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.
5 KEYS FOR TACKLING
FAST TRACK PROJECTS
“Expect the unexpected.” We have all heard the saying countless times not only in personal settings but professional environments as well. For an organization “expecting the unexpected” can involve economic developments, industry shifts, operational circumstances, and of course, people dynamics.
Oftentimes these unexpected situations can involve more than one of the above categories and create an organizational scenario that is heavy on importance and light on time.
If this sounds familiar, then you may have a critical, fast track project.
Whether you’re faced with a crisis now, or looking to be prepared for anything unexpected in the future, here are five keys our team utilizes to help organizations move forward with critical, fast track projects.
1. Work Horizontally & Vertically. Disruption knows no boundaries. Leaders who can bridge communication gaps both horizontally and vertically within an organization will break down barriers and drive focus. Consider a generalist who can bring a holistic perspective.
2. Ramp Up Quickly: Uncertainty creates a vortex of need. Seek people who love learning. People accustomed to diving into new disciplines are skilled at the process of learning and can move from beginner to expert (or close to it!) at a rapid pace.
3. Navigate Ambiguity. Projects that surface quickly are usually highly ambiguous. Seek people who are energized by the unknown. They have confidence from years of working in uncharted territory to know that they are capable of figuring things out.
4. Embrace Your Culture: Your culture is the key to “how things get done around here” and when time is limited, it is important to have someone who can adapt quickly. Whether considering internal or external support, ensure they have chameleon-like qualities to reflect your company and departmental norms.
5. Tailored Solutions. Solutions need to make sense for your company and situation. Prioritize tailored approaches over cookie-cutter solutions.
Critical, fast track projects are a constant as organizations frequently experience disruption whether by instigating or reacting to circumstances. A strong project leader with these five traits will help teams navigate uncertainty while achieving desired outcomes.
Check out these client outcomes to discover real world examples, and see how we successfully partner with our clients to help them navigate challenges and drive toward solutions.
BEHIND THE SCENES:
JOINING THE TGG TEAM
TGG Team Members Annie Cha, Nate Ferguson, Janice Lefebvre, Danny Quarrell, and Samya Thangaraj have been with The Gunter Group for varying periods of time and each one of them has a unique story in regards to their transition to The Gunter Group.
Today, with their help, we are going to take a behind the scenes look at what it’s like to join the TGG team and become part of the TGG culture.
Let’s start here: What was your background prior to becoming a Consultant at TGG?
Janice: I worked for a health insurance carrier.
Nate: Previously I had worked as an analyst and did some account management as well.
Samya: I was a generalist consultant.
Danny: I did Director of IT and CTO type roles, mostly.
Most of you came from non-Consultant career paths. What was that like during the hiring process?
Annie: I was actually a little bit intimidated because consulting wasn’t my background but what’s unique about the culture at TGG is that you don’t have to be from a consultant background to really thrive here.
Nate: In my case, TGG really helped me see the parallels with the core competencies I had from my experiences.
Samya: I realized and appreciated that they’re not focused on what you’re missing, but they’re focused on what you’re bringing.
Janice: For me, I appreciated that TGG found value in the idea that every person comes to the table with a different personality, different skill sets.
During the transition, what about the TGG culture was supportive and helped you develop in your new role?
Danny: What I loved seeing was that if a teammate wanted to expand their knowledge and experience in an area, TGG helped them learn it, and other people here with that specific skill or expertise, were more than willing to assist along the way.
Annie: Knowing without a doubt that I could reach out to any of my colleagues here and they would be ready and willing to help.
Samya: I was told early on that it’s more of a family culture, and that definitely held true during my transition and has continued on a daily basis.
Janice: I love how the team is close-knit and really cares about each person as an individual. This has been evident since day one, and it’s not only supportive but it helps everyone be successful as well.
Thank you again to each of you for taking the time to share and reflect on your transition and time with TGG. We look forward to more opportunities to support our authentic culture and deliver impactful work together.
Interested in learning more about how our great culture comes to life? Click here and see what fuels our team, our relationships, and our work.
Ready to jump in? Our TGG team is growing and we are currently hiring! Click here to see our open positions and apply.
FROM OUR PARTNERS:
ANNOUNCING OUR NEWEST PRINCIPAL, STEPHEN BACON
As our firm continues to grow and position itself for the journey ahead, developing and promoting leaders within our firm is of the utmost importance and focus.
Therefore, it is with great excitement that we announce Stephen Bacon as the newest Principal at The Gunter Group.
Stephen joined TGG in early 2017 and brought with him a wide-ranging professional background in change management, along with strategy development and oversight experience spanning numerous industries. During his time with TGG, Stephen has been instrumental in leading The Gunter Group’s Strategy Practice, managing large-scale engagements, leading teams of TGG consultants, and developing client relationships.
When asked about the announcement TGG Partner Matt Bader stated:
“Stephen’s growth in the profession of consulting is something that he should be really proud of and something that I hope others on our team look to for inspiration. He has put in hard work and dedication to all areas of consulting leadership at TGG. Our clients and our own team are benefiting greatly because of his efforts. He has become a trusted leader and thought partner across our client base and has furthered the capabilities of our team to lead strategic initiatives for our clients. We are grateful to have him on the TGG team.”
We are excited and proud to have Stephen join the senior leadership team at TGG. Stephen is an excellent extension of our non-negotiables, passion for maximizing client potential, and commitment to service.
We are pleased to have Stephen step into this leadership role and continue to contribute to the impact we strive to achieve in our consultants’ and clients’ lives!
INC. BEST WORKPLACES Q&A
The TGG team is excited to share that last month The Gunter Group was named to Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces list for 2022! This was the second year in a row that TGG was recognized with this national honor from Inc.
When announcing the 2022 winners Scott Omelianuk, Editor-in-Chief of Inc. Magazine stated:
“The competition this year was tough—thousands of best-in-class companies competed to make the Best Workplaces list, agreeing to employee surveys that determined which participants had the most satisfied teams. All winners have something special in common: a culture that encourages people in a way that allows teams to stay strong in the office or in one’s home office—even if the home office is at the kitchen table! That kind of leadership and the resilience it creates are worth celebrating!”
To highlight what the award means to TGGers everywhere, we visited with three team members located across the Western United States.
What does the Inc. Magazine Best Workplaces Award mean to you as a member of the TGG team?
Josh Eife (Denver): As a newer employee, I am not surprised by this recognition because it was evident during the interview process that TGG is a special place. I have not seen an organization as committed to their employees while serving clients in the right way, and this award validates that personal observation.
Tracy Bell (Seattle): It acknowledges how I feel as an engaged employee – I work for a company that cares about its employees and supports them to grow and learn. I feel this every day. An award is confirmation that others feel the same.
Jim Calko (Los Angeles): It’s exciting and validating for our organization to be recognized as one of the best places to work in the country. For me having been at TGG since the beginning of the journey, it’s really fulfilling to see as we all do our part to help build something special.
What makes TGG’s culture special and unique?
Jim: Authenticity and sincerity have been huge components since the beginning. Being able to show up, be your full self and be celebrated.
Tracy: TGG’s culture is special because it puts values at the center of what we do. They are foundational to how we hire and we show up for ourselves, our company, and our clients. Notably, values are an ongoing conversation at TGG which is a rare practice in and of itself.
Josh: Genuine relationships! TGG’s emphasis on hard work, doing the right thing, and making friends along the way is a rare dynamic in the working world. We are all on this journey together, and having value-based colleagues makes it a special place to work.
Interested in learning more about how our great culture comes to life? Click here and see what fuels our team, our relationships, and our work.
Ready to jump in? Our TGG team is growing and we are currently hiring! Click here to see our open positions and apply.
TGG RECOGNIZED ON NATIONAL BEST WORKPLACES LIST
For the second year in a row, The Gunter Group has been named to Inc. Magazine’s annual Best Workplaces list. Featured in the May/June 2022 issue, and prominently featured on Inc.com, the list is the result of a comprehensive measurement of American companies that have excelled in creating exceptional workplaces and company culture.
The Inc. recognition marks the thirteenth workplace award The Gunter Group has received since its inception in 2011. The honor comes as The Gunter Group successfully undertakes expansion efforts in Denver, CO, Salt Lake City, UT, and Southern California providing its management consulting services to public and private companies across a variety of industries.
Upon learning of the national recognition, Mike Gunter, founder of The Gunter Group commented:
“We are thrilled to receive this award for the second year in a row. It is a true testament to our team and the culture we have built together in our company, and continue to build as we grow our team across the country. Our goal has always been to put people first and being nationally recognized by Inc. is a great honor.”
After collecting data from thousands of submissions, Inc. selected 475 honorees this year. Each company that was nominated took part in an employee survey, conducted by Quantum Workplace, which included topics such as management effectiveness, perks, fostering employee growth, and overall company culture. The organization’s benefits were also audited to determine overall score and ranking.
About The Gunter Group
Founded in 2011, The Gunter Group features an experienced team of consultants serving clients throughout the Pacific Northwest and Western United States. The Gunter Group prides itself on providing consulting services to a broad range of organizations spanning Fortune 100 companies to locally-based businesses. The firm has been named one of the “Best Companies to Work For” in Oregon by Oregon Business Magazine for eight consecutive years and named one of the “Best Small Firms to Work For” by Consulting Magazine three years in a row. The Gunter Group currently has over 70 team members with operational hubs in Portland, Reno, Salt Lake City, and Denver.
About Inc. Media
The world’s most trusted business-media brand, Inc. offers entrepreneurs the knowledge, tools, connections, and community to build great companies. Its award-winning multiplatform content reaches more than 50 million people each month across a variety of channels including websites, newsletters, social media, podcasts, and print. Its prestigious Inc. 5000 list, produced every year since 1982, analyzes company data to recognize the fastest-growing privately held businesses in the United States. The global recognition that comes with inclusion in the 5000 gives the founders of the best businesses an opportunity to engage with an exclusive community of their peers, and the credibility that helps them drive sales and recruit talent. The associated Inc. 5000 Conference is part of a highly acclaimed portfolio of bespoke events produced by Inc. For more information, visit www.inc.com.
About Quantum Workplace
Quantum Workplace, based in Omaha, Nebraska, is an HR technology company that serves organizations through employee-engagement surveys, action-planning tools, exit surveys, peer-to-peer recognition, performance evaluations, goal tracking, and leadership assessment. For more information, visit QuantumWorkplace.com.