Plus ça change… is Change Management more of the same?

The more things change the more they stay the same goes the saying.

Yet Change Management is a growth industry and fretting about change a constant source of debate.

The first change management program I was involved with affected the nature of the business, and hence jobs, of hundreds of staff in dozens of outlets. We used a consultancy called Intract and their incisive director Dee Rowe startled me by her announcement “People don’t need help managing change! They deal with change from the day they’re born. But they might not LIKE the changes you want to see. That’s where the work is.”

I recently reviewed work I had done for a multinational company implementing a technical, cultural and strategic change program across many country based operations on a rolling basis. We carried out dozens of in-depth discussions (on-line using Synthetron) with hundreds of staff over a couple of years. In each case, the change program was the same, the company and the products were the same and yet the story was completely different in each country.

In every case, the change story was the same as the history story.

If there was a history of management misleading staff, they didn’t trust the management in the context of the change, if there was a history of triumphant adoption of new ideas, they were confident about triumphing with the new change, if the history was about ignoring customer needs and losing market share – then that was also their concern about the change.

Yet often, the change management team are focusing strongly on the CHANGE and scarcely at all on the CONTEXT, the history of the people who need to embrace and implement the change program.

In every case, by running a virtual debate ahead of the first meetings in each country, we were able to give the Change team clear insights into where their audience was coming from. What has happened to them? What are the sore spots? What is the right language to use to win over the hearts and minds of this particular country.

In some cases this context was driven by events ten years previous. No head office team can be expected to have that level of understanding of multiple countries across time. And with a tool like Synthetron they don’t need to – they can discover the insights from the people themselves and shape their approach to fit. People listen when the message matches their concerns. They switch off when it doesn’t. And they love feeling listened to…. just by asking them about their hopes and fears the tide can already begin to turn. Typically we see 15-25% uplift in their feeling about the change program after a one hour online group discussion.

Quick. Easy. Thoughtful. Meaningful. And aligned with what may be the most important principle of all in change management: you can’t change anybody without knowing something about them.

Behaviour research: the new generation leader

Challenge: to identify effective leadership styles and cross-reference with male / female strengths

Changes in LI (Leadership Intelligence) over time

Our approach: on-line mega-focus group run on the Synthetron platform, then online questionnaire. NB Customer Interpreter is the sole provider of Synthetron crowdsourcing software in the UK. This research was carried out with Aspire Coaching

A few of our observations about 21st century leadership

  • Participants admire inspiring vision, courage, intelligence, integrity, the guts to make change happen, innovativeness and those they believe have a vision, stand for something and have made a difference.
  • What is now being rejected is untrustworthy leadership based on ego, greed or selfishness, those that aim to divide and conquer.
  • The best leaders tend to be female and they tend to improve with age and business or parenting experience. Higher LI (Leadership Intelligence) scores are seen in the public sector and those working in professions or in the coaching/development industry. Seniority helps, but board members have lower LI scores.
  • High LI scorers take a job to make a difference and have a challengein a company they believe in. They are frustrated by hierarchies, work-life balance and lack of opportunities to do what they came for.
  • Women appear to be less of a gamble when it comes to LI –their variance is significantly less than that of men and they are less affected by the sector, seniority level or working patterns.

Timescale: 1 month
Full report: find it here: leadership survey 2010

Behaviour research example: retaining female employees

Thanks to

Challenge: Understand reasons for much lower retention levels of female employees in a professional services organisation
Our approach: Interviews with junior and senior male and female employees and male and female clients

A few of our recommendations to encourage better retention

  • Reconsider the business model where income is based on hours not results. Clients also expressed dissatisfaction with the system that encouraged the professional services company to pester them with unnecessary updates and lengthy reports. They preferred the approach of female account handlers, especially mothers with busy lives who delivered crisp summaries at critical intervals
  • Build connections up and down the organisation between new female employees and succesful family minded senior employees to share coping strategies and indentify effective policy updates
  • Develop alternative career paths where those (male or female) employees who wished to also have time with their families or other interests, could develop expertise and seniority in departments not requiring 24/7 availability

Timescale: 1 month