organization much farther ahead in making great decisions and reducing resistance to change. Facilitated efforts and the right kind of dialog will give your organization leverage for doing what Jeffrey Summers says; “…adapt, innovate and embrace change to remain relevant”.

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Change Management and Saving Sears Canada

2sears-storeNew CEO Ronald Boire says Sears is here to stay. He is the newest member of 4 recent leaders in 3 years making a go at keeping Sears alive in Canada, our team chatted among ourselves as to how we might approach such a feat.

Growing up on the Canadian prairies, Sears Canada was a solid thread in the fabric of suppliers for all things home and garage, a virtual security blanket of where-to-get-what and all in one place. Sears was the place my brothers bought decent tools and we could count on Sears to always be the same and carry the goods we wanted. But in the competitive retail marketplace, a lot has changed, and a company that rarely changes will see themselves falling off the radar faster than you can say “rebrand me”.

Changing was once the name of the game for Sears (formerly Simpson-Sears) between 1953 and 1962, from mail order to retail stores they enjoyed a great deal of growth as they moved through building new credit systems and adopting new technologies. They were a force to be reckoned with in the Canadian retail market. Through to the late 70’s there were few Canadian children who didn’t wait at the door for the Christmas Wishbook to arrive. Nary was a ‘Santa list’ created without that prize catalog of toy-land-discovery being carefully perused and assessed. So what happened from the mid-eighties until now to change the powerful force that Sears held on our Canadian Retail market? The landscape changed, but did Sears fail to change with it?

Sitting in our offices today, a discussion ensued about the kind of changes needed for Ronald Boire to truly save Sears Canada, (and shift where necessary) to keep the icon relevant in Canadian Retail.

Where to Start

Building the plan will take an enormous strategic effort, and the planning and readiness through that strategy development is vital. We cannot impress upon them more that the key to a successful change rests upon the importance in having the right data at hand before making major decisions. What data? Let’s start here:

  1. Market Segmentation
  2. Consumer Behaviour
  3. Customer demographics
  4. Multi-channel delivery
  5. Corporate Partnerships
  6. Industry & Marketing Trends
  7. Consumer Engagement and Relationships
  8. Customer Service
  9. Identity
  10. Internal Training Programs

In preparing through the readiness step, Sears Canada reports they have done much in the way of cutting costs, setting themselves up for being able to remain sustainable through a complete overhaul of how they do business, but there is still a long road ahead. Each of the above areas must be analyzed by people who understand the data but more importantly, know how to align it. Considering the whole host of micro data within each area above, it is important that Sears is willing to shift from the “it’s worked before” mentality to a “what does the data tell us, really” mentality. And the decisions will need to take into serious consideration those managers and middle managers who must implement change. Having the corporate focus on true data and stakeholder information, with means and measures of where and how to gather that data and the strength in understanding how to interpret it for the decision makers will make it much easier to evaluate.

Identity Crisis

Do you remember being a teenager and wondering where you fit, wanting to be part of several different groups, but never really feeling like you belong anywhere, you don’t know yourself well enough to self-define so you slide and hope someone picks you up? It appears Sears Canada is in that same realm- floating to be defined but never really knowing themselves well enough to identify where they fit. As a teen must get to know themselves and the people and environment around them better to know who they are, Sears must do the same. They require a solid understanding of the market, the consumer habits and behaviors, the industry trends and what customer engagement looks like in 2014 and to anticipate where it is going. We are in a relationship market and customers want transparency, demand great customer service and want to engage quite literally with every online conversation, blog and write-up. If a business can’t clearly define their own identity, the right customers will not be correctly targeted.

The company is long overdue helping us understand who they are and where they fit within the Canadian marketplace. Are they the middle ground between the low-cost Wal-Mart stores and the higher-end The Bay? (Both of which have their own shifting to consider.)

A clear, desired state must first be defined – who they will be in the future and how that looks, feels and materializes is vital, they need to know where they fit in the Canadian Market and precisely who they are for their customers. Then they need to clearly convey this message from Corporate through to consumer – simply, articulately and soon, so everyone “gets it”. It is not enough to say they are in it for the long-run, they need to share the vision.

Technology

In 1959, Sears was instrumental in embracing new technologies by being a pioneer of the Telex Service providing improved international record keeping allowing them to increase their credit accounts by 190,000 within a single year. Sears was rocketing by being technically savvy.

It’s fundamental to take a long hard look at technology and what exists in the current business, evaluating it against what will be needed to accommodate current consumer behaviour and trends and implementing the right strategies moving forward. This is an expensive and important investment that cannot be taken lightly, a plan to ensure all technology is vetted through an overall big picture view rather than a “grasp at mini solutions” ad-hoc set of implementations is paramount.

Areas of technical evaluation to consider will be internal and external. Data management & analysis, metrics tracking, sales and delivery tools, procurement and inventory systems will all need a solid review and update. Externally, digital catalogs, mobile device applications, client engagement tools, and social media strategies. All of these tools interconnect as a means and way of remaining relevant and top-of-mind to today’s consumers and the market Sears chooses to call their own. (See identity crisis above.) Take Neiman Marcus, for example, they saw the benefit of teaming up with the company Slyce to connect people with their products, now that is making themselves relevant.

People

With all companies, a strong organizationally developed company can gradually slide when they are busy bailing the water out and trying to fix the leak. A myopic view of business challenges can put the people in last place. A once great management training program will need to change as Sears begins to change. They have a pretty solid 18 month training program for their Management staff with a focus on Merchandising, Supply Chain, Marketing and Retail Operations as well as varied store visits and shadowing. Kudos for Sears in building operational processes for management, but there are some key areas of leadership development, change management, leading employees, understanding new consumer trends, reaching the community and other programs we could not find when we did a little research on the company. Their old standard of pop-up in store promotions just isn’t gathering the crowd like it used to. If they have developed some current trends in these areas, it’s not obvious. Shifting the company to a stronger growth-focused environment will require some key elements that support great leadership in addition to strong merchandising skills. Knowing the consumer better, shifting with the consumer and being flexible in reach will help managers better know how to support their staff to sell.

Areas of focus for all change will need a full review of the HR policies, procedures, benefits, training, loyalty programs, incentives, support systems, customer service delivery, and sales practices.

Alliances

As with the Neiman Marcus and Slyce partnership, Sears is due for a relevance shift. Partnering with companies that serve a broader reach and partnering with retail suppliers in unique ways to drive traffic and sales is long overdue. Most of what our team has observed is that the catalog needs a full technical overhaul to make it easier to buy, flyer marketing needs to include a price because people no longer will go in-store to find that out, a great app for getting current deals is non-existent, and we see very little draw to engage with the consumer.

Take one small example from Costco, they may be a warehouse model where dozens of folks flock to their bricks and mortar to get product, but they also have a pretty solid online system. We are not just talking about an online catalog, however, because members at Costco are provided with something relevant in the area of content management. They ship a magazine/catalog that provides information useful to the consumer, something they can read and enjoy, something that gives them recipes, articles on travel, and more and their lives are enriched by the engagement. Within this magazine are relevant products available at Costco.ca for anyone to purchase conveniently, and presented in bite-sized chunks made into a shopping experience. Once on the website – their search engine and transparency are exceptional. It pays to invest in your technology!

Conclusion

Times change, consumers change, and trends and technology drive those changes. The organization that understands the change management process, that looks at the overall organizational development within their company, and who is exceptional at data collection, review and alignment is better prepared to change with the times and consumers.

Because of the very early beginnings of Simpsons and their merger with Sears, our whole team feels nostalgic about Sears and truly hope they make this fly. Sears needs identity, relevance, reach and engagement to once again become a leader in the retail space in Canada, it will be interesting to see where they take it.

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Rocks Nests and Curiosities of Change

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smRockFormation

It always surprises me a little when someone says; “I leave my personal life at the door when I come to work.” While that may be what some companies want to hear, the reality is quite different. People’s lives are not compartmentalized, every thought, feeling and emotion they feel permeates every other thing in their day. The person who ‘checks it at the door’ is more than likely in better control when it comes to showing it.

All transition provides lessons and we know transition is that difficult, awkward, uncomfortable time preparing us for the new. Change comes into our work life for all kinds of reasons, sometimes it is a welcome change driven by us, other times it is a change handed to us. Either way, the change is there and we need to face it. But first, we need to move through transition.

The Rock

Transition periods are tough for people. In that period it’s like the person is a rock formation in high tide, being slapped furiously and repeatedly while remaining stalwart at the job, trying to survive. One can imagine how easy it would be to resent being that rock. But there are gifts in change. Check out just what happens to a large rock formation as it gets cleansed, reshaped and even sheds off debris and all that clings to it for security begins to wash away. The old begins to disappear and the new forged beauty begins to show. Surviving transition and being willing to take the hits often leads to better things so try not to run.

Mark Mueller-Eberstein in his TED talk discusses the transition curve of denial, anxiety, shock, fear, anger, frustration, confusion and stress. These are the many emotions of a team member at the end of one way of doing things, and prior to reorientation of a new approach. Morale begins to drop just after fear. Have you as a leader addressed it?

The Nest

It’s easy to see why mitigating resistance during a change is hard. Transition‘s ugly, and the nest of ‘what has been’ is comfortable. Ever awaken on a very cold morning and not want to get out of bed because you know once you do, you’ll be shivering? Loved ones, friends, plans, and yes, even breakfast are right there outside of that bed, but you can’t make yourself move. The comforter isn’t more important or more loved; it’s the transition you are avoiding. The thought of going through the goose-bumps, the shivering, and the cold on your way to the things you love will keep you there so long you even hold off going to the bathroom as early as you should. We like our comfort; we truly hate leaving it especially to move through transition. It’s even worse, when companies fail to prepare their people or help their employees understand what the vision is and what that transition might look like.

The Curiosity

Regardless of the catalyst for change, people want to know what’s going on. They want to know what to expect, what they will be losing and what they aim to gain. They want leaders with enough emotional intelligence to recognize the stages of transition and to carefully guide them past the stress toward creativity, acceptance, hope and enthusiasm. Basically, they need the right information to do their job and believe they will still have success after the change. They need a reason to shed what’s comfortable and move toward the new vision. Honestly, which would get you out of bed faster – if you thought is was cereal for breakfast or you were told it was a 3 cheese omelet with bacon?

Leading Change

Sharing the vision is the most important thing you can do, over and over and over again!

Planning the path is second, and that path is going to be slightly different for every group, person, and department – because ‘what’s in it for them’ will be slightly different. You can use any methodology you like, any system you like, but if you don’t coach and enable a leadership and subsequent management staff to focus on owning and dealing with the people through that change, then adoption will take much longer, I can guarantee it.

Lead change, give vision and time for the rocks, manage the transition, give people a reason to leave their nest and be willing to own it.

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Positive Patterns in Life and Work

Positive Change

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I had coffee with a buddy from high school a few years ago where he described a bit of his research in neurosciences to me. While much of what he talked about was a little above my head regarding his Alzheimer research, when we moved onto the topic of change, I was completely fascinated and engaged. He told me much of what we perceive regarding our own habits and patterns is a fallacy when it comes to describing those habits as; “It’s just genetics.”- “It’s who I am.” -“I can’t help it. – “I am just not _____________.” (fill in the blank with any perceived short-coming)

Working in the area of leadership development, through the coaching process, and any change-management initiative, we’ve learned many people resist change at the expense of their futures to maintain their current comfort. Some even resist it to maintain their current discomfort. Why? Because changing takes work. There is no magic wand transitioning us instantly to a goal or desired state. We must fight the path of least resistance and begin that hard cognitive work of changing ourselves and, inevitably, it will shake up every part of our lives when we do.

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France

Here are three steps one can take to do the hard work to create positive change:

Own It

Realize if you are an adult and have been for a number of years, you are responsible for your life. You made the decisions to get there, you built or eliminated the relationships, you are the one who reacted to your environment or events and that reaction has put you in the place you now stand. Taking responsibility for your existing patterns and habits is the first step in the change process. Deflecting responsibility or accountability for your life on others will keep you exactly where you are, no matter how much you “wish” things were different. So long as you can pass it off as someone else’s fault, you will not change a thing. (Keep in mind that we are talking about personal choices, not external influences outside of our control.)

Practice Discipline

Changing patterns or habits is a lot like practicing piano. You start with a few easy things and increase the difficulty as you go, however, unless you practice, practice, and practice, you will not create a habit. A habit is just that, doing one thing over and over again until you don’t even have to think about it. This takes discipline over a long period of time, especially if you are attempting to eliminate a different habit. Changing your lifestyle, your money patterns, and your work routines does not happen overnight. It can take as many as 25-27 months in our experience coaching leaders as they use discipline to develop new habits, reactions and work patterns to improve or grow as strong leaders of people.

Reset Thought Patterns

This is the tough one. Just as a truck creates a path in a wheat field, that path grows firmer and more solid every time it is driven upon. Unfortunately, so do the neurotransmitters in your brain. A farmer who needs to enter the field will take the easiest path, the one created first so as to make it easy to enter without disturbing the crop. Your brain works the same way, each time a similar situation arises, our brains take the path of least resistance, the one created the first time a situation arises, and it does so at lightning speed. Add 25-40 years of traveling that same route and you can see how easy it is to think “it’s just how I am”. But you can drive through a different field. First, you need to identify the patterns needing a reset, and it’s never easy. Get some help in learning how to reset your thought patterns by contacting a counselor for personal and relationship issues or a coach/strategist for leadership and business. There is great value in someone offering you a vantage point from the outside, as well as provide solutions and strategies you had not previously thought about.

Most often, the necessity for change enters our personal lives as a push, a difficult period or a life awakening – our business lives force change for many reasons related to the business or the market/environment. Sometimes our eyes become opened to a better way, or we are simply so uncomfortable stagnating that without change we feel we may not survive. Sound dramatic? Well, life can be that way. How we react to our lives, remain open to new things, accept positive criticism, stretch outside our comfort zones and work hard to reach our greatest potential is when we feel the greatest reward. Notice I said work, great things rarely come easy, but they are usually worth the hard effort it takes to get there.

This post was originally published for the Life Change Network in November 2012.

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Are You Leading for Change Management?

Success MagazineLeading for Change...a few years ago Patti, our Strategist, was interviewed for an article of the same title in Success Magazine. In that article she stressed the importance of involving the team in finding solutions, saying;

“When employees know the plan, the direction, the mission and the goals, it gives them something concrete and real to focus their actions toward. It helps them understand how they add value to the direction of the company and shows them their own worth toward building success for the organization.”

Recently, a new client approached us because they have been struggling with the internal management of some of their change initiatives. The topic of managing change is a relatively new area for them and they have made assignments regarding the change management role. When we identified for them that they have not developed a common understanding across the organization as to exactly what change management is, they began to better understand why some of their initiatives were failing.

What was happening?

  • Employees believed they WERE performing change management in their respective areas.
  • The words Change Management were being used but not necessarily performed in the manner the industry recognizes.
  • They were seeing ‘ownership’ of their piece of the project threatened by the new change management role, assuming their piece would be taken away.
  • They were unwittingly sabotaging the change efforts of the change manager.
  • They had a number of ‘change’ initiative going on, but did not support at the highest level.
  • They were treating the process as an administrative duty.

It didn’t take long to get them on the right track, what they needed was a company-wide definition of the Change Management Process for their organization. They needed to engage the people in the organization to clarify this common definition for the entire company. Then they needed to engage teams in learning just what that involved. Most had no idea that change management is actually a process, not a series of random steps performed in isolation of the other steps. “We added a little Change Management to this…” means they had no idea what change management actually involves.SuccessMagazine

In your best sponsorship, are you leading change by creating clarity and understanding from the top and including people from ALL levels of the organization so that they have both input and a common understanding of initiatives? Here are some ways to help you build the competency in your organization:

  • Bring in someone to help you define a change process for your organization.
  • Train the people you will be assigning as change practitioners
  • Enlighten the organization with clarity on exactly what change management involves.

Let me leave you with Patti’s other quote I like from the article:

“You don’t have all the answers, and science is showing that a group of committed collaborators trumps a single genius for finding amazing solutions.”

Clarity and engagement – two keys to success in Leading Change – Make it Grand!

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Culture, looking to shift…

 

Stories

It seems the holidays and approaching New Year puts many leaders into a state of reflection and renewal. January hearkens the desire to keep what works and change what doesn’t. The time is ripe and prime for a shift….but you have been through this before…it isn’t easy to address a culture shift.

“So, tell a better story…” Work cultures are built on the stories we tell and most companies are filled with stories that embody the image employees have of their company – sometimes these stories are accurate, and sometimes they are not. “If they don’t like it they can leave.” is the kind of story employees will share for years, or at least the ones who stayed, even if it was poorly translated and uttered by a single executive who did not intend it to come off quite as harshly as it did.

First step to take is to know and understand what the existing stories are, what compels your staff to either love or hate the company in which they work and what stories do they repeat most often to support those beliefs? If those stories are truly an inaccurate depiction of the whole truth, what are you doing to share the stories that are most relevant to meeting the truth?

Here is the second step…if you are looking for culture shift find the employees who act in the manner to which you wish your culture to shift… then tell their stories proudly and often. What have they done that is positive? How do they do those things? What do you do to support that kind of behaviour?

It isn’t enough to ‘like’ their actions – we need to support those actions, tell their stories, coach others to behave similarly.

What else can you do? Take action yourself – adopt activities that empower the kind of shift you want the company culture to take – and let your employees tell those stories.

Transition will be weird, even messy at times – the stories won’t match what they already believe, but that will shift over time. Not an executive? That’s okay, anyone who witnesses positive action, collaboration, great execution – they can tell stories too!

 

What’s Your Story??

 

 

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Own It to Change It

Own_It_Change_It How does organizational change occur?

Change occurs because people, just like you and me, made the decision to change. How that decision came about may be different for each individual involved; the motivator, influence or even traumatic event that may occur and spur someone toward change is usually personal and unique to each.

In the end, change occurred because the individual decided to take responsibility for their contribution to the current state of affairs & take action toward the future.

Every stakeholder involved plays an instrument in the orchestra of change.

Successful, sustained change occurs when someone owns and takes responsibility for their individual piece of the musical score, especially if it achieved a not-so-appealing outcome based on past performance.

Change is hard. It involves leaving our comfort zones, habits or belief systems and developing new ones. The transition is messy while we figure out how to accomplish new behaviours. There will even be a few mistakes along the way and people will need to readjust, (forgive), move forward and shift action. It can be awkward or frustrating. Keeping the whole orchestra (organization) and the final performance (goals) in focus will help.

  • Each person needs to know what instrument they play and how that instrument contributes to the whole.
  • Each person will need their own sheet music and it will be slightly different than someone playing a different instrument.
  • Each person will need to own their personal performance AND how they perform along with others. (You’ve all heard music when one instrument is off or out of tune.)

Making change is not about laying blame, it’s about being responsible for and owning ‘what doesn’t work’ or is no longer sustainable action – owning it personally in your corner of the stage – and it will take practice. Equally important to successful change is collaborating with others, following the beat or lead of another, being supportive of and aligning with other members of the orchestra, not to mention caring deeply about those people who will bear witness to the performance.

Own it to change it…

With luck, your orchestra has a supportive and active conductor guiding you along the way.

P.S. If you have an absentee or a non supportive conductor, you are still part of an orchestra and need to own your part in the overall performance in spite of a lack of leadership. Working together WITH the other musicians toward the greater performance is the best way to win with change.

P.P.S. Pointing fingers at others and blaming a lack of leadership as an excuse for poor performance or a bad attitude is a cop-out that shifts responsibility to others – this is a lose-lose activity. Win-Win activities involve owning it to change it.

 

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Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Question“We find … it’s much more important and difficult to ask the right question. Once you do that, the right answer becomes obvious.
~Amory Lovins

If you want to know more about why people do or don’t change, then ask more questions.

When working with organizations and teams, it is important to first listen and understand before building plans and developing programs for them. For organizations that do not have coaching as a mainstay offering for their leaders, they may be surprised to hear it is those coaching methodologies that open the door to understanding. For a large company, it is definitely worthwhile for key individuals and leaders within the organization to be coached, and for those in charge of organizational development (OD) to have some coaching training behind them.

There is a generalized stigma around coaching that can be hard to shake and it’s often referred to as that ‘airy-fairy’ soft-skills stuff. There is nothing soft about coaching!

If you remember being figuratively pinned to the wall as a teen in high school as some wise adult helped you learn to stand up and take responsibility for your own actions, you can easily recognize the value for coaching in any environment. Through great questions, a coach can dig deep enough to get to the root of why you choose your current thought patterns and reactions, helping you better understand where you fit among the dynamics of a multifaceted team of individuals. There is nothing soft about it. The secret to a coach’s success is the training they receive within two areas:

  • learning how to ask questions and
  • the right questions to ask.

This is why people in Change Management (CM) are also effective coaches. One who seeks to understand the stakeholders and the stakes involved in any change initiative is best served by first knowing the right questions to ask. Great questions return great results, further creating introspective reasoning for the individual who is providing the answers. The people being asked begin to think a little more about what they do and why they do it, eventually getting to the heart of why, within a change initiative, the stakes are so high for them.

This doesn’t mean the stakeholders are all in an ‘organized coaching program’, but rather, through a varied series of meetings, one-on-one discussions, facilitated group sessions and other forms of analysis and risk analysis, the CM professional is able to dig deep to the heart of any challenges that may inhibit change.

Change is inevitable, but change as a push mechanism is rarely successful. Change initiatives that take into consideration all stakeholders and build a plan for change that motivates and inspires people to move forward from resistance to desire find greater success. It is my experience that there is usually a lot more to resistance than what is initially shared, and a little coaching methodology can certainly loan itself to finding the greatest resistance and helping the people within an organization work through it.

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patticroppedPatti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations to develop
Happy Workplaces world-wide guiding them toward mastery and leadership
through consulting, advising, coaching, speaking, and delivering training.

You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323

Contact us here to book for Idea Sessions, Change Management, Executive Coaching or Team Development.

Idea Sessions | Change Management | Executive Coaching | Team Building

 

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