Category Archives: Ensuring successful business change

Appreciative Inquiry – a tool and philosophy for positive change


The Appreciative Inquiry five-step model

The Appreciative Inquiry five-step model

By Elisabeth Goodman, 5th November 2016

Asking questions sets the tone for what will follow – start from what’s working well

It seemed obvious from the moment that our facilitator, Andy Smith (Coaching Leaders), mentioned it at the start of the two day course on Appreciative Inquiry (AI) that I attended this week. The minute you ask someone, or a group of people a question, you have influenced their mindset. Ask them what they like about something, or what is going well, and the chances are they will relax, open up and be in the mood to be creative. Ask them what’s not working and they may get defensive, close up and descend into despondency.

That’s a simplification of course as people may want to air their problems before they can open up to explore solutions, and they may automatically rise to the challenge rather than wait to be asked the right question. But the general premise of AI is to focus on what’s working well, on what people do best and on everyone’s potential to do so much more and better. Asking the right, open, positive questions will enable this to happen.

There are implications for coaching and personal development, for team building, for problem solving, decision making, innovation, knowledge and project management and for managing change! This blog just highlights a few of the ways to do this. There’s obviously a lot more about this that I will weave into RiverRhee‘s work and that you can find out about from some of the references below.

A new five-step model

The illustration at the start of this blog is of the five-step model. (Andy calls this ‘the 5 Ds’ but I already have a different 5D model that I refer to for time or productivity management so I will keep these distinct.)

Define the topic to be explored in an affirmative way: so it is stated in terms of what you want to move towards, rather than the problem to be moved away from. Focus on the vision and your mind and body will be already working out creative ways to achieve it.

Discover all the things that you are already doing well towards achieving that vision. This is where the affirmative questioning really starts to kick in.

Dream what it would be like when you achieve that vision: what will you hear, feel, see, think? What would it be like if a miracle happened overnight? This step engages the emotions: the heart as well as the mind and creates a really compelling vision.

Design all the possible alternatives (without evaluating at this stage) for achieving the dream. Build on what’s going well and stretch beyond that.

Deliver – this is the point at which you evaluate the alternatives and decide on the next steps to achieve your vision.

Applying Appreciative Inquiry to coaching

People familiar with the GROW and T-GROW models of coaching will have spotted that define equates with setting the topic (T) or goal (G). Discover equates to reality (R) but with a focus on what’s working well rather than on what’s generally happening. Dream is an enhanced version of the goal. Design equates to options (O) but holding back on evaluating those options. Deliver equates to will ( W ).

The slightly different order of the AI five-step process means that the aspirational vision or dream can build on the positive mood generated and so be more creative than the early definition of the goal permits in the GROW model. Although, in practice, either model can be iterative in a coaching situation.

Appreciative Inquiry and team building

The five-step model could also be used with a group of people in a team situation, to explore how a team can become more effective and attain, or sustain high performance. It could be used ‘live’ within a workshop, as an alternative to using pre-workshop diagnostics or temperature checks as described in some of my previous blogs for team development.

So the team can define in real time what it wants to achieve, discover all the things it is currently doing well, dream of what it could do, brainstorm how it could get there (design), and then agree the actions to take forward (deliver). The team could use rating scales (1 to 5, 1 to 10 etc) at any point in this discussion to make their assessments and goals more tangible.

Appreciative Inquiry and problem solving, decision making, innovation, knowledge and project management

As the previous sections demonstrate, the five-step model has built in approaches to aid with problem solving, decision making and innovation. Focusing on what has gone well and using the dream steps arguably allow people to go beyond just fixing the problem into new realms of creativity.

Apparently others have already explored how to apply AI in Lean and Six Sigma, and I shall look into this more. Certainly, exploring what has gone well and why, in the Measure and Analyse phases of the DMAIC are possibilities that I do already touch upon in my RiverRhee courses. We also sometimes use ‘blue sky’ thinking to imagine a ‘to be’ way of working in the Improve phase.

De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, and the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis also encourage equivalents to the Discover step (yellow hat, and Strengths respectively), the Dream step (green and Opportunities), and Design (green again, and the actions arising out of the SWOT analysis).

Andy also mentioned SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) as an affirmative alternative to SWOT and which should give more scope for the Dream step!

Finally, knowledge management techniques will obviously benefit from AI, especially as having a productive conversation is at the heart of sharing knowledge between people. After Action Reviews, Learning Reviews or Retrospects (or Lessons Learned exercises in Project Management) already explore what went well. So AI techniques and philosophies would enhance the outcomes in these areas too.

Appreciative Inquiry and managing change

Last but not least, AI has something to offer those leading or dealing with change and so support one of my missions which is to create ‘navigators‘ as opposed to ‘victims’ of change! We can aim to understand and look for ways to maintain, enhance, or at a minimum, compensate for the best of what people previously had in creating whatever the new situation might be. And we can ensure that that new situation is as compelling a vision or ‘dream’ as possible.

In conclusion

There are lots of opportunities to apply Appreciative Inquiry tools and ways of thinking in our working and home lives.  I am using some of these applications already, and looking forward to exploring more with with clients, colleagues, friends and family!

I’ll try not to be a “rose-tinted evangelist” though: we still need to acknowledge the very real problems and challenges that people experience and how they feel about them.

How might you apply AI?

further references

ABOUT THE author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Engage with your stakeholders more effectively – stop talking about communication!


Guest blog by Fran Bodley-Scott, 25th August 2016

Editorial note: I came across Fran in my work for the APM Enabling Change SIG. She has developed an ‘ABCDE’ model for communication, which she offered to coach me on in support of a publication that we are preparing.

ABCDE logo for shaping communications, from Fran Bodley-Scott

ABCDE model for shaping communications, from Fran Bodley-Scott

I was very impressed by the effectiveness of this model at taking us through a structured process for thinking about our stakeholders and how we would engage with them. It’s a model that I think would help any line or project manager plan their communication activities. I asked Fran to write something about her approach. This is what she wrote…

Communication plays a big part in the ability of managers and teams to influence others.

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training courses for managers

Click here for information on

RiverRhee’s training

for managing change

Managers and their teams don’t operate in an isolated world. They operate in and are influenced by their environment, and the ability of the team to deliver services and benefits depends on their ability to influence other people (their stakeholders). Partners, suppliers, sponsors, clients, experts and operators need to be engaged, persuaded, informed and supported. So, communication plays a big part in enabling a team to perform effectively. Unfortunately, poor communication can throw all sorts of spanners in the works:

  • Information can be misunderstood or interpreted in different ways depending on an individual’s expectations, assumptions, bias, prior experience or what’s going on around them. Making assumptions or not asking what people understand can result in confusion and mistakes.
  • Too much, too little or complex information can create a barrier to productivity: people become disinterested in working with you leading to delays, duplication of effort or poor quality.
  • A report can go unread, or a business case be rejected simply due to the way information is presented. The subsequent rework, delay and loss of confidence add cost and risk to the project.

Poor communication continues to be an issue

Poor communication costs money and impacts the team’s ability to be effective. This is not new: people have been saying it for years and yet it continues to be an issue: why? I believe there are three fundamental reasons:

‘SOS’ – sending out stuff: We’ve become accustomed to thinking of ‘communication’ in terms of output not outcome. Communication is defined as a two-way process of reaching a mutual understanding, yet discussions about communication frequently centre on what’s going to be produced: a website, a brochure, an email, a newsletter. People leap straight into writing content before considering who it is they need to reach and why.

Complexity: Communication is actually quite complicated. There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account even for something as seemingly simple as getting a yes/no answer from the client. Without enough information about who you’re trying to engage with, it can be easy to overlook key issues that may help or hinder.

Difficulty: Communication also involves a number of different skills. An individual’s ability or confidence can affect whether they perceive ‘communication’ as an opportunity or a problem. The challenge of using social media, creating a video or emailing a senior executive can be a barrier if they feel they don’t have the skills, lack the time to work it out, or don’t want the risk of making a faux pas. If it’s not a priority for them, communication will just not happen.

Focus on attitudes and behaviours rather than communication.

So, if you want to improve the effectiveness of your team, my recommendation is that you stop talking about ‘communication’! It puts people in the wrong frame of mind and introduces all sorts of problems. Be confident about this: the raison d’être of your team is not to do communication. Focus instead on what attitudes and behaviours you need people to have and exhibit in order for your team to be successful.

Here are three simple steps to get you started:

  1. Measure outcome not output: Output is a measure of the team’s activity, what ‘stuff’ has been sent out. Outcome considers how effective the activity has been, whether the intended objective has been achieved. Choose criteria that help you understand how your activity has performed. For example, instead of a tick-box that checks whether a brochure has been received, evaluate how well the information provided has been understood, the level of confidence about using a new process, or motivation to change behaviour.
  2. Create solutions not challenges: Make it easy for the right messages to reach the right people at the right time. For example, provide team members with ready-to-use messages and guidelines for different platforms; format data to integrate automatically with another team’s process so that cascaded information is accurate and consistent; facilitate client feedback by being visible, accessible and flexible.
  3. Be audience-led not technology-driven: Instead of simply doing what’s convenient (eg. sending an email) or what everyone else does (eg. social media), take time to consider who it is that you need to reach and the most effective way to impact their behaviour or attitude. For example, seeing the finished product can influence confidence and commitment much more effectively than receiving a picture via email.
    “If the best way of reaching and influencing your audience is to stand on a box with a loud hailer, do that.” Stephen Hale, Head of Digital at the Department of Health

About the Author:

Fran Bodley-Scott is passionate about helping individuals and teams use communications effectively to achieve business goals. As a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Marketer Fran’s approach is both customer-focused and systematic, applying core marketing principles and the ABCDE communications process in order to drive business performance.

Her company, Marketing In Control Ltd, provides training and coaching in communications effectiveness and stakeholder engagement, as well as consultancy and marketing services. If you are interested in talking with Fran about your project, email scottf@marketingincontrol.com.

ABOUT THE EDITOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Brexit – exploding some myths and reinforcing some truths about responses to change


By Elisabeth Goodman, 3rd July 2016

As someone who writes and gives talks about managing change, and trains and coaches people in how to lead change, I feel compelled to write about one of the most dramatic examples of change that 72% and more of the British electorate are currently experiencing.

I believe that the EU referendum illustrates, very poignantly, some truths about how people respond to change, whilst also exploding some commonly expounded myths about change.

Myth #1: People don’t like change. Correction: People do sometimes choose change.

“There were some things that had to be shaken up, and they have been” says Cliff Hampton, retired, living in Stroud (“Voices on the to rise”, The Observer, 3rd July, 2016, p.23)

Leave vs. Remain Brexit results (Press Association, Graphic News)

Leave vs. Remain Brexit results (Press Association, Graphic News)

I often hear the refrain, amongst change practitioners and people in general, that “people don’t like change”. However, the 52% who voted to leave did want change. Granted that some of them voted to return to a vision of former greatness that they felt we had lost when we first joined the EU – so in effect voting to reverse the change that they had not wanted at the time. But others voted to change because of their concerns about what is not working as a result of us being part of the EU: the bureaucracy, the lack of autonomy about how we allocate our money, the impact of seemingly uncontrolled immigration on a thinly stretched infrastructure (education, health, housing, jobs). They wanted to regain “control over their borders, their taxation system and their laws.” Gisela Stewart, The Observer, 3rd July 2016, p.33.

And yes, most of the 48% who voted to remain did so because they did not want to change. They voted against change because of their concerns about losing economically beneficial trade agreements and grants, employment legislation, freedom of movement for our workforce, and skilled workers from other countries, all of which they did not believe could be secured outside the EU. But some of the 48% who voted to remain, actually did so because they believed that to do so would provide a better platform for creating change within the EU.

Click here for more information about Elisabeth Goodman’s change management training with RiverRhee Consulting

Myth #2: Resistance is to be avoided. Correction: Resistance is natural and something to be understood.

Those leading change often talk about the need to avoid resistance: that it is as “a bad thing”. However, I believe that no-one witnessing the strength of emotion being experienced across the UK would want to suppress it. It is a natural thing and, if we are to heal as a nation, we each need to understand, appreciate and find a way to respond with empathy to our own and each other’s reactions. Facebook has been a seething bed of emotions through all of this, with many people trying to find explanations and ways to reconcile the impact on relations between friends who voted differently.

Pooh and Piglet - Brexit (Source unknown)

Pooh and Piglet – Brexit (Source unknown)

Politicians too, both in the UK and in Europe, in order to be effective in building the way forward, would be wise to listen to and ensure that they respond to all the anxieties being raised on either side of the voting divide. There are indications that the EU at least is starting to do so: “EU heads of state, reeling from the UK’s vote to leave…want to be seen to be responding to the new Eurosceptic mood, and some want a new “vision for Europe” document that distils the conflicting thinking.” The Observer, 3rd July 2016, page 2.

We are waiting for the resolution of the shake up in our political parties that has resulted from the referendum, to see how well our politicians respond to the voices of those who voted to leave and to remain.

Other truths about responses to change

I have been taken by surprise by the depths of my emotional response to this change, and it has certainly stirred up lots of emotion across the board. So this experience has reinforced some other truths about change.

Truth #1: People’s responses to change can have parallels with bereavement

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first suggested this parallel, and reactions to the referendum result for those who voted to remain certainly reinforces it.

Negative change curve - from "The Effective Team's Change Management Workbook", RiverRhee Publishing, 2013

Negative change curve – from “The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook”, RiverRhee Publishing, 2013

People who voted to remain woke up to the result in tears, feeling a real sense of loss. They have been angry, are denying that anyone will dare to activate article 50, or to reverse the thousands of legislative document involved. They are trying to bargain a way out through petitions signed by millions, and demonstrations attended by thousands.

Truth #2: Even those who welcome change will experience periods of doubt and symptoms of resistance

The most striking illustration of the doubts experienced by those who voted to leave was the realisation that they had been lied to, and the scale of the upheaval that leaving the EU would cause. Some have expressed regret at the way they voted (on both sides).

Positive change curve - from "The Effective Team's Change Management Workbook", RIverRhee Publishing, 2013

Positive change curve – from “The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook”, RIverRhee Publishing, 2013

People moved from “uninformed certainty” that leaving the EU was the right thing to do, to “informed doubt” for example when leaders of the campaign said that the £350 million a week saved from our membership could not or would not in fact be rerouted to the NHS.

At some point we will all need to be ‘navigators’ of the change. Some form of certainty and control will help us to Be so.

“We woke up on Friday morning to shock and disbelief. But we now have to grasp the opportunity, roll up our sleeves and work together.” Clark Willis, chief executive of Anglia Farmers, The Observer, 3rd July, 2016, p. 44.

At some point we will all have to accept that there is no going back from the outcome of the referendum, and that we must get on with the job in hand. To do that we will need as much certainty, in the form of clear and complete and accurate information, as our politicians can give us.

The navigator - from "The Effective Team's Change Management Workbook", RiverRhee Publishing, 2013

The navigator – from “The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook”, RiverRhee Publishing, 2013

If we can also be involved in some way in putting the new way of living and working in place, it will also help us to recover from the traumas that this referendum has caused to us individually, in our relationships, and in our communities.

One way to do this might be, as some have suggested, to hold a second referendum on the actual Brexit deal that is negotiated with the EU. People will be able to take a final informed decision, which will give it democratic legitimacy and make it easier for everyone to accept the outcome.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

More common factors for managing successful change


By Elisabeth Goodman, 29th January 2016

APM events are a great opportunity for developing our professional knowledge

Discussing common factors for managing successful change with delegates at the APM event

Tapping into delegates’ knowledge at the APM event

I led a seminar this week for the Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire Branch members, as a member of the committee of the APM Enabling Change SIG and also as an independent change practitioner.

It was apparent from the level of discussion, and from the results of a poll at the end of the event, that many of the delegates had either started their journey in practising change management, or were already well experienced in it. So it was a great opportunity to learn from the knowledge within the room, as well as passing on some of my own, and of my committee colleagues’ knowledge.

We explored all types of change

We were exploring all types of change: organisational, IT, process-related, and others. I shared three of my own case studies, and also captured examples of some of the delegates’ own change programmes.

Examples of change programmes and projects

We identified more common factors for managing successful change

I had a starting list from a previous blog on common factors for managing successful change and adapted from those I use for RiverRhee Managing Change training and consulting activities. I’d added more factors to this list based on suggestions from my committee colleague Martin Taylor and from previous seminars that we have run together.

A starting list of common factors for successful change

The delegates came up with an impressive list of their own suggestions.

Suggestions of common factors from delegates

Some additional insights on behavioural change, and on change agents

Although one of the suggestions for types of change included behavioural / cultural change, delegates recognized that in fact all changes require recognition and attention to behavioural change to be effective. I referenced “Influencer” as a book that focuses on this.

Delegates also highlighted the skills needed for change agents to be effective, and I mentioned that “Creating Contagious Commitment” had some useful insights on this topic.

(The links above are to: Why thinking in terms of burning platforms and tipping points is not enough to drive change – a blog that references both books.)

Closing thoughts

Exploration! A picture in the lobby of Leeds Metropolitan hotel

A picture in the lobby of Leeds Metropolitan hotel

I have no doubt that there are more “common factors for managing successful change” to be identified.

Perhaps you would like to suggest some?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

A celebration of change with One Nucleus and Taylor Vinters


By Elisabeth Goodman, 30th April, 2015

Our host, Patrick Farrant from Taylor Vinters, opened yesterday’s proceedings at the One Nucleus Network Meeting in Cambridge on Managing Change with this quote from Richard Branson:

“A company that stands still will soon be forgotten”

A show of hands from the floor confirmed that those present were almost unanimously either experiencing change, had recently done so, or were anticipating it. So on that evidence alone, they and their organisations are continuously looking for ways to improve and therefore will not be forgotten!

(* I know that I am making at least two potentially erroneous assumptions here but I hope you’ll overlook them for the sake of this blog!)

The afternoon / evening event consisted of three case studies and a panel session, with the participation of Jacqui Alexander and Margaret Huggins from GSK, Madhuri Warren from Pathology Diagnostics introduced by Tony Jones from One Nucleus, John Burt from Abzena and Chris Mayo from the London Stock Exchange, and Edward Hooper from Taylor Vinters. I had the pleasure of introducing the first session with GSK, and chairing the closing panel discussion.

It was a very enjoyable event, with a richness of content and some great discussion. This blog does not attempt to cover all of the content, but rather to explore some of the key themes that emerged in what felt like almost a celebration of change and how to make it a more positive experience.

Our attitude, having access to information and involvement in the change will make the difference between a positive and negative experience of change

I asked the delegates what would make the difference for them between experiencing change as something really positive and constructive, as opposed to something negative and really rather awful. The answers that came back included attitude, knowing what was going on, and being in control – a nice lead-in for my slide on enabling navigators rather than victims of change (a theme that I’ve previously spoken about in my capacity as committee member of the APM Enabling Change SIG).

Enabling navigators of change

I’ve added in the survivor image to illustrate a point made later by Jacqui Alexander about people’s reactions to change programmes involving long roll-out plans where they might just lie low and wait for it to blow over!

Effective change is about leadership attitude

Jacqui Alexander and Margaret Huggins used a four-box model for leadership belief and change, taken from Rowland & Higgs’ book on Sustaining Change that really resonated with the audience and the other speakers.

Change Leadership Approaches

It seemed that whilst the tendency of many leaders of change is to be very directive, it may sometimes be more appropriate to take the masterful approach, and that the most effective may well be the emergent one.

The masterful approach engages the people who are doing the work and so will have the best knowledge as to what will be effective.

The emergent approach is about creating the conditions for creativity and innovation, mixed with a culture of continuous improvement so that change is incremental rather than evolutionary. It also has echoes of Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Tipping Point’: when sufficient people have bought into (a) change for it to gain a momentum of its own.

At the same time, there are some situations, as in John Burt’s case study with Abzena’s transition in its corporate mission and to a public company, and Madhuri Warren’s case study on relocating and growing their business, when those leading the change have to be more directive, at least at first. Both speakers recognised, and Madhuri elaborated on the fact, that there comes a point when the masterful and emergent approaches are essential for fully engaging their staff.

A strong management team is essential during periods of significant change

Both Madhuri Warren and John Burt reflected on the qualities of their management teams and how their wealth of experience supported their companies through their periods of significant change.

The ability to articulate and communicate their vision for the change to employees and external stakeholders / shareholders, turn it into a sound business plan, project manage that plan, and minimize the negative impact on day-to-day productivity is a complex mix of challenges for any team.

Pathology Diagnostics’ and Abzena’s ability to do so are a credit to the quality of their management teams.

Both experiences have led them to reflect on their change management strategies, and there was much that GSK shared about their ADP approach (Accelerating Delivery and Performance *) that provided food for thought on this.

(*The link is to Jacqui and Margaret’s previous webinar for the APM which was attended by more than 300 people.  The link includes an audio recording from the event.)

It is important to communicate the right things, to the right people, at the right time

John Burt referenced the challenge of managing the company’s shareholder based when transitioning to a public company, and the changes in communication strategy that this entails. Chris Mayo elaborated on this further.

Managing the internal communications is also an important, as Madhuri reminded us: people want to know the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) – how the change will directly impact and benefit them.

In the panel session we discussed how it is in some ways easier to manage that communication in smaller companies. Jacqui’s suggestion for larger companies is to take a cellular approach to change leadership to achieve this communication more effectively than waiting for the more traditional top-down cascade to happen.

Jacqui also suggested tailoring the language for different audiences so for example, in an R&D environment, we might describe a change programme as experimentation!

Focus on skills and motivation and you will get the results you want

Graham Robb’s book ‘Influencer’ suggests that the best way to influence people is through a combination of skills development and motivational factors, and these suggestions also came through from all the speakers.

Robb suggests that effective change depends on identifying the key behaviours that need to change, and then providing the support (skills and motivation) to make that happen.

(You can read more about this in an earlier blog entitled: Why thinking in terms of burning platforms and tipping points is not sufficient to drive change)

Our speakers certainly demonstrated the awareness, and the approaches that will enable their organisations, and hopefully those of the delegates to continuously change for the better and so not be forgotten!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

One of RiverRhee’s areas of expertise and courses for One Nucleus is on Managing Change – which was part of the impetus for yesterday’s event.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the recently renamed Methods and Standards theme for the Enabling Change SIG.

 

 

From stoical survivor to natural navigator – strategies for proactive change programme managers.


By Elisabeth Goodman, 26th February 2015

Roles of those associated with change programmes

I’ve just come back from delivering a seminar for the Midlands branch of the APM, with my colleague (and Chair) on the APM Enabling Change SIG, Martin Taylor. The event, “How to keep programmes on track and teams inspired during periods of change”, attracted a lively set of people.  About a third of them were managing change programmes, another third were supporting programmes in some way and a further third were frequently (!) being drawn into change whilst addressing their day to day responsibilities.

This blog reflects some of the points that came up on the theme of proactive management of change programmes.

(By the way, this was our second visit to the Midlands branch of the APM.  I spoke last year on Facilitating operational excellence in and for business change projects.)

Railway destination for 24th Feb 2015 APM Midlands branch event

Railway destination for 24th Feb 2015 APM Midlands branch event

The nature of change within change programmes

I was impressed by how some of the people I spoke to were doing what they did because they enjoyed the challenge of change. They were often dealing with continuous change, rather than discrete periods of it, had multiple change programmes on the go, sometimes juggling equal priorities, whilst at the same time coping with change within the programme itself.  These ‘internal’ programme changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Sponsor turnover
  • Shifting objectives
  • Additional constraints on timelines, budgets and resources
  • External impacts – legislation, competitors, politics – the typical components of a PESTEL analysis. (We are now entering the “purdah” period for the forthcoming UK elections which brings additional constraints for those operating in or with the public sector.)

Strategies for keeping change programmes on track

Some of those present mentioned how they would like now and then to have just a few change programmes to deal with at a time.

They’d like to see some joined up thinking between programmes, especially where they are affecting the same stakeholders.

They’d also like the decision makers to remember why individual programmes are happening in the context of the bigger organisational strategy.

All of these and more formed the basis of a check list that Martin and I developed with the delegates for how they could proactively keep programmes on track during periods of change. (The full list, other notes and slides from the event will be posted shortly on the APM Enabling Change SIG microsite.)

Victims, survivors and navigators of change

The above proactive approach to change is also an illustration of how programme managers can effectively be navigators rather than victims or survivors of change (terms defined by Richard McKnight and further described in one of my publications – The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook, RiverRhee Publishing 2013).

Victim, survivor and navigator mindsets in change

Victim, survivor and navigator responses to change

Being a victim of change, as the name implies, is an unproductive ‘us and them’ mindset where we blame others for the situation we find ourselves in and expect them to sort it out. Whilst we may occasionally need to give way to our emotions in this way, as leaders of change we do, at some point, have to shake ourselves up and get on with it.

Stoical survival techniques can also only be temporary. It’s a kind of “in limbo” state where we are only just coping, and it will bring its own stresses.

Navigators on the other hand are people who ’embrace’ change and explore what they can do to make it happen in a constructive way: tackling the issues, anticipating the risks, and taking advantage of the opportunities that come their way.

Helping your team to be inspired during change

In the seminar we also discussed how managers can help their teams to be ‘inspired’ during the changes that affect the team: the sorts of changes that we outlined above. These changes can ‘hit’ the team at any stage of its development: whether newly formed, already storming or in full high performance flow.

We discussed how the programme manager can and should adopt the situational leadership approach: being highly directive during periods of uncertainty and ensuring that members of the team have one-to-one time to discuss their concerns and explore their ideas.

Creating the conditions for inspiration during periods of change

Creating the conditions for inspiration during periods of change

Members of the team, as much as the stakeholders affected by the outcome of the change programme, will benefit from plenty of communication. We all respond best when we have some degree of certainty and control over what happens to us.

Any information, however negative, or preliminary will help towards certainty.

Clear roles and responsibilities, and some level of involvement, will help people to feel more in control.

If, as a programme manager, you can provide this level of direction and support for your team, you will create the conditions where team members can feel more motivated, become navigators themselves and take more of a leadership role within their own domain of responsibility, and ultimately be more creative and inspired!

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.

Managing change, communities of practice, coaching for project management and more. Elisabeth Goodman’s 2014 blogging year


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.  The most popular topics were ones carried over from previous years: managing change, communities of practice and coaching for project management.

Many thanks to my readers and to my guest bloggers too!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.