FROM OUR PARTNERS:
ANNOUNCING OUR NEWEST PRINCIPAL, PERIN WEHDE
The Gunter Group is excited to announce that Perin Wehde has joined the firm in Denver, CO as its newest Principal.
Perin comes to TGG with over 22 years of multinational consulting experience and brings significant expertise helping organizations develop visions and align strategies in order to successfully execute complex change initiatives that improve business performance. Perin is a passionate problem solver and an energetic, relationships focused leader that uses a listen-first approach to help organizations and teams drive towards a common goal. Perin’s leadership role will serve as another valuable addition to our Denver based team and our growing list of client partners in Colorado.
When asked about the announcement, TGG Founding Partner Mike Gunter stated:
“Welcoming Perin as Principal and as a member of our senior leadership team is a very exciting moment. Perin’s high level of experience and strong professional background in the consulting industry will be a great addition to TGG. Her skills, leadership, and natural alignment with the TGG culture will complement our focus and growth in Denver and additional new markets.”
FROM OUR PARTNERS:
A DECADE OF SERVICE – JIM CALKO
The Gunter Group prioritizes and focuses on our “people first” mission, and it is with great excitement that we recognize Jim Calko for his 10 years of service with TGG. Not only is Jim one of our most tenured team members, he is also TGG’s newest Principal having been promoted to the position in the fall of 2022.
Jim was one of TGG’s earliest hires when he joined the firm in 2013 after serving for over five years in The United States Army. Jim’s service and leadership in the Army immediately added significant value to our young organization. Since joining TGG Jim has served in a variety of roles including: Consultant, Internal Operations, New Hire Ambassador, Manager, and Agile Services Lead. Jim’s experience and diverse background has been an impactful building block for our growth and success over the past decade. His ability to successfully drive change within various client organizations and focus on leading teams through digital and agile transformations has helped a wide range of client partners achieve their short and long term goals.
When asked about Jim’s time with the firm and promotion to Principal, Partner Tony Schweiss stated:
“From our earliest days as a firm, Jim naturally aligned with our goal to help organizations achieve success by delivering great work through building great relationships. He has been, and continues to be a great extension of our organizational culture and values. TGG is honored and proud to have Jim as part of our senior leadership team. Jim lives our non-negotiables on a daily basis and shares our drive toward personal excellence, building a high-performing team, and maximizing client potential through world class client service.”
We want to congratulate Jim on his 10 years with The Gunter Group, and we look forward to Jim continuing to help lead our firm as we work together to help our clients, consultants, and communities thrive!
TGG CULTURE IN ACTION:
INCLUSION AND FLEXBILITY
At the beginning of 2023, we implemented a new paid holiday policy at The Gunter Group: we changed all our paid holidays to “floating holidays” so that our team can choose to celebrate the holidays that mean the most to them.
The genesis of our decision started last year when a team of our consultants came forward to the leadership team with an idea for a “Day of Service” for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. At the time, our holiday policy included 7 paid company-defined holidays plus one “floating” holiday, which could be used on any day during the year.
The team that brought forward the idea about the Day of Service also asked the question of whether the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday should be one of our “official” holidays. This led to a much deeper discussion about not only our holiday policy, but also Inclusion. In other words, how could we make it so that our policy on holidays would be fully inclusive and reflect our core values and Culture as an organization? Why should the company dictate that employees take off Christmas Day versus Yom Kippur, Diwali or days during Ramadan? Or New Year’s Day instead of Chinese New Year? Maybe the discussion about whether to observe a particular holiday was missing the point.
Our point of view is that Inclusion is not about a particular holiday, it’s about all of them. This is what led us to change our company policy so that TGGers can decide which days to observe based on what is most meaningful to them and their families.
Back to the Day of Service on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday: a large team of TGGers and their families came together to assemble and deliver 35 Sack Lunches, 20 Winter Kits, and 44 Hygiene Kits to the Blanchet House in Portland, an organization that supports people experiencing homelessness and that is “On a mission to alleviate suffering and offer hope for a better life by serving essential aid with dignity”. I am super proud of the team and the support they provided to such an amazing organization.
At The Gunter Group, we strive to create an environment to support our consultants, clients, and communities such that each can achieve excellence, realize their full potential, and thrive. We live by our Non-Negotiables: Collaborative, Integrity, Intellectual Curiosity, Thrives in Ambiguity, Emotional Intelligence and Grounded Confidence. Our Non-Negotiables reflect who we are and who we will continue striving to be. We value engagement and creative ideas from our team, and we are always working to make TGG a better and better place to work!
DOES TRANSFORMATION HAVE TO BE TRANSFORMATIONAL?
TGG Senior Consultant, Danny Quarrell recently supported a large client partner with a key Transformation initiative. Below Danny shares details and insights on how a mix of enablement projects alongside game changing Transformational projects are key to a healthy Actuarial Transformation Program.
Does transformation have to be transformational?
The biggest ongoing question in my first actuarial transformation program engagement seems like a trick question. Of course, it’s supposed to be transformational! It’s literally called The Actuarial Transformation Program.
Well not so fast my friend!
Rather than looking at an Actuarial Transformation (AT) program as a group of transformational projects, it should be viewed as a spectrum of projects that have a range of transformational outcomes. The end goal is transformation, of course, but each project contributes to that goal in different ways.
The projects that have the least transformative impact can often be the most overlooked and under prioritized projects in the program. Yet these types of projects are worthwhile (and even required) activities that create an opportunity for transformation where there previously wasn’t one and work to keep your community engaged. We refer to these types of projects as transformation enablers.
Transformation enabler projects will typically share these characteristics.
1. They free up time
2. They reduce risk
3. They are an iterative step on a path to a transformational solution
4. They keep the actuarial community engaged in the program
5. They build trust with the broader organization that leadership is actually committed to seeing a transformation through to actual transformative results
Before we get too far into our discussion, let’s be clear on what an example of a transformational project would be. Let’s say you have multiple groups of actuaries that rely on the same modeling calculation platform, but each team prepares their data (inforce data, assumption data, etc.) in their own way for ingestion into the platform and they each have different ways of storing outputs. Maybe one group relies heavily on Excel, another uses R and SQL, and maybe a third group uses MS Access. A transformational project might look like:
Building an enterprise-wide application that would allow each team to manage their inforce data, set assumptions and initiate model runs through a common interface and process. The application would also manage model results and provide robust tools for governance, controls, and auditing.
I think most people would agree that kind of project would be very transformational within an actuarial organization. It would reduce the time needed to prepare data and create the ability to produce multiple model runs in a shorter time frame, reduce risk, reduce ramp up time for actuaries rotating between teams, and streamline the governance process since all models would use the same processes.
These game changing types of projects are the stuff dreams are made of; they’re also fraught with risk! They take years to implement, have high costs, require incredible levels of trust and engagement from your subject matter experts, and they can sink your program when they go wrong.
These risks are exactly the types of risks transformation enablers are meant to address. Let’s drill down a bit.
· Major transformational projects take years to implement and can easily lose momentum or fail to win the support of the people they are meant to help
Enabler projects can provide shorter term wins, keep the actuarial community excited about the future and help them stay engaged with the program
· Not every team is ready to be transformed, some people are just trying to keep from sinking!
These teams need relief, not transformation. They don’t have the time to stay engaged with the solution that you want to build and release 18 months from now. Give them the relief they need, then engage them on transformation
· Legacy processes are often fragile and have high risk. Process owners don’t want to exacerbate risk with change
Process owners for legacy processes know where their processes are fragile and where the risk lies. Iterative solutions can provide targeted solutions to these key areas. Lowering risk and the stress of owning the process.
· Legacy processes can benefit from being improved iteratively, and stakeholders are more likely to provide valuable feedback when given multiple opportunities via iterative solutions being presented
When you present iterative solutions that start by alleviating key pain points the subject matter experts and key stakeholders are more willing to engage on further improvements and accept greater change to the processes they own. Rather than asking for trust when you promise a big benefit down the road, earn trust by presenting small benefits now.
The actual enablement projects will vary from program to program and team to team, but the characteristics will remain the same.
1. They free up time
2. They reduce risk
3. They are an iterative step on a path to a transformational solution
4. They keep the community engaged in the program
5. They build trust with the broader organization that the leadership is actually committed to seeing a transformation through to actual transformative results.
New organizational initiatives pop up every quarter but the surest way to achieve collective buy-in is to make the real work visible, recognized, and a focused priority. A mix of enablement projects alongside your game changing Transformational projects are key to a healthy Actuarial Transformation Program.
At The Gunter Group our experienced team has decades of experience leading transformational initiatives for client partners. Our versatile team knows change doesn’t happen overnight and are ready to help your organization make transformational progress and achieve transformational results.
DON’T LET TECH DEBT STAND IN THE WAY OF DATA-DRIVEN INSIGHT
Technical debt can put organizations in a headlock, both in the short and long term. Almost nothing casts a bigger, scarier shadow for decision makers — the perception of the time and cost necessary to overcome tech debt looms large, keeping entire companies frozen in fear.
This burden makes it difficult to efficiently extract insights from data. It’s a recipe for stifled growth.
We’re here with a message of hope: you don’t have to dive into a resource-intensive, five-year transformation project in order to manage your technical debt and realize your data potential. You have other options, and it all comes down to prioritization.
What is tech debt?
Technical debt is often defined as the cost incurred when you repeatedly choose short-term solutions rather than doing the (larger, more expensive) work of tackling the big-picture causes of your problems.
But let’s look at the issue through a different lens: what is the nature of technical debt?
Because new solutions are built and deployed every day, all organizations incur tech debt, to some degree, with every system and process implementation decision they make. Even if you implement a new, innovative solution today, there will be a better one available tomorrow. In this scenario, you will still incur tech debt — just less than an organization that makes no updates.
Too many organizations think of tech debt as a problem that can be permanently solved. In reality, it’s a constant that’s renewed continuously by change and growth, and trying to “solve” it completely is a futile pursuit.
While you can’t make tech debt vanish into thin air, you can certainly make it more manageable. If you focus on managing its impacts in an ongoing way, you can deflate its looming, monstrous reputation and get to work on making meaningful improvements in the here and now.
Is tech debt destroying your data-driven dreams?
Analytics bottlenecks are a common issue related to tech debt. Silos slow down the analytics process; if only one person knows where a spreadsheet is and how to extract meaningful data from it, they become the bottleneck.
With each short-term fix and siloed process, data becomes harder to manage, access, and analyze. In turn, drawing insights from that data requires more time and effort, the insights become less timely and less reliable, and informed decision making becomes more challenging.
In other words, tech debt has a way of draining value from data — and the longer you let that debt accrue, the more value you’re losing. Using a prioritized approach to managing tech debt can help you cover more ground right out of the gate, so you don’t lose any more value than you have to.
One way to apply this prioritized approach is with backlog grooming, the periodic process of reviewing and prioritizing backlog tasks (and removing unnecessary or outdated tasks).
How do you prioritize what areas to address?
There is a lot of information available on how to tackle tech debt. Unfortunately, most of it is theoretical. While the abstract stuff can be valuable, if you’re looking for a practical way forward, you need to bring your considerations back down to earth and fold in the business perspective to create a technical debt prioritization plan.
You probably have a lot of tools at your disposal, internally and externally, and resources to leverage. Take a look at what you need to have happen — not theoretically (e.g. eliminating all technical debt by some point in the future) — but actually.
For example, The Gunter Group recently worked with a retail automotive company that was struggling with data debt. It was impacting every area of their business, including employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and profit margin. They needed a new approach, but with such a vast problem, it was difficult for them to know where to start.
We worked with multiple teams within the company, including manufacturing, HR, marketing, and technology innovation to create a prioritization plan. High priority initiatives included redefining company-wide KPIs, designing and implementing machine learning algorithms, and improving data literacy across departments.
Though they still have a long way to go on their data maturity journey, this company was able to start making changes where it mattered most, rather than remaining paralyzed by the challenge ahead.
How we work with clients to tackle tech debt
Remediating data-related tech debt requires far more than just technical skills — it requires asking the right questions, gaining a holistic understanding of your organization’s business goals (as well as how they may vary across different departments), and creating a dialogue to explore possible solutions.
Each of these components requires a tremendous amount of time, which internal teams rarely have. In most cases, managing ongoing operational struggles takes priority over transformation, and team members don’t have the capacity to focus all their energy on addressing tech debt. Meanwhile, recruiting new team members is a time-consuming, resource-intensive process, and thanks to the tech talent shortage, it’s more challenging than ever.
Turning to outside help can get the data transformation ball rolling without overwhelming internal teams or opening a can of recruitment worms.
At The Gunter Group, we leverage a multidisciplinary approach (technology, people, strategy, and execution) that enables us to see the long-term big picture while solving the highest-priority problems in the short term.
Combined with our extensive technical capabilities, this approach allows our clients to chip away at their technical debt and reclaim the value of their data as quickly as possible — without the burden of hiring a new team.
Think about a meaningful, specific problem you’re facing right now that’s rooted in technical debt, and what you would be able to accomplish if this problem was being managed proactively.
If you set your sights on eliminating tech debt across your entire organization, you’ll likely get caught up in a complex tangle of issues — and that one major problem that’s holding you back now will still be holding you back in six months.
To accelerate your progress, identify your most pressing issues, and reach out to expert help if you need it. With the right strategy and the right partner, you can mitigate tech debt and use your data to its fullest potential.
Is technical debt slowing you down? Discover how to improve your data infrastructure and decision making with workshops hosted by The Gunter Group.
WHY ISN’T YOUR DATA TRANSFORMATION PROGRAM TRANSFORMING ANYTHING?
It’s a familiar tale — you’ve embarked on a journey to transform the way your company uses data, but all you have to show for it is a lot of very ambitious documentation and hundreds of progress update meetings where time feels like it’s standing still.
Why isn’t your in-progress data transformation program producing tangible results? Here are three common reasons why your efforts might be failing to deliver:
1. Your approach isn’t incremental.
We recently wrote about data maturity models and how they can actually hinder data transformation if you don’t apply them correctly. To summarize, organizations tend to focus too much on the brass ring (reaching some proverbial data maturity nirvana) and not enough on the details (getting more value from data along the way).
Often, the goal is a total overhaul of how data is used from the top to bottom of the business, delivering unimaginable value to everyone, everywhere — an ambitious transformation that will take years to achieve. Even if you’ve had a few updates and helpful process changes along the way, most of the value remains locked behind the “project completion” door.
What does that mean for those who are trying to get some incremental improvement and use data more effectively in the near term? It means they have to just sit tight and wait for the big reveal — otherwise, they’ll be doing work that’s not aligned with the broader strategy.
It’s important to consider the folks in your organization who use data to complete everyday tasks, and how you can make their jobs easier, not harder, during the data transformation process.
2. Technical debt is handcuffing you.
Individual innovation can be a huge asset for an organization. You want people to take initiative, solve problems, and make it happen. But when it comes to managing data, all that individual problem solving can add up to huge technical debt, and make organization-wide data transformation efforts feel insurmountable.
When everyone has their own unique, siloed quick fixes and band-aid solutions, there’s no more unifying structure left to transform — so where do you even start? Think of the chaos you’d unleash by pulling at even one loose thread; mission-critical systems that were crudely patched together would come tumbling down.
As an additional challenge, there will always be responsibilities and processes that can’t be switched off while things are fine tuned. For example, if you’re using your existing data systems to calculate monthly commissions, that presents a huge barrier to making any meaningful changes — you can’t stop paying out commissions until changes are implemented, and it would be risky to just cross your fingers and hope that brand new systems produce accurate results in time for you to cut checks.
Getting out from under technical debt isn’t impossible — it just requires a lot of effort. It’s also infinitely easier to achieve with the right combination of planning, skill, and resources, which is why many companies partner with firms that specialize in tackling technical debt.
It’s also important to remember that tech debt isn’t something you can escape completely, but a challenge that needs to be continually addressed. Good solution design assumes that today’s new solution is tomorrow’s tech debt, everything is eventually deprecated, and all solutions incur maintenance and upkeep. Finding the balance between standardization and innovation is important, as too much of either can be stifling.
3. You don’t have the right people.
Pulling off a successful data transformation project takes a lot of skill sets (strategic planning, project management, change management, ETL development, data science, etc.), and it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to find a single person who can do them all well. It’s also unrealistic to expect your current staff to sustain day-to-day operations and magically find the time to make changes. In 99% of cases, you’ll need outside help.
Trying to build an in-house team is difficult, especially in the midst of a data analytics talent shortage. Planning and recruiting for a team can take anywhere from six months to a year, plus the time it takes to get everyone up and running. If your organizational culture (or even just a particular decision maker) is change-resistant, this process can take even longer — and feel like pulling teeth.
Technical leaders often have to spend a large amount of time jockeying for resources and pitching projects. You may have to argue and advocate for three months to hire one person that was needed to solve a problem three months ago. By the time you get a decision, you’re going through the same cycle with a different problem.
It’s easy to see how years can go by with little to no progress.
This is another situation where it can be helpful to work with a data transformation partner, which gives you access to highly skilled, experienced people, without the pressure or long timeline of trying to build an in-house team.
Our general advice for data transformation can be summed up in two words: don’t wait. Every day you remain stalled out, you acquire more technical debt, and your problems get more complex. You lose more business, you gain less on your competition, and your company loses value.
If you need to see real outcomes from a data transformation project, focus on incremental improvements, and find a partner who can help you overcome the challenges we’ve outlined here.
Above all, remember that data transformation isn’t a “project” that begins and ends. It’s a decision to become a data-oriented organization — and it takes continuous effort and agility.
Not seeing results from your data transformation initiatives? Discover how to improve your data infrastructure and decision making during our upcoming Data Maturity workshop on December 15th at 11:30am Pacific Time.
TGG PARTNER Q&A:
2022 CONSULTING MAGAZINE BEST FIRMS TO WORK FOR
This fall The Gunter Group was recognized as a “Best Small Firm to Work For” by Consulting Magazine for the fourth consecutive year. This marks the fourteenth workplace award that TGG has received in the last eight years.
We visited with TGG partner and head of TGG’s Nevada team, Tony Schweiss to hear more about the award and the significance of being honored nationally for The Gunter Group’s culture and workplace.
This is the fourth consecutive year TGG has been recognized as a Best Small Firm to Work For by Consulting Magazine. What does this consistency and recognition mean to the team?
Tony: It’s a reflection of the amount of effort, energy and thought that we put into building a team that is aligning its culture to the work that we do and the outcomes we are trying to deliver as a team. It’s also a reflection of the caliber of people that we have on our team and the commitment our team has to do high quality work for our clients, to support each other, to collaborate and live out our Non-Negotiables, and hold ourselves accountable.
The consistency, year-in and year-out is amazing and is incredibly exciting in terms of the ongoing acknowledgement of the effort we put into our culture on a yearly, monthly, weekly, daily basis and I think everyone on the team should be really proud of it.
Not only has The Gunter Group’s team grown geographically over the past 24 months but the location of clients has been broadening as well. How does the Consulting Magazine honor validate these geographic developments?
Tony: For us it is an essential priority that as we expand as a company and our footprint grows, that we stay culturally committed to what makes us a great team. The pursuit of excellence and the goal over time to create an engaged team no matter where they are, has been a driving requirement for us as we grow.
To be recognized for this award four years in a row as we continue to grow geographically proves that it is possible to create highly engaging cultural value as we scale up as a firm. The recognition also validates the effort and resources we have dedicated to our team and organization, and serves as a celebration opportunity as well.
You are located in Nevada, what is it like for you to work with individuals across the country in different hubs/areas and how does TGG develop and maintain its strong organizational culture with geographically dispersed team members?
Tony: For me, I think it’s really exciting to work with team members from so many different areas. Whether it’s the Denver area, Southern California, the Salt Lake City area, the East Coast, or the Pacific Northwest, the variety of experiences and perspectives that generate from a collection of unique locations is exciting to be a part of and see benefit our client partners.
It’s been fun to experience but also presents a challenge: how do we maintain the value of our culture in a more virtual environment and dispersed geographies.
Having been geographically removed from our main hub for a while now, the best version of an engaging team and workplace is one that is aligned in terms of its goals and mission as an organization. And for us it’s about helping our clients achieve their goals in a way that is better and faster than what they could have done on their own.
I think it’s helped bring into focus opportunities for engagement with each other and how we’re doing our work but also how we are connecting as a team. It has forced us to try new things, evaluate quickly and then double down on methods that have really added to our cultural foundation across multiple geographies. As much as possible we continue to utilize not only virtual opportunities to engage with teammates but also encourage our local teammate hubs to spend time together in person and support that activity from an investment perspective.
What are you most excited about for the TGG team and culture in the coming year?
Tony: At the end of the day we’ve grown a lot over the last 3-4 years and we’ve grown purposefully so that our team has new and interesting opportunities in the future. As we grow we have to continue to be thoughtful about how we do our work internally, engage and connect with one another, how we collaborate, and how we deliver our work as a team.
What I’m really excited about over the next year is to continue to mature how our employee experience presents itself and matures across geographies so we can ensure a great professional opportunity for our entire team regardless of where they are located. I think it’s the most crucial work we have in front of us but it will also be the most rewarding for our entire organization in the months and years to come.
THE PAST, PRESENT, AND TGG
People are hardwired to be cautious of change. However, in today’s rapidly-evolving business climate, organizations must find ways to support employees through inevitable changes. From operational restructuring to software implementations and everything in between, the field (and process) of change management is complex.
With the numerous methods, techniques, and approaches to change management how does an organization identify and pinpoint the best path forward?
It will help to briefly travel back in time to understand the roots of the formalized practices that flourish today and break down three foundational pillars of change management that organizations can utilize today.
The Migration From Psychology To Business
Change management has roots in the study of human behavior. The intellectual beginnings trace to the early 1900’s, into the work of the anthropologist Arnold van Gennep. When looking at rites of passage in different cultures, Gennep began to notice common behaviors.
Even though he was looking at a variety of different cultures, he noticed that there were three overall states that ran common in the experience of social change. The first state was a “pre-liminal” stage, where the coming change was acknowledged and prepared for by the community.
The middle state was the “liminal” stage, which he defined as a threshold of ambiguity and disorientation. Change managers everywhere will chuckle at the accuracy of adjectives like “ambiguity” and “disorientation” when describing the liminality of change.
The final state in a rite of passage was “post-liminal,” where the transition in status was recognized and normalized in the community. Across cultures and belief systems, Gennep was able to identify these common movements in the human experience of change.
By the mid-20th century, when psychology began to blossom into a robust and complex discipline of study, Gennep’s three states gained popularity. In the 1940’s, Kurt Lewin became a pioneer in social and organizational psychology by turning his attention to understanding change. Lewin borrowed from Gennep’s structure and described a three step process for change: unfreezing, changing, and refreezing.
There was some academic buzz from several sources in the years following Lewin’s work, but no substantial leap from psychology to business had yet been made. This changed in 1982, when a consultant at McKinsey named Julien Phillips published an article in the journal Human Resource Management.
In his article, Phillips introduced a model for organizational change management specifically designed with businesses in mind. His model defines four steps that were intended to build momentum for change within an organization: creating a sense of concern, developing a specific commitment to change, pushing for major change, and reinforcing the new course of action.
In the years following, change management took off. Books were published; articles became more frequent; new models were advanced. Businesses were in need of assistance with change, and consultants pursued thought leadership that would help address this need and grow their business. Peters, Waterman, Kotter, and dozens more developed robust philosophies and methods for change, and organizations bought in and helped the field to grow.
Today, there are as many models for change management as there are consulting organizations. Looking for a 4 step process? Try PDCA. Interested in 5 steps? Try ADKAR. How about a 6 step approach? Try Pulse. Need more? Try Kotter’s 8 Steps, or Prosci’s 9 Steps. There are symposiums and communities of practice such as Prosci and ACMP; and naturally a veritable cornucopia of certifications abound. Change management is so saturated with models and approaches that some even try to push “beyond change management.”
100 Frameworks, 1 Idea
The Gunter Group does not subscribe to any one framework. Our clients are too unique for a single set of steps to be the answer. We proudly proclaim ourselves to be “methodologically agnostic,” much more interested in understanding the organization than blindly peddling a process that fails to fit the people it is meant to help.
That is not to say that we don’t know the methods. Our consultants have expertise in Prosci and ADKAR; and we have a number of tangentially relevant certifications (Six Sigma, SAFe, PMP, and HCD to name a few); we attend local ACMP events. We do not, however, learn a method to become disciples. Rather, we expose ourselves to frameworks and study methodological vocabulary to leverage those aspects of the frameworks that might be helpful for our work. Our clients appreciate a tailored approach that is grounded in the best practices of 100 frameworks.
This approach to consulting reveals something obvious: all change management methods are basically the same. Decades of scholarship and praxis have not changed the core phases of change, and wisdom that dates back a century still lies at the heart of responsible change. There are 3 basic phases in change (before, during, and after), and every change management framework simply iterates on the approach taken within those three phases.
So what runs common throughout all change management? What activities should you keep in mind as you tailor the process to your specific organization? We’ll run through the basics below.
Step 1: Pre-Change
Change is coming. Perhaps it is a changing regulation, a new technology, an upcoming merger, or a poor quarterly report; whatever the reason, you see change on the horizon and understand that you will need to prepare for it. Though the various frameworks approach preparing for change differently, three key activities take place during pre-change: analysis, planning, and influencing.
Analysis comes first. Before you can plan for change, you have to understand the people and processes that will be impacted. Who will be your champions, sponsors, and resistors? Helpful tools for this phase include stakeholder matrices, current state and future state process maps, and change impact assessments. The change manager must also understand the change itself. Without a powerful grasp on the “why” that is driving the change, planning and execution will fall short.
Planning comes next. Change management occurs somewhere between the intersection of strategy, people, and execution, and planning is the bridge that brings these three elements into alignment. This includes planning for the change itself, communication that will accompany the change, and the training that will make the change possible.
Influencing should follow. ADKAR describes this as fostering awareness and desire. Prosci speaks of sponsors and champions. Other schools of thought suggest using concepts like vision or need. We have found that a cocktail of all these approaches is usually the best way forward.
Step 2: Change
You’ve spent time interviewing stakeholders, mapping processes, and planning training sessions; now it’s time to introduce the change. This is messy, confusing, and difficult for the people impacted so change managers often rely most heavily on a methodology in this phase. However, mid-change is where a generalist approach could be most advantageous, adapting to the ongoing needs of the situation. There are four activities that always occur in any well-managed change approach: communication, training, changing, and reinforcement.
The most important activity surrounding change is communication. This is where you lean heavily on the results of your analyses. You know who needs communication, what they need to hear, and how it will affect their work flow. Armed with this information, you can plan accordingly, communicating the upcoming movements to the right people, early and often.
Another essential activity is training. This often goes hand-in-hand with communication, and is best when designed from the viewpoint of those impacted. Recent developments of tools such as Human Centered Design help maximize the value of training.
At a certain point, the change will happen. Kotter recommends an approach of small-slicing the change to create short term wins, but often the change manager is not the one driving the project timeline. When it comes to go-lives, change managers serve a thousand roles. They become SME’s for elements of the change impact; they attempt to remove obstacles from stakeholders; they act as cheerleaders or bulldogs, whatever is called for in the moment.
As change occurs, another important activity is reinforcement. A big part of this is engaging program or organizational-wide leadership to enforce the change. This activity truly begins in pre-change and extends through the end of post-change, but it becomes extremely important in the midst of the change. There are approaches coming out of organizational psychology that can be helpful here, such as Vroom’s Theory of Motivation, McClellan’s Theory of Three Needs, or McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y.
Step 3: Post-Change
Follow-through is a must. As Gennep would say: the new status must be confirmed and the change must be reincorporated as the new norm. This is done a little differently in each framework, but necessary activities include reinforcement and reanalysis.
As said above, reinforcement is heavily featured in post-change activities. The goal is longevity, driving the change through ongoing champions and dwindling resistance. Success is celebrated, momentum is reinforced, and improvements are consolidated. Through these activities, the new order is anchored in behavior.
One often-forgotten activity that takes place after the change occurs is reanalysis. Throughout this whole process, you’ve generated a mountain of information, from stakeholder input to process metrics. Current-state assessments performed before, during, and after the change are a great way to analyze that information, evaluating the effect of the change.
Change management is the study of human behavior. Change is inevitably difficult for humans, yet change is unavoidable. As professionals in change management, we bring a people-centered approach to our work. We partner with clients to ensure employees and stakeholders understand, support, and adopt the desired change and it starts with a very critical element: listening. We view our clients’ change as if it was our change, and their people, as if they were our people, with a foundation of respect.
WHAT MAKES FOR AN IMPACTFUL CHANGE LEADER?
Impactful change leaders understand not only the holistic process of change but also the simple process of change, disruption, adaptation, and confirmation. They know the tools and the steps to help guide them in executing that change.
Great change leaders think systematically. They’re fluent in the interwoven nature of change. For example, the reliance on, and the potential impact to, a long-term strategy: the new business opportunities that are presented, the operational impacts, the cost impacts and implications, and the efficiencies that could be gained from a change.
The best change leaders are those who recognize that there’s an absolute, inextricable, undeniable criticality of engaging their people and their teams in bringing about change. No process, no strategy, no business model, no ROI, no calculations will matter if there’s an absence of engagement on the team.
When faced with challenging situations effective change leaders have the ability to:
1. Respond in a timely manner to a market force or operational inefficiency.
2. Understand that change is a necessary process, and that it will happen again.
3. Learn from the challenges in front of their organization and learn from the change process they undertake.
4. Challenge the status quo and ask strategic unbiased questions with a focus on improvement and solutions.
5. See how change can and will impact their organization at an enterprise level.
6. Explore new processes and tools to support and scale change and improvement.
7. Communicate clearly and effectively to their team so that team members know the “why” behind the change and understand how their role fits into both the process and the outcome.
Large-scale change takes place across all industries with some of it intentional, and some of it unexpected. Regardless of the forcing mechanism, effective change leaders find ways to engage teams at a more human level, and in doing so choose engagement over exclusion and as a result prioritize organizational health and success.
As professionals in change management, we bring a people-centered approach to our work. We partner with clients to ensure employees and stakeholders understand, support, and adopt the desired change and it starts with a very critical element: listening. We view our clients’ change as if it was our change, and their people, as if they were our people, with a foundation of respect.