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Archive for February, 2012

The Layers of the Change Bubble: Part 2

In my last blog I expanded my concept of  a leader establishing a change bubble as part of their preparation for bringing about change in the organisation. The change bubble concept focuses on the leader themselves rather than the more widely understood need for planning and preparing of the change itself. In this blog I will talk about the last two layers of the change bubble, both of which are 100% about the leader themselves. We are talking about Resilience and Respect:

Layer 3 of the bubble is Resilience. When leading change a manager will draw heavily on their reserves of resilience so they need to think about what they may face and how they will handle it and most importantly can they handle it.

The first question to ask yourself is ‘Can you cope with resistance and adversity?’ Lets say that you think the change is good and your people say ‘its about time’ and everything is going hunky dory within your sphere of influence. But the change attracts attention to your division. You were flying under the radar but people talk. It gets to other managers looking at you and lets assume they don’t like it. If they go to your boss and he is onside that may keep them at bay for a while, but its likely they will then come to you, or to your system interfaces with theirs or to the data they manage for you.

  • Are you ready for new and unusual ways of proving that what you are doing is not right?
  • How will you handle those conversations? You cant tell them that their way is ‘for the dinosaurs’ and they should change (even if you think thats true), your change is doing that already.
  • Can you convince them to cut you some slack?
  • Can you negotiate a win win?
  • Do you know what they need from you that can be bartered? Can you hold back 1, or two or 3 managers who want you to back off?
  • Can you hold out for what is right or do you tend to give way to more senior or older peers by habit?

Corporate life is full of politics (if you don’t know that, you need to learn it soon) and part of the politics is the possibility of making others look bad. Your change could revolutionise ‘the way we do things around here’ but that won’t appeal to all your peers and superiors. So have a think about those outside your division, how they could react and how you will handle that reaction. Resilience is partly your own strength of will and ability to hang in when challenge comes. However  it is also about being prepared for what could come your way and knowing how you will handle it.

Layer 4 is Respect. In this layer we are talking about the respect that you will need to have to make this change happen.The initial question is whether your people respect you now? Fundamentally if you have not got the respect of your people before you announce the change you are on an uphill battle. Being honest with yourself is a good start here and managing the change in a way that gains you new respect will be vital. But what about once the change is underway? What many managers forget is that during times of change they are even more under the spotlight than ever. Their people will want to see that the manager believes before they commit fully. Who is going to stick their neck out if the boss isn’t.

In preparing your change bubble, the last layer is to think about you and what this change means for your modus operandi.

A question I often ask my clients is ‘Are you prepared to be the first to change?’

Often the manager themselves becomes the weakest link in culture change as many of them think that the change is about those below them and not about them. It can mean that their habits, practices and behaviours are not truly aligned to the change that they are asking for.

  • Are you able to look at what changes you need to make personally to make the organisational change happen?
  • What behaviours do you have that may re-enforce the old ways?
  • What   tools/methods/approaches etc do you need to drop to let the new ones thrive?
  • What about your favourite reports and bits of info, do they fit in?
  • How do you interact with people, and is that congruent with the new behaviours?
  • What about your weaknesses? Are you prepared to work on them as part of the change.

Gaining and maintaining respect can often come from being the change that you want the organisation to be and from showing everyone that you can do it (so they can too).

In these blogs Ive given you a simple introduction to my concept of the change bubble for leaders and given you some thoughts on a few things that you might want to think about. Please contact me if you’d like to work on your bubble for your change

The Layers of the Change Bubble: Part 1

At the end of 20111 I wrote about setting up the change bubble if you are creating change from the middle of your organisation. I also talked with Heather Stagl of Enclaria on her internet radio show (number 38) about the four layers (Permission, Persistence, Resilience, Respect) that you need to build to give your bubble a strong enough skin to resist the various challenges that you will receive. In this blog I continue that topic and expand on the first two layers of the  bubble:

Layer 1 of the Bubble is Permission: You need to have the right to create change if you want it to succeed. If you get part way through and senior people pull the plug on you, then its your reputation that will be tarnished and the change resistance of your people will go up a factor. Before you kick off your change you need to see whether key people are a) prepared to give you the right to play and b) defend you from those who will object to what you are doing. Having a good idea is not enough, you need to think about the sustainability of the change and politics is the first killer of any initiative.  Permission sets up the first skin of the bubble that you want to draw around your change initiative. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your boss ok with your idea and happy to cut you slack?
  • Are they okay that this may create a desire to change elsewhere (you could be a positive virus for change that they would like)
  • How much detail do they need to be happy?
  • What are their boundaries?
  • And do they have the appetite to defend you?

Layer 2 is Persistence. Change is not a short term inititiative. Once you’ve started it off you will need to stick with it. Dropping it at the first issue will make it harder to start another change and will also damage your reputation. That said, total stubborness in the face of a changing reality wont help (its a global recession team, but…..). The persistence  question is really summarised by you looking at you and asking of yourself:

‘Are you prepared to keep going when other topics or issues demand your attention?’

Persistence means preparing for all of the things that tend to happen in your organisation on a regular basis e.g. year end accounts, budget setting, board papers, sales conferences? All these things tend to take out large chunks of a managers diary and I often hear people say ‘dont bother with that month as we will be too busy with..’

The thing about a change initiative is that you cant take a month off. You will spend most of your time convincing people of the change, holding people to account for the change, explaining the change, reminding people the ‘why of the change’ and working through the blockers, issues and the small details that come up with any change. If you take a month out for something else you are sending a signal to your people that the change is not that important. So you need to be persistent enough to juggle more than one ball.

So, ask yourself:

  • What could come up and get in the way of my change focus?
  • What normally happens in your org?
  • What gets in the way of you doing strategic stuff normally (budgets, year end, board papers, client launches) and how will you handle them?
  • How quickly do you get bored? What is your past history like on hanging on till you get a result?
  • Do you tend to a short term focus?

Your ability to keep going will make your change one of the small few that gets a result (a high percentage are just dropped). Your persistance is the second skin of the bubble.

In my next blog I will talk about the third and fourth layers: Resilience and Respect