The Single Biggest Problem in Communication…

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”

– George Bernard Shaw

Photo by F. Antolín Hernández (Stoned59) on Flickr

A critical success factor factor for any business or technology leader is the ability to communicate effectively up, down, and across their organization, and to their customers and other key stakeholders. In other words, communication is key.

The Times They Are ‘A Changing

There is a transition going on in the world today – a hunger for greater transparency and authenticity in our corporations and governmental institutions. Whistleblowers and leakers are forcing the hand of those institutions trying to hang onto the status quo.

Even though most executives realize the strategic importance of good communication to their customers, employees, peers and shareholders, most corporate communications follows the same old  model of spin and “yadda yadda” corporate-speak that gets instantly tuned out.

A Balanced Approach

What is needed is a balanced approach incorporating more authentic communication with current communication best-practices. In addition to the fundamentals of

  • identifying your target audience and their needs
  • clarifying your business objectives and desired outcomes
  • selecting appropriate communication campaigns and/or vehicles

it involves being more open, transparent, and authentic in your communications. There is an old saying in sales, that people buy based on emotion and justify their decision with logic. If you don’t think this is important to your business, just look at the results that Steve Jobs and his  Apple ‘fanboys’ have produced.

Catch the Wave

Photo by Scott Robinson (Clearly Ambiguous) on FlickrThe good news is that this phase transition also creates opportunities. Companies that decide to be more open and transparent are taking risks but with the right approach often find great rewards.

Another sales aphorism states that “People buy from people they like and trust”, which applies more and more to businesses today. Just as you cannot fake sincerity, authentic communication comes being authentic.

In addition to making the most of the fundamentals, we can help you  find your authentic voice to capture the hearts and minds of your desired audience.

Why Change Management Doesn’t Work

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer? – One, but she/he has to want to change!

This old joke evokes some important truths about change:

  1. Change happens (i.e. light bulbs go out)
  2. Individuals don’t change unless they want to

Why Change Management Doesn’t Work

We human beings are complex and our lives are often complicated, full of emotional surprises and unexpected events. Organizations are nothing more than a collection of individuals, yet we have this illusion that when we step into the office everything is sanitized and logical. We want everything to neatly fit into our checklists and bullet points and matrices. I call this the “illusion of control.”

Change is messy. We can no more “manage change” in our workplace than we can in our private lives. Try to get your spouse or significant other to change when they don’t want to, and see how successful you are! This may have something to do with the oft quoted statistic that 70% of change initiates fail.

begin endWell Begun is Half Done

The alternative to “Change Management” are Integrated Change Strategies. Integrated implies a multi-dimensional view of the entire system where change is desired, even on something as seemingly simple as IT implementations.

Change Strategies implies strong, involved leadership at the outset of change initiatives, rather than looking at change as a tactical, bolt-on activity and passing responsibility off to lower level implementers or Project Management Offices (PMO’s).

When senior leadership is engaged strategically up front to ensure that the right problem is being addressed with the right approach tied to business objectives, the chances of success increase exponentially.

Direction is More Important than Speed

Once the right direction is established and leadership is truly involved, the traditional “Change Management” activities can take place, e.g. getting all key stakeholders involved, communicating, etc.

If you want to greatly boost the possibility of success on your next change initiative, contact us to see how we might help.

7 Change Management Lessons I Learned from the Dog Whisperer

Cesar_Millan-300x234Although I’ve never had a dog growing up and do not own a dog now, I’ve become a big fan of Cesar Millan, aka The Dog Whisperer. I found The Very Best of The Dog Whisperer randomly on Netflix streaming, checked out an episode, and instantly got hooked.

Cesar says that he “rehabilitates dogs and trains humans”. Time and again I saw the dog owners (humans) get the “AHA” insight that they were the main cause of their problem dogs behavior, and that in order for their dogs to change what they considered to be problem behavior, they had to change. The upside for those willing to try on new behaviors was frequently a new found freedom which could carry to other areas of their lives.

Given the statistic that ~ 70% of Change Management initiatives fail, I have extrapolated 7 Change Management Lessons from The Dog Whisperer series that I believe can greatly increase your organizations success when applied to corporate Change Management initiatives:

  1. Become a balanced, involved leader – According to Cesar, humans are the only species that will follow an unstable leader. He recommends being calm and assertive as a key step to becoming a balanced, stable leader. In our organizations, our leaders need to see change efforts as strategic and give them their due attention throughout the change lifecycle. Too many initiatives fail when “change management” is delegated to lower level implementers and then checked off and forgotten.
  2. Be open, and come from a place of service – Cesar comes to his clients without pre-conceived notions and always starts with the question, “How can I help you guys?” In my experience, the most successful people in business are focused on how they can provide the most value to their clients and customers. How often do we come to our clients leading with our own agenda and needs?
  3. Be grounded in the fundamentals, but flexible in their application – Cesar has a philosophy and methodology, but is extremely flexible in applying it to get the best results. That gives him the opportunity to ask questions, observe the “energy” of the situation, and use his intuition and creativity to develop the best solutions.  We as change professionals need to be able to do the same.
  4. Tell the truth (with compassion and integrity) – On almost every occasion the client thinks that their dog is the problem, when in reality it is the “human”. Cesar has a way of communicating the reality of the problem in a way that his clients can “get it” without major defensiveness, and often with insight and transformation. That is a great skill to learn and master to be able to help our clients.
  5. Model quick wins – If talking is not doing the trick, Cesar will often take action and demonstrate new, positive behaviors away from the dog owners. I can’t tell you how many times amazed owners will ask, “what did you do to my dog”?,“did you give him tranquilizers?”, “that cannot be my dog”, or something similar. When we can demonstrate or model the benefits of the change, resistance drops dramatically. The key is to show that a better future state is possible, and can be done through simulations, prototypes, pilots, and/or capturing low hanging fruit.
  6. Be consistent, especially in the face of resistance – Dogs (or humans) will frequently “act-up” when their leaders ask for different behaviors from them. The key is to have a good strategy based on involved leadership, anticipate resistance based on emotional as well as logical factors, and be consistent in applying the proposed solution. Anticipate the resistance, and do not give up  when it comes.
  7. Reinforce the new behaviors – Cesar frequently recaps the progress of his “interventions”, and those that seem to be the most successful are where the owner / leaders were willing to practice and do the needed work to reinforce the new behaviors. Quick wins are nice, but for changes in your organization to you need to factor in leadership follow-through beyond the “go-live” date.

While these 7 steps alone will not guarantee a successful change initiative, if what you are currently doing is not getting you the desired results, give them a try.  You just might be able to teach some old dogs new tricks!