Archive for Management

2 stages missed in your change management story

In Project management, just like a great story, there are three main stages.

  • Start (setting, characters, goal) PMI – initiating
  • Do (plot and climax) PMI – planning, executing, monitor & control
  • Finish (discovery, how the hero is changed) PMI – Closing

Many companies see change management as a “doing” activity, where you bring a change management resource (OCM lead) in at the execution phase of the project. The OCM lead is then asked to “smooth things over” or “make it nice” for the people.

Typically, this means – plan the training and communications at the lowest cost possible to the project. Likely, the project wasn’t resourced to include a fully baked change program, to begin with. All good stories are about the people.

I could list a hundred reasons for the fallacy around this thinking and why OCM needs to be included from Start to Finish, (or as we like to call it, Readiness to Sustainability) but I will only list a couple here:

  1. It is not about the technology, it is about how the technology is utilized, used, and being implemented to create efficiency and productivity. That is all about the people.
  2. The technology does not install itself, a team of people does, the integration efforts are also about people. OCM applies to the group making the changes as much as it does to the end-users being implemented.
  3. People are messy. They come with different viewpoints, challenges, aspirations, desires, experiences, and talents, then you throw them into a room to make the change and you choose not to manage that dynamic from the human side and stand firm it is only a technical exercise.

By the time your project is in execution mode, or just prior to execution, it is too late to start the OCM story, so the OCM lead is forced to do what they can with the little they have to work with. This costs the company in many areas:

  • The time to build awareness and pre-training has been lost.
  • Team engagement does not occur, increasing risk and resistance.
  • Gaps in knowledge and understanding for isolated project streams.
  • Minimal training opportunities, leading to poorly utilized software solutions.
  • Limits the communications to emails that are likely ignored.
  • Drop in user efficiency and proficiency.
  • Poor hand-over to final owners of the solution.

I could go on, but those are key to the success of a project. One might argue that the people will make their way through it so why add dollars to the cost of your project?

Because you can spend the money in resources during the project, or you can spend much more AFTER the project closes in support and productivity loss.

Having a people change strategy with an OCM who partners with the Project Manager from readiness to sustainability will save you money. Maybe not in the project budget itself, but it definitely will through sustainability.

An OCM lead should be there through the whole story to:

  • Help develop the desired state (what is the goal?)
  • Build the vision and benefits (visualize the goal and why it is important)
  • Better understand the stakeholders (build out character understanding and how changes impact their lives)
  • Properly build the awareness plan long before execution (know the plot and what the characters will do about it)
  • Keep the technical streams engaged and fully aware of their actions on impact events. (technical solutions people are not always aware that even small changes are impacts.)
  • Gain agreement from stakeholders about the roll-out of the solution (all protagonists need supportive actors)
  • Empower the support team through the development of DIY troubleshooting collateral (discovery of a new normal)
  • Develop hand-over packages that provide a clear understanding of how people will do things differently from now on. (conclusion)

Every OCM has the potential to transform how you make change happen if they are brought in and are given the ability to positively impact the success of your projects. They are crafters of a new story, writers of a new direction and will save you dollars in the long run. Not to mention, they will contribute to the ROI of this technical investment you have made.

One way to determine if your company is flexible enough to be ready to change is to better understand the company’s change maturity level. Prosci has an easy chart to determine this:

At which project stage does your company bring in Change Management resources?

Linkedin Articles on Change:

Project Engagement Can Drive Action

Outside Observations of a Project Failure

Your Grand Investment and Why it Fails




When employees care – office politics

Change Mangement is all about people strategy, from sponsor to front lines. Because of this, we get to meet many caring people who want nothing more than to do a great job and help the team find success.

One piece of advice for senior management teams and sponsors is to allow us to help you identify these people because regardless of scope, budget, or schedule, they are the ones who will make a difference for your projects.

There are many different reasons people walk into your company’s door and why they stay and do their job. Some of them are passionate about the work, some want to expand their career, some are motivated by salary or path, and for some, it doesn’t matter where they land so long as they are able to do what they do best, and with great quality.

The employee that truly cares about the people, the work, the outcome – these people will make a difference to leaders and their organizations. You, as a leader, need to know who they are and let them do it. Why? Because they will make you and your project shine!

Office politics exist in every company or organization where people are gathered to get a job done. Senior managers who focus on their own motivation or agenda and fail to see those who truly care are actually doing themselves a disservice. Their KPI’s (key performance indicators) are definitely important, but if meeting those KPIs are at the cost of the growth and quality of the work, success will come slower.

BUT, leaders still have a silver bullet – and it lives with the people who care. True leaders know that even though they have to meet specific criteria set forth by the people above them, that it’s the people reporting to them who make them successful. And this kind of success happens when the leader’s agenda doesn’t get in the way! Tricky work, but worth the effort in the long run.

Why don’t some leaders do this?

  • Some feel threatened by people who outshine them.
  • Some are so driven to meet their agenda, they barely notice the people.
  • Some just aren’t good at seeing anything other than their own needs/wants.
  • Many assume everyone else is motivated by the same things they are.

If you are in management, think about your agenda and find the people who care, then let them use their strengths.

If you are an employee and caring about your work is perceived as a threat, consider where your strengths can be applied. Begin your plan to find a leadership team that wants you to contribute to their success. Find a leader whose agenda doesn’t stop you from being a terrific employee contributor.


Why a Journey Map Matters

When we take on a project, one of the first things we do is to lay out a journey map. We do this because it helps us tell a story, outlines where we are going, and most importantly, it outlines the stages or gates that help us know if we are making progress.

For a full change management overview of the journey, there are three specific views that will make a difference.

  1. Sponsor journey map
  2. User journey map
  3. Development (or project) journey map

Sponsor journey map

The sponsor journey map gives the sponsor an idea of what we are doing, the key dates when activities are occurring and the approval gates the sponsor will want to ensure approvals are performed. This journey map

User journey map

The user journey map is the journey the user will go through so the project team can layout the path that the user can expect to follow during an implementation. This will include informing their teams about when communications will come out, dates that will impact the users, and the implementation, training and support plans. It will give key dates and provide them will information they will need to know on the “day of” cut-over.

Development (or project) journey map

This is the journey map that allows all specialties to work with and is the most detailed. It will identify the following:

  • Phases of the project
  • Important design or decision dates
  • Specific changes that will occur and how those changes impact the business, users, or customers.

These are important items so that the specialist teams can provide the support needed for the project. Specialist teams such as training, communications, development, document managers, etc.

To truly provide a rich experience for the people being impacted by change, without a journey map they may flounder in understanding what actions to take, the key messages that need to be shared, and the plan moving forward. During a project, the journey map matters!

It is not the only thing that matters, there is a lot of work in a project that involves readiness, development and sustainability planning, but the journey map can remove a lot of headaches and help everyone see the bigger picture.


A New Manager’s Guide to Honesty

LeadingFirst, a short story.

Not long ago, a team we are familiar with described their experience with a difficult manager. The frustration level was such that the core team were ready to quit.

Their issue? A lying Manager.

The team was weary, distrustful, often cranky and angry at each other, and they were beginning to unravel thread-by-thread. It was easily traced to the manner in which the manager had been handling the team.

Sadly, the issues they had went on for a number of years:

  • They were all privately told different versions of what was going on in the team.
  • The manager made promises to all of them, separately, but did not always back it up or follow it through.
  • The manager continually deflected accountability for actions by pointing in any direction but his own, including pointing up the chain or at other team members.
  • Many of the stories pitted members of the team against one another.
  • The manager promised roles to team members when that role already belonged to other team members, without using professional due process.

In addition to lying, the key ingredients to frustration were the manager’s inability to take ownership or accountability for most actions, especially anything the employees disliked or when they challenged his lack of willingness to be open about future planning.

The thing about lying is, as mentioned in a previous post Liars get caught, period, the lies are almost always found out, eventually. When a manager lies to his team, he destroys trust. Avoiding difficult situations, or conflict altogether, are as good as lying and continues to diminish trust within a team.

Ways to be an honest Manager, especially through change

Hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for moving the team forward. The manager who falls into the habit of blaming their bosses for decisions made loses the team and creates an ‘Us against Them’ environment. This can be avoided by one of the foundational principles of management, keeping the team unified and in alignment with the company strategy.

  • Take ownership of the decisions which are out of your control and made at a higher level.
  • Champion these decisions as your own and encourage your team to do the same.
  • Recognize when you are powerless to change the decision and move on professionally, even if you disagree (keep it to yourself) as you are the ambassador for the people who lead you.

Build the functional capability of the team as a team. Many a manager believes that once given the title they are empowered to make all the decisions and the team must simply follow it through. While that may be true in terms of power and authority, by disrespecting your team members’ valuable knowledge and ignoring group decision making, a manager may be putting the team, and ultimately the company, at risk.

  • Make meetings productive by listening, not by trying to be the smartest person in the room. Ask a lot of questions and get answers from your experts, leverage the team ‘on the ground’ and utilize and respect their knowledge.
  • Mine solutions from the whole group then ask all in the room to question the validity and be the ‘friendly critic’ who can identify associated risks.
  • Keep ‘water cooler’ conversations away from planning and decision-making unless you are focused only on that team member’s performance.
  • Never make promises you cannot keep, the entire team will slowly begin to distrust your leadership.
  • Focus on the strengths of the whole team united, the importance of a team that works together and is not in conflict.

These are a just a few ideas for helping your build honesty and trust within your team. An honest, transparent and trustworthy manager is far more effective than a top-down, distrustful one. Leadership is not about you, it is about the team and what is best for the company. Open, honest transparency will be a far better guide through change and will serve you as a new leader in all walks of life.

What ideas can you share with new managers?


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.


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.


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.


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 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!


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.


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.


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



Policies, Procedures and the Leadership Team

PoliciesWhether you have 10 people walking in the door for work or 1000, they all bring with them their dreams, hopes, values, frustrations, problems and their desire to make their career the best it can be. People bring with them every experience they have ever had, and their perception of what that experience has meant to them, good or bad. Most of them will react to everyday situations based on those experiences, putting a wrapper around the situation based on what they believe it means to them.

Witnessing the human dynamic can be both awe inspiring and difficult, depending on what is playing out at any given time within the organization. You will have motivated and non-motivated employees, you will have great leaders and managers who are biding their time. There will be people with good intentions and the odd one with not-so-good intentions.

And this is why every company needs to have policies and procedures in place with strict adherence to them.

For the routine actions and for the unusual actions that will occur in any company, a set of guidelines for both employee and employer provide clarity and help avoid miscommunication.

First, the best place to start is to look at your Provincial or State labour standards or code. These are the guidelines you as an employer must uphold, it is the law in the place where you live. It is also the job of every manager in your company to know what these are; are you helping them? Small companies without a solid HR presence will especially need to know what the rules are.

Second, you need to protect the company and your employees from harm. Harm includes law suits, security issues, labour problems and safety. There are clear guidelines in all of these areas as well. Do your homework, make sure you know what your rights are and make sure you know the rights of your employees. A company handbook can include some of these items.

Third, you need to understand what processes you as a company wish to work within, basically; “What are my manager’s supposed to do and what are they allowed to do within these walls and how do I want them to accomplish it?” AND “What are my employees supposed to do and how do I want them to accomplish that?”

Many companies are unaware of how important their own policies and procedures are.

Executive team, not everyone ‘works like you and thinks like you.’

I know a lot of companies are weary trying to keep up with the legislated pieces and want to apply more of the budget to operations rather than HR. However, HR, when given the right direction and authority, have the ability to save the company many dollars in the long run.

From vacations to stress leave, from benefits to complaints, without a solid set of procedures to access and the guidelines of what to do, your employees will be scrambling for answers and wanting support. In most companies employees want their immediate manager to have both the answers and the authority to make a difference for them. Have you prepared your management team to handle all they will need to handle when they encounter a difficult situation or event, a budgetary shift, a grievance? Have you prepared your HR team to take on what the manager cannot? Have you outlined the differences in their roles? Are you tracking attrition, complaints, costs of transition, and more? Have you outlined the overall ‘behavioural intolerance level’ your company will not accept and what happens when they arise? If not, you have some work to do.

It is easy to make the assumption your staff understands how you want the company to run, after all, you are there every day and you are showing them how to do it. Be cautious, leader, these people need things clearly laid out, eliminate as much opportunity for misinterpretation of your desires as possible. Empower your staff to make decisions without you because the policy or procedure is spelled out in a way that supports your teams and protects your organization. But be aware, this is not a quick task or a two month answer, you will need facilitation and direction through about 18 months to two years of development if this is the first time you have embarked on such a task and you have more than 20 employees.

Give your Managers and HR department the tools and the power to make a difference for you and for your staff. Develop a company where everyone knows what support looks like and your teams are empowered to shine.


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



Why I Can’t Be Hired

Be willing to do the work, not play the victim of circumstance

get-hiredWorking in Organizational Development (executive coaching and change management) is my passion. I love situational, character and behavioural development within an organizational environment. I personally study hard to build my programs and I take neuroscience, anthropology and psychology research into account for all jobs involving people. I have done this self-study for almost 20 years regardless of where I have worked – I am fascinated by people. What really charges me is when I am asked to come in and work with teams for greater collaboration and communication.

To determine if I am a good fit for the consulting contract, I ask the following two questions:

  1. How much action and change is the executive leadership willing to take on in order to make my efforts worthwhile for the company?
  2. What kind of support will be available from the top in order to make positive change happen?

The one statement that leads me to decline a consulting role with a company is this:

“I just want you to come in and fix ______________.” (This statement is rarely associated with actions of the executive leadership.)

First, your people don’t need fixing. Second, I am powerless to ‘fix this’ because as the consultant that is not my job, as the leader it is YOUR job. Third, I am hired to guide you and lead the way, the work involved belongs to each and every individual within the company STARTING with the top level leadership and supported through to the front lines.

When a problem exists, the first step is for the leadership to be able to admit there is a problem, but they cannot stop there. They must be willing to admit the actions they have been taking thus far are not working and something needs to change. It needs to change first at their level.

I have been known to decline any job whereby the hiring individual is unwilling to do what it takes to turn around the morale or working relationships within the company. I will also turn down coaching jobs with any manager who is not willing to take the action necessary to make change at their (leadership) level.

Coaching and consulting are about providing the assist, but we don’t come in and score the goals for our client, that is their job. They must be willing to do the work – not play the victim of circumstance.


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



The Three E’s of Hiring

Three E'sDo not be fooled by assuming that education = expertise.
Do not be fooled by assuming expertise = results.
Do not discount experience.

The HR hiring departments of many organizations seek qualifications, expertise and experience when trying to fill a position.

Paper tells very little. The person can tell/show you a lot.

Start with experience – it is the practitioners who do the work regularly and on a continual bases who know what results look like.

Experience is: hands on doing, maturity in the industry and holds the foundational knowledge leading to the role.

Next, vet their expertise – some gain it by reading, some by doing; some both ways.

Use the interview to clarify if the expertise is that which they ‘tell’ you they know or if it is actual knowledge pertaining to the role.

Let education be the last thing you look for, not the first. Use it to select the candidate from your short list of practitioners.

Remember: You want to hire people who can DO the job, not look impressive. Your role is to decipher who those people are and then determine if they are a good fit for the values and goals of the company and team for whom they are being recruited.

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.



Business IS of the Heart

…When Cultures Collide in Mergers and Acquisitions

Business consultants tell entrepreneurs to know their exit plan, and many focus on a merger or acquisition market as they build their businesses. This is especially true in the technology or engineering space, where valuations are done of a technology which may be attractive to larger firms looking to grow their offering.

When a valuation is being performed on a company prior to merging or acquiring it, that valuation is usually based solely on the financial side of the business. A careful calculation of the assets and liabilities, the varied business market, the intangible assets like trademarks or patents, financial reporting and more. A company does their homework before any merger or acquisition, and typically if a sale goes through, they feel confident they’ve made the right move.

But there is one thing that is rarely done… and that is a careful study of the differences between the company cultures. Culture is about shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that make up the “personality” of a given company. Personalities are important. Imagine, if you will, two people discussing getting married and they both have children and homes.

Of course ‘marriage is of the heart and this is business’, you say?

Well, two companies coming together needs to be treated like a marriage. If you were considering marrying someone, you do need to consider your partner’s financial health and see if it matches yours, but is that all you would look at? I would think you should see if there is compatibility of the values, attitudes and practices. How you raise your children and how they raise theirs may be so far removed from one another, you could be creating Armageddon rather than a loving, caring blended family. It could be that you are sending a child or two on a run-away spree, or will be forever burdened by being the nasty, horrible and wicked step-parent no matter how hard you try.

image courtesy of

This little analogy is very apropos for M&A (Mergers and Acquisitions) and cultural evaluations are starting to make headway in some M and A analysis of companies. Why?

Because after you buy the company and by the time you ask a consultant to come in and help with the messy change management of the two cultures, it can be too late.

It is imperative the company buying takes a careful look at the culture of the company being purchased and consider this in their valuation. A company purchasing a heavily creative and innovative group whose mandate it has been to focus on the customer may find their new family clashing with a process driven conglomerate whose focus is global spread and, trust me, that can be disastrous. In fact, in technology, the key component to a wise purchase is in determining how to retain the knowledge held by the employees. Your software is only as good as the people writing it, and you want them to stay.

I am not saying it cannot be done or to avoid the purchase, what I am saying is, you better already have a great plan in place for merging not only the technology or the company, but the cultures too. Doing your homework needs to be holistic, not finance specific, know what pitfalls and roadblocks you will suffer if culture is left out of the equation, or that beautiful valuation sheet may very well be worth far less once the knowledge has walked out the door.

There are things you can do to prepare in advance:

  • bring someone in who understands how to evaluate cultures and
  • work at building a plan of action toward a healthy merger or acquisition, upfront.

It behoves you to do so, because business is of the heart, and shouldn’t be about wasting money or losing talent.


Patti 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 her here | book her to speak



Encouraging Others

Strategic Sense made a commitment this year to highlight some of the remarkable authors, leadership professionals and business people we have had the great fortune of meeting and working with over the last 3 years. On Wednesdays, you will see guest-posts from some of these folks. All are leaders in their field and will have solutions to some of our biggest workplace issues. As with Marlene Chism‘s post last week that encouraged us to Stop Complaining today’s post helps us remember to Encourage…

Today’s Guest Post is by Kevin Eikenberry, from The Eikenberry Group. His blog Leadership and Learning has been a mainstay in our weekly reading and he has worked for years with organizations and individuals in helping them improve their leadership. You can get a copy of his latest book here From Bud to Boss and follow up on the review we gave on this blog last week.


image courtesy of Davide Guglielmo, Italy

And now, here’s Kevin:

In certain situations we all understand and value the importance of encouragement.

Take, with kids for example. When they are learning to walk and talk, there is tons of encouragement from every adult around. We know that if they keep at it they will succeed.

Take, our friends as a second example. When our closest friends are down or in pain, we all have provided encouragement and support, knowing that our encouragement would help them through a difficult time.

In both of these situations we realize the other person needs greater courage – either to take another try at a step, or to move past the pain or disappointment they might be feeling. To encourage literally means “to cause or create courage”.

Isn’t courage sometimes lacking at work too?

People lack the courage to try something new.

People lack the courage to do the right thing for the Customer.

People lack the courage to change the work process.

People lack the courage to share a new idea.

(need I go on?)

I talk with leaders all the time that want their team members to “be proactive” and “keep growing”. All too often the biggest barrier in people’s way is fear (of failure, of chastisement, of political suicide, or ridicule, to name a few).

And as we intuitively know, one of the best antidotes for fear is the strong, vibrant, continual and authentic encouragement of others.

If you want people to do more, take on more, and grow; encourage them.

If you want people to try new things, encourage them.

Amongst all of your coaching competencies and fancy coaching models, remember one of the most powerful tools you have.


Ask yourself, who can I encourage today?

Kevin Eikenberry is a two-time bestselling author, speaker, consultant, trainer, coach, leader, learner, husband, and father (not necessarily in that order).


Traveling Your Journey ‘From Bud to Boss’

Book Review:

Everyone is a leader, from the guy helping out at the sports game to the teacher, to the person who answers phones at the dentist office. Every part of our jobs involves leadership skills in one form or another. Just navigating your way through the chaotic and ever-changing world we live in requires a myriad of leadership skills.

In all of the chaos and fluctuation we seek to find a voice of reason and a calm guide to help us work our way through and it’s especially challenging when we have most recently been promoted to a management role and are moving “From Bud to Boss”. Well, you can make a stop on that journey of searching and take more than a peek at a new book of just such a name by Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris. From Bud to Boss – Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership is more than just a book, it’s a journal of steps and strategies that will bring you closer and closer to your goal of being a leader people choose to follow.

If you could have a map for dealing with the significant change from an employee to a boss it would be within the pages of this book. Charting a course through that change, the critical components of your own leadership style and how you communicate physically, emotionally and verbally is not always easy. Self evaluation is a big part of growth and Eikenberry and Harris provide ample ways to take a good look at yourself, much like holding a mirror up to you and showing you what other people see.

Why is that important? Because until we see ourselves as others might see us, our willingness to grow is hindered by a limited view. That limited view provides limited direction.

“But now the world is different, and your perspective must, necessarily, change”

With a clear guide through the transition From Bud to Boss Eikenberry and Harris offer you what they call “Remarkable Principles” that, when read alone, provide a great template for remembering the lessons in the book – grab a highlighter you’re going to want to have these as road-signs on your map to leadership.

“Change is a choice. People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.”

With every “Remarkable Principle” comes both explanation and hands-on, real-life strategies you can take with you and utilize immediately. This is a workbook, a book for a person who has a great desire to take the journey to remarkable leadership. Each exercise applies to you – not some generality you must work hard to apply to your own circumstances.

Throughout the book you will find a “Bonus Byte” a hint or tip for applying the exercise to your own leadership, your team efforts or for simply taking a look back at the steps you have taken and re-assess.

Everyone needs a stepped plan, a place to start and support in getting there. “From Bud To Boss” gives you all that, in addition to a plethora of resources you can tap into in reaching your goals of making a difference as the leader you were meant to be. In addition to all the resources, Eikenberry and Harris help you define a vision for your leadership, your relationships and grow a relationship with yourself.

Not sure why you would bother? It is this writer’s opinion that everyone has room to grow, no matter how successful a leader we are, we always have room to learn more, be more and do more. Take this journey and discover the total cost of not adopting change as the authors walk you through the steps and the path of discovering what happens when we stagnate while change swirls all around us and we live romanticizing the past that we ‘think’ has served us best.

If you were to step yourself through the rugged path of leadership, without a guide, without an understanding of what lies in your path , it is going to be a slower journey. Everyone wants some indication of how to deal with the pitfalls, the roadblocks, the trees in the road, and while one cannot possibly give warning of everything – this book addresses a good many of the critical factors in leadership and creates a map worth following.

“Most people communicate in the way that is most comfortable to

them. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this tendency, it

does present a bit of a challenge to you as a leader.”

None of us are on this journey alone, if you’re the boss – you have a team and an organization you must communicate with, not to mention meeting the expectations of your own boss. Follow the information in the Communication chapters to more effectively influence, support, and provide memorable meaning to what you say and how you say it and then begin to understand the deepest and most relevant skill your team needs – you, listening.

Whether it’s adjusting to change and communicating effectively or coaching and evaluation, ‘From Bud to Boss’ offers a comprehensive workbook and leader-journey to support the key to accomplishing great things… and that is collaboration. They walk you through healthy and unhealthy conflict showing you the difference and give you steps to successfully deal with both so that you, the leader, can set – work toward and achieve your goals.

I don’t know Kevin Eikenberry or Guy Harris, but I get Kevin’s newsletter and read it weekly – that newsletter is always packed with content and valuable information. No fluff there, so when I heard he teamed up with Guy to write a book– I found out how I could get an advance copy to read. Thanks to Kevin and his generosity, I have the privilege of adding a valuable manual for leadership to my bookshelf. It is a book I will reference frequently and that offers more than just words on leadership, it offers actionable steps, resources and a touch-base of follow-up support for the leader who chooses to change, grow and develop with and for the people he/she is privileged to lead.


2010 Asked Us To Engage; 2011 Suggests We Evolve

Year in Review & Global Evolution – 2010 brought with it a strong awareness in global online communities and two words truly stood out for us.

Engagement and Authenticity.

Happy New Year

image courtesy of Madhavan M - India

Some of what we observed:

  • Social media transformed from geek-fun to mainstream as online communities grew at rapid rates.
  • News of natural disasters arrived on our desktops and mobile devices in real-time, thanks to Twitter, Facebook and other online community sharing.
  • Customers felt comfortable sharing their good and bad experiences with thousands of online connections as companies discovered their carefully thought-out and executed customer service departments failed in customer service satisfaction.
  • YouTube grew as the #2 search engine running closely behind Google, sending the message that visual is important to consumers.
  • Small Businesses discovered a global audience online as they stumbled through figuring out how to leverage new online tools and software expanding their reach to potential customers.
  • Politicians and Large Corporate discovered people want truth, action and disclosure – in several uncomfortable ways – Wikileaks being one of them.
  • Slow growth and less disposable spending ushered in a call for creating greater levels of consumer satisfaction – on a grand scale.

The repetitive word was ‘Engage’ and engaging with authenticity and integrity was the theme we heard loud and clear in all areas, both online and in person, especially from employees.

If Engage was the word for 2010 we believe Evolve will be the word for 2011

Evolve for flexible change in transformational times.

Companies who focus on culture and build a team excelling in co-creation, collaboration and sharing will begin to own their markets. Here are some ways smart companies will evolve in 2011:

  • Through partnering in unique ways to create exciting projects and connect employees, vendors, developers and customers.
  • Utilizing experts through virtual services and building a transparent model of collaboration.
  • Leveraging the diversity of knowledge using the crowd, transforming top-down leadership organizations into flexible and collaborative decision making companies.
  • Developing software with open development practices and shared knowledge.

We believe engagement and authenticity will drive this evolution of engagement in the coming year, and the push to change will come from the crowd, rather than organizations themselves. We are witnessing transformation on a global scale where the everyday citizen’s voice is now more powerful because of the collective gathering of ideas and thoughts enhanced with so many new technologies and platforms. Companies who evolve to meet the challenges offered them by that collective will be the winners – changing the face of leadership entirely.

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership, Customer Service and Cultural integration through Mergers and Acquisition. You can book her to speak at her personal page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals, teams, group training and company strategy. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. (403) 201-8512


Going for Advancement

Meet Evaluation, Meet AdvancementAdvancement only comes with habitually doing more than you are asked. ~Gary Ryan Blair

Advancement, if this is one of your personal values for your career, your job is to understand how you are evaluated, then exceed it.

The criteria on which you are evaluated are the criteria by which your company defines career advancement. These criteria may or may not match your values, working toward your values and ignoring evaluation criteria is not the path to advancement. Your job is to decide if you can work where you feel conflicted, or if you can still maintain your values while still exceeding their criteria.

Many companies fail to recognize disconnects between what they say they want for a culture and what they actually evaluate. What gets evaluated is what they build. If a company seeks collaborative and innovative – then what they measure needs to match those criteria.

For a company to say they want a fun and invigorating culture, but only measure margins and ignore behaviour and intangibles is equal to a brain wanting weight loss and going straight for the double-double chocolate cake. One does not equal the other.

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Patti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations in implementing sustainable change in a rapid changing world. Her key areas of focus are change management solutions both at the project level and the organizational level. She has over 10 years of experience in change management, has worked on projects that impact 50-30,000 people in both large and small organizations. Patti brings experiential design thinking into all her projects ensuring solutions are relevant, simplified and the implementation makes sense.

You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323

Contact us here to work with us.


Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals, teams, group training and company strategy. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. (403) 201-8512


Make YOUR company a Cirque Du Soleil

This evening I had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday a little early by attending KOOZA by Cirque du Soleil, a gift from my kids (thanks kids). What a show – between the antics, the acrobatics and the feats of amazement, I could not help thinking about how all our companies could learn a thing or two in both customer service and leadership.

Here are a few of my observations:

1. Not just any old circus

The quality of each and every act is superior to any show I have witnessed. Painstaking detail goes into every costume, all the makeup, the lighting, the sounds and especially safety. With the maintenance of equipment, upkeep of fabrics for costumes, and the polished shine on the metal parts to catch the light, it is all miraculously new-looking and beautiful, despite hundreds of previous shows. NO cutting costs for cheaper fabrics that don’t stretch with the body, cheaper makeup that runs when you sweat, low-cost equipment – nope, because this is a class act.

There will be no oil leak at this Cirque!

2. Everyone is a star in this gig

If you are a trapeze artist, there’s a good chance you will be moving sets and removing items from the stage. If you have some other talent in your past that would be beneficial like massage therapy or plumbing, you may be asked to provide that as well.

There are no headliners or heroes. Everyone is a star in this gig – you have talent, well, chances are you were gifted with more than one and your job is to not only contribute those talents but also support the talent of others in every way possible by pitching in on everything you can.

Get over yourself – get into the team.

3. Don’t show the customer the cogs, give them what they came for

We went to Cirque du Soleil to be entertained, and entertained we were. There are a ton of mechanical, technical and physical adjustments between acts, but we were barely aware they were taking place because of the high-energy, excitement going on all around us. The clever distractions and crazy antics kept us highly entertained and laughing the whole way through. And then suddenly, we became aware that they’d put together rigging right there out in the open for the next act, and we barely noticed its arrival because we were so caught up with the fun of the show.

This is how the best of the best make your life happy as a customer, they make your experience seamless and fun. You don’t notice how hard they are working in the background to deliver your product and you don’t have to care.

Getting great service or a great experience should be just that, great!

4. Surprise EVERYONE

This is the third Cirque du Soleil show I have attended and I never grow weary of them. Why? I am always pleasantly surprised. They don’t do this with any one thing; it is the combination of things that offer me continual enchantment, so much so I forget to blink in the event I may miss something. There is action happening at every level, every corner of the facility or tent to keep me in amazement. I have a hard time finding anything at all to complain about because of the perpetual activity that astounds me.

If you have one department that truly shines above all others according to customer response, then learn from these folks, because EVERY department needs to shine and surprise. This means learning how to become a company that always exceeds customer expectation rather than meeting it.

Think Apple.

We cannot all be Cirque du Soleil, but we can certainly learn a lot about business and leadership by being one of their customers, I recommend you attend and while you are there, observe, learn and figure out how you can implement.

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership Development, Customer Service and Culture through Mergers and Acquisition. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals & teams, group training and company strategy. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. 403-201-8512