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Change Management

“Going Digital” A Framework for Corporate Learning

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For many organizations, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed some serious vulnerabilities. Businesses not equipped with a digital strategy have become highly reactive and struggled to swiftly pivot and support their workforce development under these unprecedented circumstances. Clearly, these uncertain times call for pioneer thinking. Organizations must learn, expand, and develop new ways to enable people to do better work through a continuously evolving digital strategy.

This lead paragraph might seem vague and grandiose; don’t get disillusioned by these opening lines. Let’s take a closer look at how organizations can leverage a digital mindset to successfully move both technology and people to the center of their response strategy and ongoing corporate narrative.

Digital Transformation

Where to start? Well, by defining a term that gets a lot of eye rolls – Digital Transformation.

Digital Transformation starts with the complete rethinking of how a business operates. Said best by McKinsey & Company, it is about empowering employees to embrace change and to challenge old ways of working. Digital Transformation must take place at all levels within an organization, i.e., the core business must fundamentally change. Countless business leaders have been reluctant to do the hard work – to transform their business operations to digital, but with the unexpected global crisis, they now have no choice. Becoming digital is the only way forward.

A Digital Transformation introduces boundless opportunities for innovation, operational efficiencies, and competitive advantage. Simply injecting technology into an existing process proves insufficient in realizing what it means to be digital. So, this is when the difference between Automation versus Digitalization becomes important.

Linking proven learning methods with advanced technology allows organizations to meet the immediate needs of their people while future proofing their workforce along the way.”

 

Automation vs. Digitalization

Both Gartner and Forbes have published excellent content on the difference between Automation and Digitalization. Two recommended articles are included in the footnotes. If you are interested, dive in! To simplify the jargon:

Automation

  • To install technology into an existing process
  • To make a process operate automatically by replacing human intervention

Digitalization

  • To provide new value, improve how something gets done
  • To leverage technology to make work and ultimately people’s lives better

Unfortunately, many organizations focus on implementing automation with an intention to simplify work by removing human intervention as opposed to creating resilient business models. The output of these expensive automation projects consistently fails to meet business needs/expectations. Meanwhile, businesses that embrace digitalization have the mindset to better manage change overall, making change management a core competency while the business becomes more agile and customer-centric.

Digital Transformation of Learning

In today’s corporate setting, a person’s success is often attributed to their ability to learn and adapt. Education is an enabler for people, particularly during times of substantial change. One would think this understanding would propel corporate learning to the top of the priority list.

McKinsey & Company’s research had previously forecasted that the skills needed in the workplace will be utterly different by 2030. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this prediction to 2020. It’s imperative for organizations to support and develop their people in this disruptive transformation of work. Such an immense workforce revolution must be met with appropriate learning and development strategies.

One of the main goals of any corporate learning strategy should be making information accessible across the entire organization. Learning should not be a struggle, yet in most of today’s corporate settings, learning has not been designed to be people-centric. The Godfather of Corporate Learning, Josh Bersin, talks about how external consumer platforms like Google, YouTube, and LinkedIn make it extremely easy to search and consume knowledge-based content. These new age consumer platforms have become the common place for learners to circumvent their company’s clunky learning offerings for a better learning experience. Ironically, these external tech giants end up knowing more about an employee’s learning needs and skill level than their actual employer. And they leverage this information to create personalized, timely and interconnected learning experiences. Businesses should take note, there is something to learn here, pun intended!

Fundamental gaps exist with how people consume content and retain knowledge inside and outside of work. Below are four things to consider when redesigning your corporate learning strategy to meet consumer expectations:

  • Personal – Today’s learners want learning geared towards their individual needs and interests. By leveraging innovations like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), businesses can scale personalization to create individual learning experiences based on unique employee data.
  • Mobile – Mandatory compliance training is often the #1 content accessed within a learning management system (LMS), but usage quickly drops off when it comes to everyday learning needs. A big reason for this is that corporate learning is often confined to a ridge destination (i.e. LMS) verses built into the flow of work. In response, learners pivot to internet searches, videos, podcasts, and other content that is immediately accessible via their mobile devices to fuel their curiosity and support their on-the-job learning needs
  • Social – From infants to adults, we, by nature, learn from each other. Sharing knowledge and expertise via sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube creates new opportunities for individuals and companies to share, promote, and give/accept feedback on learning content. These same social learning tactics can be brought into the workplace too. We’re all vying for the 5-star review!
  • Continuous – Developing ongoing learning experiences is the hook for creating a life-long learner, and, for the tech giants, creating a life-long consumer. Work, let alone life, is in a constant state of change. Continuous learning is a response to the turbulence of modern work (*gulp* life): new technology, new company direction, new process, new teammate, new…, new…., new…

A Digital Approach to Corporate Learning

This humanitarian crisis has changed business operating models forever. In turn, organizations are forced to rapidly evolve old learning programs and training models to support their newly fractionalized workforce. Every organization is impacted differently. Some have transitioned to working remotely. Others have evolved to shift patterns of small cohorts. All are creating new roles and transitioning people to support swiftly changing business demands. A digital learning strategy is required now, more than ever before, to support the disruption.

Not sure where to start with your digital learning transformation? Hit the ground running with these six recommendations for reimagining corporate learning activities into effective and immersive digital learning experiences.

  1. Understand when to be highly digital and when to be highly human – it’s the balance of both where truly the magic happens.
  2. Build an open source API Integrations strategy, integrate new technology solutions to enhance the learning experience – a friendly learning bot ready to assist will do the trick.
  3. Design for mobile first, create a new learning mode for consuming content anywhere at any time – work, life, and learning have no borders in today’s world.
  4. Set the standard for data always – use actionable metrics to connect learning with performance and business outcomes.
  5. Support various types of learning – including on-the-job learning, team-based learning, ILT, blended learning, gamification, and adaptive microlearning, to name a few.
  6. Go all in, become digital – do the upfront work… align your company mindset, understand and build empathy for your people, rethink and redesign your processes, and then use technology to bring it all together.

The Wrap

Remember, the Digital Transformation of Learning extends beyond the virtual delivery of instructional courses and training. It requires a mindset shift for how organizations fundamentally approach learning for the workforce. Linking proven learning methods with advanced technology allows organizations to meet the immediate needs of their people while future proofing their workforce along the way.

 

Sources/Footnotes:
Gartner: https://info.advsyscon.com/it-automation-blog/gartner-it-automation
Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonbloomberg/2018/04/29/digitization-digitalization-and-digital-transformation-confuse-them-at-your-peril/#2458c4162f2c
McKinsey: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/unlocking-success-in-digital-transformations
Josh Bersin https://joshbersin.com/2019/03/learning-experience-platform-lxp-market-grows-up-now-too-big-to-ignore/

 

Your Brain on Change! How to Stop Fighting Gravity

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“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Albert Einstein

Why, then, do so many organizations take the same approach to change over and over again and not achieve the desired outcomes? Scholars, consultants, researchers and well-intended leaders have all struggled to crack the mystery of successful and sustained OCM (organizational change management). Why is it still so hard?

The problem is not insanity…..it’s that people are complex creatures and, as a result, change is messy. We don’t always behave in a linear fashion based on a well-set plan (if you have teenagers, you can relate). Until we embrace the connection of neuroscience with change, every initiative is at risk of being another statistic.

Neuroscience is the study of the brain and its impact on our behavior. It is not a new concept in the world of OCM, but we need to elevate it beyond a new way of thinking to a standard way of driving OCM. We know that the brain has pathways that respond to change (good or bad), and that our brains are prediction machines to keep us out of harm’s way. We know that it takes more time and energy to try something new and that our brains typically prefer to default to saving energy by doing what is automatic (habit). And we also know that, as a result, the brain often interprets change as a threat. This results in a fight-or-flight mindset, even if a change is positive! But did you know:

  • Many conventional change approaches in fact trigger the threat response
  • Science shows that our brains often make decisions for us before we have time to consciously process ourselves
  • Our brains have FIVE TIMES more neural networks to look for danger than they have for rewards
  • Our brains subconsciously look for threats five times per second based on primal survival instincts
  • Our brains subconsciously decide whom to trust without consulting us
  • With neurons firing at breakneck speed, the brain spurs us to react fast, sometimes too fast

Our brains are constantly on high alert when a change comes our way and can release chemicals that create negative behaviors such as resistance (outward or internal), barriers to learning, anxiety, low engagement and poor decision-making skills. When we can trigger the reward part of the brain, however, we bring about engagement, creativity and hope…..all leading to high performing employees, hence a high performing organization.

Your brain on change:

Threat VS Reward
Source: P. Plohg

A Word About Methodology

Change methodologies are important, with some more impactful than others. I teach methods to graduate students as well as advocate and apply them with my clients. It’s all good stuff. The danger is that reliance of a methodology doesn’t always ensure success. In other words, you may find yourself fighting gravity. Although we can create the best-laid plans and check the boxes when we drive actions around certain steps, it’s no wonder that more often than not we can face prolonged resistance and lack of sustained change.

I remember a client workshop that I participated in to launch a massive transformation across the entire organization. It was a huge investment with a crystal-clear business case along with plenty of benefits to the employees including simplified work processes. During the workshop “capturing the hearts and minds of our people” was mentioned no less than 20 times in the course of two days. We talked about a plan and methodologies, and how to achieve this goal through a rigorous workplan complete with communication, change agents, and training. We agreed that if we hadn’t captured the hearts and minds of the organization through standard approaches by a specific date, we would be behind schedule. Yet these conversations struck me as disingenuous; kind of like telling someone they have two hours to decide if they want to be friends because the workplan says so.

Knowing when and how to change is not the same as being truly motivated to change. The old change paradigm is that we need a burning platform (threat) to convince people to change. But, in fact, most change initiatives are not that severe. The majority of change initiatives are intended to broaden and build an organization’s capabilities and people; sounds pretty rewarding! Opportunity is often a driver for change……and yet as OCM professionals we often try to find the threat within an opportunity to build commitment…. which can become a vicious cycle.

In the case above, my team and I took a step back and examined our change plan through the lens of triggering the reward side of the brain and shifting our familiar ways of thinking. Doing so can be uncomfortable and feel less certain. There was a time when following the change curve guaranteed success….or did it?.

It’s not about throwing standard approaches out the window, but it is about thinking from a more holistic viewpoint focused on what really makes people tick. The table below gives a sample of what this can look like:


Source: P. Plohg

Let’s break down the example of let people make their own connections. By now you’ve likely seen Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” Ted Talk one or 100 times (if not, check it out!). The premise is that we need to drive change starting with the why because people buy into why you do something versus what you do. This lends itself to letting people make their own connections and trigger those brain sensors that say “this feels right” and “I get it!”

The example of we need both rational and emotional reasons for change speaks perfectly to the rider and elephant theories in Switch, my favorite change management book of all time (like you, I’ve read many). The brain is not of one mind, so to speak. We all have a rational (rider) and emotional (elephant) side. Both have enormous strengths and crippling possibilities; if they aren’t recognized and moving in harmony, change will not happen.

A good OCM professional pays it forward by creating change leaders in their wake. I want to leave my clients and students understanding that when we let go of outdated principles and ‘tell’ mindsets by understanding how the brain responds to change, the opportunities for meaningful and lasting impact have no end. I can’t promise that it still won’t get messy, but isn’t that what makes the journey so incredibly rewarding?

To learn more about the neuroscience of change, I recommend:

Leading Virtual Teams: 5 Must-Haves for Staying Connected

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Let’s face it, these are unprecedented times. And they require an unprecedented response from us all. We’ve been used to working within a global VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) business environment for some time—one that’s required us to demonstrate both adaptability and resilience. But these times are different. As we continue to do our part in combatting the global coronavirus we are sheltering in place, maintaining our social distance, and for many of us, finding ourselves in the unchartered territory of working 100% virtually for the first time. This need to work differently, along with the stressors of finding ourselves within a global pandemic, is likely bringing up some new reactions for us all. Common challenges include the need to balance work priorities and deliverables, while battling feelings of isolation and missing the kinds of everyday ‘hallway’ interactions we’ve relied on and enjoyed. We’re all battling these experiences for ourselves while we find our way. And if you’re a leader with direct reports, you’ve got a team of people relying on you to address their concerns and keep them connected as well.

This blog focuses on five ‘must-have’ techniques for doing just that. As you read, keep in mind how and when you can begin applying these for yourself and your team.

“We now find ourselves working in completely new ways where the need to engage virtually has never been greater. As a leader, your opportunity to bring your team together is at a critical phase.”

 

1. Plan Your Approach

Eleanor Roosevelt once said “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” Comparing the two, experience tells us that we can have a much better ‘hit rate’ for success with a plan, so why not start there? Take the time to be intentional about what success will look like while leading a team that is completely virtual.

This starts by reflecting on your vision and hopes for your team. How do you want your team members to act and feel in this virtual environment? What will it mean to be productive, connected, and successful? How can you help team members tap into their individual core competencies and strengths? How do you see yourself continuing to build team cohesion remotely while making sure that everyone feels part of the team? Your answers to these questions will shape your interactions with your team members and will go a long way to foster the type of virtual team environment that your employees will have. Share your vision and what this means for your team.

Remember that you have a critical role to play in shaping your team’s virtual culture. Be a role model by demonstrating virtual team commitment and collaboration. What work style habits can you build that will benefit you and provide examples of what others can emulate (e.g., taking care of yourself and your energy levels, integrating work and family tasks, maintaining effective routines)? Keep in mind that regular routines go a long way to combat an unpredictable external environment. How can you authentically convey the importance of your team in supporting each other in a virtual setting? Aim to develop realistic, focused goals (both team and individual), and establish upfront expectations of each other. Also, be the kind of leader who has ongoing conversations with your employees on progress made.

2. Communicate Early and Often

In a virtual environment, it’s more important than ever to use a variety of vehicles and methods to set the stage for open communication. How can you develop a cadence and process for coming together—for both team and one-on-one touchpoints? What structure can you provide for your team to foster information sharing and connection? How can you augment this by seizing impromptu opportunities to check-in, share information, ask a question, or simply say “hello” and see how people are doing? Don’t assume that others know what you’re working on or who you’re interacting with. What questions do your team members have? Where should people go with specific questions? Consider your responses to these questions for establishing your team’s pattern of communication, and see where it may need to adapt over time.

On top of this, don’t forget to master the ‘basics’ of communication. Respond to others in a timely manner. Keep scheduled meetings. Listen actively. Remove distractions in your work setting. At the end of the day, set yourself up to be present, engaged, and in-the-moment when communicating with others. When face-to-face conversations aren’t practical, know what to listen for. In this case, you won’t have the benefit of seeing someone’s nonverbals—so you’ll want to pay extra attention to subtle nuances in individuals’ tone and pace of speech. This will clue you in to where you may need to check for understanding.

Communication is so important because it helps direct your team’s actions, accountabilities, and progress made. What methods and processes can you use to make sure everyone is on the same page? Share meeting agendas, outcomes, commitments, and next steps. Your team members will rely on the open communication you foster to build trust in a virtual environment. This will go a long way to your team members being open to giving and receiving feedback as your team continues to evolve.

3. Leverage Technology

We are fortunate to live in a time where we have wide access to technology and systems that give us the opportunity to work remotely. That said, you’ll want to make optimal use of available technology and resources. This means using the right tool(s) for the situation. We’ve probably all been part of remote interactions that didn’t go well simply because an overly complex tool for the situation was utilized. When a formal meeting is involved, this is when you’ll want to learn to make good use of your company’s online meeting software. However, in other cases, exchanging emails, sharing instant messages, sending texts, or holding phone calls will easily suffice to expedite making the right connection.

Another recommendation is to opt for face-to-face interaction to increase engagement (and decrease the tendency to multi-task), particularly when longer conversations are involved. Now is the time to practice getting technology savvy with using your computer’s camera feature! This will come in handy when holding virtual face-to-face meetings with your team. Think of it as a wonderful opportunity for the team to come together, share updates, ask questions, and foster a sense of camaraderie.

What about other important logistics? You’ll want to test your technology equipment and connections to ensure you’ll be in a position to connect easily and both begin and end on time. Do what you can to anticipate and mitigate any challenges that may arise. If you’re part of a global workforce, you’ll want to be sensitive to time zone differences when scheduling team meetings. Think about ways you can facilitate holding an effective and efficient meeting so you are focused and attentive to your role in the moment.

4. Don’t Neglect the Human Component

It’s been said that the most effective leaders show they care first, and give direction second. Focus on how you can continue to build your relationship with each of your team members so you’ll be in the best position to meet them where they are—uniquely and individually. It will be particularly important in a virtual setting to ask your individual team members how they are doing with the changes to their work environment. Listen to what they have to say and empathize with their reactions.

One resource that may be helpful with this is CARA’s recent article on Leading a Virtual Workforce Transformation: 10 Keys to Success (March 30, Andrew Barnitz). This article presents the change commitment curve—the process humans go through when adapting to a new reality. It gives additional insight into the internal psychological adaptation process that an individual goes through when moving through a change. Consider where you fall in adapting to virtual work, as well as where each of your team members are.

Change Commitment Curve Graph

Doing so will raise your awareness not only to what you’re personally experiencing but to what your team members are going through. By reflecting on this you’ll be in the best position to help your team move through the change curve. You may even help them think about how they can reframe initially perceived challenges into opportunities. This will help to foster an environment of team learning. When and how might you hold conversations on how individuals are adapting to virtual work? How could you provide a forum for team members to share ‘bright spots’ they’ve experienced along the way?

This is the time to show your appreciation for your team and how they are rising to the challenge of virtual work. Recognize and celebrate both individual and team success when you see it. Get to know your team members’ individual preferences for recognition, and customize your approach to this. This is also the time to incorporate F-U-N where you can into the workday! Get creative when thinking about how you can build virtual team camaraderie.

What are some good ideas you’d like to share on virtual team building (e.g., meeting themes, playing games, cooking together-but-separate, virtual happy hour)? Please share in the ‘Comments’ section, we’d love to hear your ideas!

5. Stay Flexible

A virtual work environment lends itself to continual adaptation and the opportunity to be flexible. You may find that expectations about how the work will flow and how people will come together will need to shift over time, and that’s okay. Know where your team may need to re-prioritize tasks, assignments, or ways of interacting along the way. Keeping flexible will help you and your team to not get bogged down in old ways of thinking or acting.

This will serve you well in being able to identify what changes may still be needed, both in the short- and long-term. It will also help you determine any immediate changes needed around the corner, along with their impact on the team in general and individual team members in particular. This is where open communication will be instrumental.

In the end, we now find ourselves working in completely new ways where the need to engage virtually has never been greater. As a leader, your opportunity to bring your team together is at a critical phase. We hope you’ve gathered some new insights that will be immediately helpful in directing your team to rise above and achieve more.

Please connect with us if you can use additional help with leading your team virtually, or simply want to talk about your experience in leading virtually. We’re here to help.

Leading a Virtual Workforce Transformation: 10 Keys to Success

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A global coronavirus crisis has taught us that we are living in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world. This virus has exposed vulnerabilities beyond our control, threatening our long-term health and economic stability. Critical to defeating this pandemic is ensuring global business continuity and a healthy global workforce. As a result, hundreds of millions of workers were asked in March 2020 to work from home, leading to immeasurable virtual workforce challenges.

While remote work is not a new concept for many, several issues have plagued the virtual worker throughout the years. For example, have you ever wondered why virtual workforce efforts at your organization are not successful or fail to stick? Or why your direct reports struggle to adapt to a remote work environment? Or perhaps you’ve wondered why people managers and leaders are challenged with engaging employees in a virtual work environment?

In this article, we’ll answer those questions and explore:

  • why long-term virtual workforce efforts fail
  • how to prepare, equip, support, and enable leaders in the virtual workforce of the future
  • where workforce leaders and staff position themselves on the virtual workforce change curve

This information is designed to guide leaders, people managers and employees toward fully embracing a virtual workforce as ‘the way they work’.

But First, Why Do Virtual Workforces Fail?

  • No Burning Platform
  • No Sustainable Vision
  • No Leadership Training (in a virtual workforce)
  • No Virtual Role Modeling
  • No Culture Integration

No Burning Platform

Up until now, there was not a compelling business reason for organizations to move to a virtual workforce environment. Yes, there were always cost efficiencies to be realized but those gains were often eclipsed by workforce inefficiencies. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was considered a perk, a convenience and / or a differentiator for many organizations globally. However, as of mid-March, the game has changed. A virtual workforce is not only critical, but essential to business continuity, increased productivity, and workforce health.

No Sustainable Vision

Lewis Carroll famously said: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. Unfortunately, many organizations knowingly (or unknowingly) subscribe to this philosophy when introducing virtual work environments. One of the greatest misnomers about a virtual workforce is that the same business rules, processes and norms apply for this model as they would for the more traditional model. Without a vision and a new, reimagined operating model and culture, virtual workforces will struggle to achieve long-term success.

No Leadership Training (for virtual workforce)

Preparing leaders and employees for success in virtual environments is one of the most overlooked gaps in virtual workforce deployments. Leaders and managers with a remote team are significantly underserved and lack the skills to effectively manage their subordinates in a virtual world. The lack of time invested in training has led to failed virtual workforce cultures and short-lived virtual workforce success. Leaders and managers who are challenged to lead in a virtual workforce quickly determine: ‘while it is one thing to know how to lead, it is another to learn how to lead in a virtual environment’.

No Virtual Role Modeling

Given the lack of training, it is not surprising that one of the leading reasons virtual workforces are often unsustainable is the lack of leaders who model the necessary skills, competencies and behaviors required in a virtual workforce. Without sufficient skills to model critical behaviors in a virtual work environment, their efforts are often perceived as ‘do as I say, not as I do’. What is needed are leaders who are willing to champion a virtual workforce and model critical behaviors. Without them, employee buy-in and long-term sustainability is at risk.

No Culture Integration

What differentiates one organization from another is their unique culture, including but not limited to, how they interact and support each other. Organizations invest heavily in establishing a culture that is unique to their specific core values. However, when leaders decide to move to a virtual workforce, they often fail to integrate the culture that once thrived within a traditional office / workforce setting. As a result, employees are left feeling isolated or disconnected and the culture they once supported is now obsolete. A culture integration plan is paramount to long-term success as organizations transition to a virtual workforce.

Flattening the Curve

When more than 200 million remote-enabled professionals were recently thrust into a new future of work, they were given a mandate to work from home full-time in the interest of public health and safety. This was the largest disruption to a global workforce in recent memory. For a substantial number of workers, however, remote work was nothing new. For the majority of others, however, working from home on a full-time basis was a complete paradigm shift in business operations and a radical departure from business as usual.

The seemingly insurmountable challenge that organizations faced was how to create a virtual workforce strategy (practically) overnight. This strategy should include a change management and communication plan that ensures leaders, people managers and employees fully embrace a virtual workforce as ‘the way they work’. The strategy should also include communication and training on how to use the collaboration tools required to be successful and productive in the new environment.

For illustration purposes, let’s look at a traditional human change curve. This is the journey that most employees experience as they encounter change. The change curve itself is agnostic as it applies to all human behavior, irrespective of the change experience. You’ll notice in the graphic below that humans will experience a dip in morale and/or productivity as they transition from the denial stage to the exploration stage of the curve. This is common with all change and is often referred to as the ‘valley of despair’ within major change transformation initiatives. How do you bridge this ‘valley of despair’?

Change Commitment Curve

Source: Kubler-Ross

Bridging the Valley of Despair

The millions of office workers who transitioned from a traditional workforce to a virtual workforce earlier this month experienced, and continue to experience, a dip in the change curve. Carefully managing a change to a virtual workforce is paramount to business stability and continuity. Further, how we help leaders, people managers and employees’ transition along the change curve is critical to their ability to embrace a virtual workforce as the ‘new normal’, at least temporarily if not in the foreseeable future.

How to Lead an Organization Through a Virtual Workforce Transition

Here are ten actions for leading organizations through a virtual workforce transition:

  • Establish virtual role models to serve as transition champions
  • Determine KPIs and define ‘what success looks like’ with a transition to a virtual workforce
  • Develop a communication plan with targeted messaging
  • Develop a change plan to manage leader / employee transition to a virtual way they work
  • Conduct a stakeholder assessment to capture hearts, minds and fears of leaders / employees
  • Execute a change impact analysis to determine old vs. new way to work
  • Conduct a training needs analysis to identify skill gaps between traditional work and virtual work
  • Conduct a readiness assessment to gauge leader/employee preparation
  • Develop a training plan to ensure adequate skill building throughout the transition
  • Continually survey virtual leaders, people managers and employees to measure success

Tips for Virtual Role Models

Like many of you, The CARA Group has always had the capability and full functionality to work remotely. Since we needed to transition, however, to a full-time virtual workforce as directed by the state of Illinois stay at home work order, our biggest win in the transition was through the establishment of virtual workforce change champions or ‘Virtual Role Models’. Without our Virtual Role Models, collectively, The CARA Group would not be up and to the right on the change curve. Below are some best practices and key behaviors required of a Virtual Role Model who will have ultimate influence over whether your organization fully embraces a Virtual Workforce as ‘the way they work’.

  • Be vulnerable and share where you are on your own virtual workforce change curve
  • Empathize with peers and subordinates
  • Acknowledge new norms in a virtual workforce
  • Share success (and failure) stories
  • Remember the golden rule and apply it in a virtual workforce setting
  • Celebrate, reinforce and reward desired virtual workforce behaviors
  • Continue to skill-build to evolve virtual workforce capabilities
  • Establish a virtual watercooler for employees to interact personally
  • Recognize that the speed to transition and productivity in a virtual workforce will vary by individual

Click here to read CARA’s President and CEO’s perspective on Finding Our Strength to Lead in a VUCA world.

Please connect with us if you could use help with leading your organization through a virtual workforce transition or simply want to talk about your current situation as you ponder next steps. We’re here to help!

Where are You on the Virtual Workforce Change Curve?

Comment below to:

  • Share where you (or your leaders) are at on the virtual workforce change curve
  • Share your experiences in leading organizations toward embracing a virtual workforce as ‘the way they work’

Microlearning: How to Create Exceptionally Productive Teams in a Virtual World

By | Change Management, Commitment to Community, Learning | No Comments

To help you implement or expand your remote working programs, The CARA Group has created this quick microlearning to help your virtual teams become exceptionally productive! These best practices come from our years of experience helping global companies transform their workforce. We hope you like it and share it with others who find it useful.

5 steps for Successfully Integrating Project and Change Management

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In January, 2015, PM Network Magazine interviewed me for an article titled ‘If I Had Known Then.’ The premise of the interview was for project managers who had led large business transformation initiatives to share at least one lesson learned from their career.

During the interview, I introduced my 80/20 project leadership philosophy. I shared that when leading transformational change; 80% of the project is art and the remaining percentage is science.

“Leading business transformation initiatives is partly science; but mostly art.”

Andrew Barnitz, PM Network Magazine (January, 2015)

The art refers to the components of change management for an initiative intended to bridge project solutions with expected business outcomes. The science refers to the utilization of critical project management components such as monitoring the project, controlling budgets and managing scope.

“Project management ensures the project is designed, developed and delivered successfully. Change management ensures that the project is embraced, adopted and used by the targets or recipients of the change.”

Equal necessity, unequal support

While the integration of project and change management disciplines are imperative for project success, they are often viewed as separate and unequal components of a successful business initiative. The problem is that project management often gets the lion share of stakeholder attention while change management is often neglected and ignored. As noted above, this can cause problems because change management is the 80% that contributes the most to an initiative’s success.

The following statistics show the impact of placing too much focus on project management while neglecting change management.

70%

of change efforts fail due to over-emphasis on project process rather than the people aspects.

#1

reason why projects fail is a result of poor sponsorship.

58%

of the participants who integrated change management and project management in their project met or exceeded their project objectives.

#2

reason why project initiatives fail is due to no change management methodology existing within a project.

As you can see, it is critical that change management have as significant a role as project management for business initiatives to be successful. In the remainder of this article, I’ll discuss how to ensure change management is given the attention it deserves through successful integration with project management.

Integration begins with role clarity

To begin understanding how to successfully integrate project and change management, let’s first understand and distinguish the roles of both the project manager and the change manager and where their roads converge and at times, collide.

  • According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), a project manager is accountable for the success or failure of a project. They are responsible for the planning, executing and closing of the project. Further, the project manager is also responsible for managing teams, ensuring progress and motivating project team members. They are responsible for ensuring that project goals are in alignment with key stakeholders.
  • According to Prosci, a change manager will play a key role in ensuring projects (change initiatives) meet objectives on time and on budget by increasing employee adoption and usage. This person will focus on the people side of change, including changes to business processes, systems and technology, job roles and organization structures.

As indicated above, these roles are united with one common purpose: to ensure project goals are met and business results achieved. However, how each role goes about executing their work is meaningfully different. For example, project managers are often solution-focused where change managers are often outcome-focused. Consequently, there is a lack of understanding between the role of project manager and change manager in many organizations. This misunderstanding leads to conflicts between business functions and OD/Change COEs as to where to invest resources such as budget dollars and people.

Other barriers to integration

Besides confusion around role clarity, there are many other barriers to project and change management integration that you should be aware of.

  1. Even in 2019, the discipline of change management is in its infancy stage by comparison to project management. Thus, change management professionals like myself are in the early phases of converting non-believers.
  2. Since the role of the project manager has expanded significantly, most do not have the capacity or capability to learn change management.
  3. Change management is not easily measured since the results are often intangible. Thus, executives who control budgets struggle to justify the expense and fail to get behind change management efforts.
  4. While project management has been engrained deeply within the fabric of corporate America and beyond, change management is still struggling for a seat at the c-suite table.

The benefits of integration

To deal with these barriers, it helps to influence leadership on not only the benefits of change management, but the enormous impact an integrated approach has on business transformation. In a nutshell, an integrated approach ensures project benefits are fully achieved and realized by utilizing the strengths of both, project management and change management disciplines.

Project management ensures the project is designed, developed and delivered successfully. Change management ensures that the project is embraced, adopted and used by the targets or recipients of the change. Thus, an integrated approach is designed to deliver the desired outcomes to the business.

Other benefits of project and change management integration include:

  1. Enhanced employee and leader engagement
  2. Increased sustainability of the change enterprisewide
  3. Realization of your people ROI for the project
  4. Avoidance of change saturation across an enterprise
  5. Measurement of an organization’s change tolerance

5 steps to integration!

So now that you know which barriers to integration you need to overcome AND have a firm understanding of why integration is so critical to project success – below are five steps to integrate project and change management within your organization:

  1. It starts with education.
    • Informing leaders, stakeholders, project managers and project team members on the benefits of change management is critical to project success.
  2. Set expectations around how change work gets done.
    • Acknowledge that the discipline of change management is based on facts and insights gathered through data gathering tools and processes such as (but not limited to): stakeholder analysis, impact assessment and change readiness assessments.
  3. Use consumer-friendly terms when describing the change process and work efforts.
    • The process for change management may be viewed as inefficient to the untrained eye. When conducting stakeholder analyses or change readiness sessions – explain the why behind each approach.
    • Further, use basic language to explain each process (i.e. stakeholder analysis is a conversation with key decision makers to determine if they are supportive of the project or not and perhaps, why they are or are not supportive).
  4. Ensure project and change management synergy by presenting a unified front to project leadership, stakeholders and team members.
  5. Collaborate with the project manager and key stakeholders to embed a change methodology and subsequent deliverables within a master project plan and status report.

Effective integration leads to better results

There is an interdependent connection between project and change management disciplines, much like the symbiotic relationship between project managers and change managers. Thus, true project success requires that both roles and disciplines not only co-exist, but to serve as a complement of skills and methods. And perhaps Leonardo Da’ Vinci said it best:

“To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art; Study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”

After all, we as project managers and change professionals, are tasked with wearing many hats like Leonardo once did; a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, poet and story-teller. Even more remarkable today, Leonardo’s words can be applied to contemporary project delivery over five centuries later.

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Project success requires more than luck!

By | Change Management | One Comment

For many, shamrocks, the color green, leprechauns, and beer are just a few words that come to mind when they think about St. Patrick ’s Day. Also common around this time of year is the expression Ádh mór ar an hÉireann which is Gaelic for ‘Luck of the Irish’.

While ‘luck’ is something one may count on when playing the lottery, it is not a strategy I would recommend for successful project delivery. Project success requires more than luck; it warrants a sound change management strategy and approach. The second largest reason why project initiatives fail is due to the absence of a change management methodology integrated within a project.

“The better we apply change management, the more likely we are to deliver on project objectives. Prosci’s correlation data from over 2,000 data points and 10 years shows that initiatives with excellent change management are 6 times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management. By simply moving from ‘poor’ to ‘fair,’ change management increases the likelihood of meeting objectives by three fold.” (1)

To best illustrate the importance of incorporating change activities in everything you do, consider the following case study.

“Brace for impact”

Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of leading over 100 projects impacting over 2,500,000 employees globally. During that time, the projects I’ve led have faced all sorts of resistance from sponsors, process owners, senior leaders, Finance/Legal personnel, HR representatives and employees. Fortunately, such resistance has been significantly reduced over the last decade as organizations begin to recognize the importance of change management and its proven correlation to project success. Just as I thought the field of change management was turning a corner, however, I came across an unlikely situation appropriately titled: “Brace for impact”.

Challenge

I was leading a business transformation initiative for a client that would impact several thousand employees. This project was part of a larger technology roadmap designed to a) create an improved employee and leader user experience, b) standardize core HR processes across all lines of business and c) encourage managers to assume greater ownership of core HR responsibilities.

Unique to this initiative was a recommendation I proposed that would empower actual leaders, employees and key HR stakeholders participate in an iterative design approach. This Agile design model would not only build a coalition of support and advocacy at the end user level, it would also lead to an increase in quality delivery from a people, process and technology perspective.

The iterative design approach was particularly necessary as the new system and supporting processes represented a cultural shift in how managers would operate and lead moving forward. Consequently, it was critical to design and implement a thoughtful change plan to ensure employee and organizational success.

Additionally, the change approach would have to weather key organizational attributes including (but not limited to):

  • The client was averse to change
  • The client was not steeped in the discipline of change management
  • The client subscribed to a command and control decision structure
  • Sponsors, leaders and HR personnel did not have an appreciation for the benefits of change management

Solution

With the above org attributes in mind, I designed and implemented the requisite change management strategy for an initiative of this size, scale and scope. I employed an unsophisticated, yet practitioner-based change approach to minimize learning curves for the change champion network, sponsors and leaders.

Below is a subset of change activities I implemented to mitigate and / or accelerate progress from a change adoption perspective.

 

Org Attribute

Change Approach / Deliverables

The client was averse to change

I conducted an initial change readiness assessment to identify early resistors and adopters and implemented an iterative review, design and demo process to ensure stakeholder buy-in.

The client was not steeped in the discipline of change management I installed a change champion network and provided them with weekly mentoring, upfront education on change management basics, and a change champion toolkit for executing change.
The client subscribed to a command and control decision structure

I operationalized a bottom-up design model by socializing its benefits and by positioning change champions as SMEs with project-level decision rights. I also had the team host numerous focus groups to collect user insight and gauge end user support.

Sponsors, leaders and HR personnel did not have an appreciation for the benefits of change management I developed an integrated project and change management plan that was simple to understand and demonstrated how planned change work would enable project success. I also conducted stakeholder analysis interviews to understand change resistance and developed change tactics to mitigate it. Throughout the project I highlighted how outputs from change readiness and stakeholder interviews informed the end design and development of the new tool and supporting processes.

Result

Overall, the initiative was successful in each line of business with the exception of one. The HR change champion refused to engage in basic block and tackle change activities. In lieu of participating in these change efforts, she informed me that her business function ‘doesn’t need change management support as my team and I will just brace for impact after the new system and processes are implemented.’ While this was clearly not a recommended course of action, I was not able to garner the necessary support from her leader or executive sponsors to influence her thinking or hold her accountable for anticipated business results.

Since the HR change champion did not fully embrace our change management approach, her client-facing HR team did not participate in numerous change opportunities such as design sessions, focus groups and system demos. The absence of core HR resources in the impacted area led to gaps in system functionality and newly designed processes that would not work in their current operating environment. As a result, her managers were not prepared for all of the fast approaching changes and their employees were caught off guard by the changes to the new system and supporting processes.

Lessons Learned

Since the premise of change management is to link project solutions to specific project outcomes and, mobilize people to deliver results, employing basic change practices would have resulted in a higher level of project success. In short, a reliance on luck or a ‘brace for impact’ approach to change management will not yield desired project outcomes or end user adoption.

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(1) Source: www.prosci.com/resources/articles/why-change-management.