Archive for Change 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

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Outside observations of a project failure

Redwoods credit: PBlackstaffe

This article was first published as a LinkedIn post; March 19, 2017

update April 5, 2017 – Link: (Executives in department overseeing Phoenix pay system took home $4.8M in performance pay. It would be my suggestion that a full review of how projects are rolled out, from supplier evaluation, project management practices, change management, sustainability, and project governance are performed at all levels. Are there ‘best practices’ being performed?)

Maclean’s Magazine wrote an article in January about the Canadian Government Phoenix Pay System that has been plagued with issues, exceptions and poor results. The impacted numbers are mentioned in the article, a remarkable 82,000 payroll cases brought forward last summer with approximately 8000 remaining cases as of this January. Bear with me as I break down my thoughts on a section of the article about the project, and yes, it does relate to change management because I believe change management has a bigger role to play in projects.

A quote in that article caught my eye and gave me pause…

“In projects like this, especially with an organization like ours, when you have the equivalent of 100 companies implementing a system … there’s going to be … multiple points of failure,” said Marie Lemay

The quote left me uncomfortable for two reasons:

  1. it seemed to justify an expectation of multiple points of failure
  2. with 100 companies implementing, I wonder about fragmented deliverables and project stream silos.

Multiple Points of Failure

In large, complex and technology dense environments, collaboration is a key element to understanding the impacts of a technical roll-out. I don’t have the inside scoop on why 100 companies were integrating or what went wrong with the project, but I can surmise a few points.

First, let me note that if this implementation was a critical infrastructure with human safety at its core, the due diligence would be such that NO point of failure would be acceptable, period.

With large impact and complexity, a person in charge must have the courage to ‘own’ when a project is under-resourced, too fragmented, or the impact has not been fully tested or analyzed. That courage has to come from someone who is more concerned about final results and quality than budget, scope, and schedule (even if their role is on the line). With something that big, RESULTS matter. Budget, scope, and schedule become minuscule when, at the support end of the project, costs to fix the system rise astronomically. This project reached a critical failure for poorly managing a project to sustainability (likely in multiple areas). Add to that the PR nightmare and the pain it has caused hard-working employees, the realization is that technology is never about technology, but rather, the use and impact it has on people. In something this far reaching, expecting points of failure should never be an expectation! Mitigating risks should be.

Fragmented Deliverables – ‘it’s not your scope’

Anytime you have multiple streams of development occurring on a large, complex project, there is a great deal of work to be done to ensure collaboration. I won’t say it is easy, but I will say it is necessary. Whenever project or development teams on a large project are divided into separate streams, and they do not have a history of on-going collaboration, you increase the risk for points of failure. But to expect it rather than pull together work-stream fragmentation is a recipe for disaster. In the case of 100 companies with separate scope and deliverables, this fragmentation needed to be managed very carefully and dollars spent on coordination.

Collaboration efforts are important for identifying gaps. How, you might ask? Well, when tech teams are buried in their work as specialists and subject matter experts, they can lose sight of the forest and get stuck in the trees they know best. Someone neutral or from a different specialty or competency can often see the gaps far better than specialists can see from the inside. But, teams must be open to letting them in.

Collaboration does not happen magically, it needs help and nurturing.

Organizational Change Management for the Project Team?

The two points above line up very well with the most common areas of concern we see in failed complex technical projects.

  1. Failing to mitigate ALL risks and impacts for both the technology and the people impacted.
  2. Fragmented development where the project team is split into separate subject matter areas focusing on deliverables in a separate stream and who are infrequently brought together to collaborate in rich action-oriented sessions.

In the case of one of my clients, there was continual resistance that the technical team gave me – they considered it “butting in” when change management for project workflow was recommended. They wanted to know why I was being included in all technical meetings and decisions. In a recent conversation with a member of that technical team, I was told that because of my insistence we broke through silos and collaborated better as a team, and the project was successful as a result. He said he is now sold on the concept because he has seen it work. Why?

Because change mangement is about ‘people strategy’ and project teams are made up of people, too!

Managing change isn’t just an exercise you toss in at the end of a project to ‘make it nice for the end users’. Change management is a highly researched and well-developed competency that involves many activities to mitigate risk and realize success in adoption and sustainability. When a good change management person, who understands technology and development, is included throughout the entire project, they bring strategies and tactics with them that facilitate team cooperation and collaboration.

So in the case of the Phoenix Pay System, I wonder what kind of change management was supported, resourced and applied to the implementation of the technology, but moreover, what kind of support was there for a change management team to help mitigate the risks during the project itself?

Organizations have to stop seeing change management as a ‘soft skill’ afterthought that gets applied only to build out a communication and training plan at the end-user stage.

It is high-time that companies realize project managers and change management leads work best as equal partners to provide a rich and well-delivered technical project. The more highly complex and technically dense, the more important it is that a technology/human combined solution is supported at the senior sponsor level.

Focus on collaboration and quality requires the same amount of attention that budget, scope, and schedule do. After all, successful projects are successful when they positively impact people, that is what results are all about. Organizations need to pay attention to critical systems such as this and put dollars into the human side of change when resourcing and do so at the beginning of the project.

The quote gave me pause and made me think, perhaps it’s time we look at a different way of managing projects, especially when they are as complex as the Phoenix Pay System. Deep dives into impact analysis and the benefits of using a full change team partnering with the technical team may have made a difference here.

More articles on the Phoenix System issues:

Eroding Faith In the System

Protest Against Phoenix Pay System

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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.

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What’s the Protocol?

What the Show ‘Covert Affairs’ Can Teach Leaders. 

Covert affairCovert Affairss is a spy show about CIA operatives. A few years ago I learned a hard lesson when I failed to ask a very important question while media were gathered around a significant event; “What’s the protocol?” This question appears a lot in Covert Affairs.

Background

Let me explain. As the Chair Person of a Board of Directors of a not-for-profit, I was given the honour of leading a ground-breaking ceremony for a new school being erected that served preschool children with disabilities and their families. I will admit, it was a great feather in my cap personally, and I was extremely proud to see the model moving to the building of a school, when all previous expansion had been through purchase of an existing building or rental. I had spent almost 10 years with this organization and saw it grow from one building serving 173 children to the building of a 6th school that would eventually assist over 900 Children with disabilities. I was very proud of that growth, especially since during that time the organization successfully maintained the importance of focus on the child with an 83+ percentage of outcomes reached.

The Protocol

As a leader intent on supporting the good work of the team, I don’t particularly care for the focus on me, but as an ambassador of the organization it was occasionally my job to showcase the organization to groups. What I had never done before was a ground breaking ceremony. I worked hard in preparation, the Development team had prepared a schedule, a script, reviewed my speech, and I’d practiced until I was blue in the face. They had a wonderful child there who would be helping with the ground-breaking and many community individuals, dignitaries and media had been invited. The event had been very well organized and I was amazed at all that went into it. I just had to show up and be the spokesperson.

What I forgot to ask about the dignitaries and their respective roles, was; “What’s the Protocol?”

My role had always been to highlight the organization and its history, to use real and compelling examples of children and their progress, the heart-strings would always find themselves drawn into the story. I loved it being about the kids, about success and about the way kids overcome adversity. I was on a role, and my young 5 year old helper was a smashing hit, I made sure of it.

Sadly, I was completely unaccustomed to the importance of political dignitaries. Basically, I failed to understand the significance of their presence as it related to the funding, publicity and importance their role plays in the ongoing workings of a non-profit school. Their presence was about future dollars!

Basically, they were ignored. Ground-Breaking

And the Crowd Dispersed

Yes, there were photos with them at either side of my little pal and I holding the golden shovel, but they were just a stand in presence to what should have been a more significant role. What a wonderful media gift it would have been had I known the best part would have been giving those politicians the shovel and asking them to take the first dirt with their new little 5 year old friend and stepping back to let them!

Then I forgot to properly thank them, I took my little 5 year old over to the play area the event team had set up and I talked about the kids, with my little friend sharing his laughter and heart with the crowd. Oh the media loved the little guy – and I was asked for interviews later (which I never do well as cameras intimidate me) and those politicians went on with their busy day, wondering why they’d been called to attend in the first place. Talk about poor political moves!

In the end, the Development Team deemed the event a success, as they did get some much needed media attention, the cameras moving to the main school to shoot additional footage. They never once commented on my faux paus or political immaturity, but I am sure words unsaid were thought. Conversations around, “how do we keep MLA so-and-so here for a bit?” and other comments I heard as the crowd milled about in smaller groups made it obvious, and I grew increasingly aware of what I’d just done.

What’s the Desired Outcome?

Leaders, managers, employees all function under a layer of expectation and understanding. Some of the expectations may seem obvious to their bosses, but not to them. By asking the question, “What’s the protocol here?” gives them an opportunity to truly understand the expectations being placed upon them.

Basically, all meetings, all gatherings and all activity needs to lead to a desired outcome or outcomes. Some of those will be assumed. Some of us will be so entrenched in our duties we will fail to see the importance outside of our typical actions. We need to always be asking – what is the desired outcome, what is my protocol in this situation. Many a problem could be avoided, especially in terms of media communication of we knew that.

Change Management includes a strong definition of desired state for a reason, we want all activities to lead to the desired outcomes we are trying to achieve. Without a clear understanding we will be involved in changes that will be less than successful than we had planned.

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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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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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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.

___________________________________________

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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Sometimes Mirrors Are Scary

The economy may not be in a hurry to recover, but some employees might be.

Unhappy Employee

photo courtesy of Felix atsoram, Argentina

Desperate employees are the easiest to retain within ‘miserable to work for’ companies when times are tough and jobs are hard to find. Even better for that miserable company is the reasoning that the poor economic environment requires everyone to ‘buck up’ and ‘give one for the Team’.

It’s a great run for short-sighted organizations who fail to see the lack of business sense and poor strategy behind the ‘right now’ chaos where the horse is often chasing the cart down the hill. That strategy won’t take your company where it needs to be when the market improves.

When jobs are easier to find, unhappy employees will make a fast exodus out the door straight to a happier workplace and they take all that valuable knowledge with them.

Being aware of poor morale and unhappy employees isn’t enough – companies need to take action to make positive changes.

The solution most often preferred by the folks in charge is to make a shuffle and rearrange management.

Just remember, a bag of marbles is the same bag of marbles no matter how you arrange it. Unhappy employees are a symptom of the real cause.

I leave you with seven thoughts on leading toward building a happier workplace:

  • To solve your problem it will take great courage in targeting the cause, not the symptom.
  • Change requires you take a good honest look at your entire organization in the mirror – top to bottom – with a fresh eye.
  • You must be willing to take some of the heat in order to make the right changes.
  • Accountability, responsibility, transparency and clear strategy are going to be vital with any change.
  • You must be willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.
  • You will hear a lot of things you don’t want to hear, listen to them.
  • Trust the employees to want to make it better.

These are just a few – but the courageous leader who cares about their company is going to make some hard calls and is going to be unpopular for them. I have never tried to convince someone that doing the right thing is easy, but it is worth it.

Good luck, Make It Grand!

 

Patti BlackstaffePatti Blackstaffe, President of Strategic Sense Inc, is a Speaker, Strategic Advisor and Trainer 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. Read what folks have to say about her eBook Leadership XXL: 11 Practical Steps to Living Leadership Extra, Extra Large.

Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there, and call us. (403) 201-8512

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‘Step Up’ and Direct Change For the Future

Strategic Sense, in addition to providing Leadership Training, has made a commitment to highlight some of the remarkable authors, leadership professionals and business people we’ve 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 have solutions to some of our biggest workplace issues. Such as Jeffrey Summers, the President and Founder of RestaurantWorx who wrote about Building the Ultimate Customer Experience.

Today’s Guest Post is by Joan Koerber-Walker who has recently stepped up again as President and CEO of AZBio and whose blog we follow and share regularily because of it’s insight and great messages.

And now, here’s Joan…

 

Change is not passive

The Great Wall of China – © Chris Walker 2001 all rights reserved

Change is not a passive activity. Leadership isn’t either. When we see something that is changing, we find our opportunity to step up and lead. Just as with the Great Wall of China, there are thousands of opportunities to step up.

As we look around our businesses, our homes, our communities and our countries, we can always find areas in need of improvement. In each of these areas, we have a choice. We can sit back, watch and complain OR we can step up, lead and direct change for the better.

Take your walking stick on the journey.

Whether we choose to keep our world small or embrace it globally, each of us have our own unique talents, skills, and experiences that we can use to drive innovation in the world around us, These are the tools at our disposal that act as walking sticks, supporting us with each step we take IF we choose to use them. Some leadership journeys can be very long and others can be incredibly steep. Bringing everything you have to offer to the project gives you something to lean on along the way.

Connect your steps.

Stepping up does not have to mean traveling alone. It’s been said that it’s lonely at the top. Keep in mind that it does not have to be. Just like the Great Wall, there really is no “top” just a series of plateaus and mile posts that connect along the journey. With each connection comes the opportunity to form a bond with others who share your goals, passions and reasons for taking the lead. These bonds foster communication and the sharing of ideas just as in ancient times the Great Wall served as China’s foundation for a network of communications linking outpost to outpost.

Look back… Move Forward.

At times, when stepping up, the journey may seem too long ahead of us. This can sap our energy and slow our steps. When this happens, don’t be afraid to pause and look behind you at all of the steps that have lead you to this point. The progress you have made will fuel your energy once again and the momentary rest will give your leadership muscles a chance to recover. Then, when it is time, move forward to step up again. You might just leave a legacy as enduring as the Great Wall of China.

 

JoanJoan Koerber-Walker recently stepped up again as President and CEO of AZBio, the Arizona BioIndustry Association to lead an organization dedicated to the growth of the bioscience industry in her home state and its impact on health, energy, agriculture and the economy. A two time Stevie Award National Finalist and former Fortune 500 executive, she is also the Chairman of the Board of CorePurpose, Inc. and the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation and serves as Executive in Residence for Callaman Ventures. As the former CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association and a past member of the Board of Trustees of the National Small Business Association in Washington, D.C. she has worked with hundreds of small businesses and on behalf of thousands. Chat with her on Twitter as @joankw, @JKWgrowth, @JKWinnovation, @JKWleadership and @CorePurpose or at her blog at www.JoanKoerber-Walker.com.

Patti Image.xsm We DO want great employees, right...or do we?Patti Blackstaffe, President of Strategic Sense Inc, is a Speaker, Strategic Advisor and Trainer 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. Read what folks have to say about her eBook Leadership XXL: 11 Practical Steps to Living Leadership Extra, Extra Large.

Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there, and call us. (403) 201-8512

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