Winter 2007/08
kate and stacy 
As 2007 winds down, many organizations are already thinking about 2008.

Whatever your organization's plans are for the New Year, they almost certainly involve change.  Two topics we are highlighting in this issue are Organizational Culture and Leaders' Actions.

When defining how to make the most of change initiatives in the New Year, first determine how your organization has experienced change in the past.  Read the Vanilla, Rocky Road, or Peachy article below to understand how the past helps create a better plan for the future.


Change always impacts and is impacted by organizational culture. If you want to strengthen your organization's culture, learn more about how leaders' actions shape behaviors and norms by reading the Mirror, Mirror on the Wall article below.

Let us know if you have any questions or if there is something specific you'd like to see in future issues of the newsletter.

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Enjoy the holiday season!

Kate & Stacy

Vanilla? Rocky Road? Or Peachy?

The success or failure of past initiatives impacts how people view future initiatives.

People view a change in the context of past changes (or lack of changes). Vanilla? Rocky Road? Peachy? I use each of these ice cream flavors to describe an organization's experience with change. If you are trying to drive change, you should review how people have experienced change in the past. Understanding the past helps create a better plan for future.

The "Vanilla" organization doesn't change much. People are performing their jobs the same way they were five or ten years ago. The company has been successful and people are content with how things are. For the Vanilla Company, you'll need to make a strong case for change. Until they understand that the current way is unacceptable, they will not commit to doing things differently.

The Rocky Road organization tries a lot of changes, announces many initiatives but most fail. If you are proposing a change for this type of organization, people may respond with indifference. They'll expect your change to go away like the rest. People may refer to your initiative as the "flavor of the month."

For the Rocky Road Company, set the initiative apart from the past failed initiatives. Find out why they failed then do things differently. Maybe communication and involvement were lacking. Maybe leadership was not visibly supportive. Whatever the reasons, there are tools and processes available to assist you in planning for change the right way.

People trying to drive change in a "Peachy" organization have a head start.

Change always takes hard work but this "peachy" type of company has employees who are accustomed to change and know it makes the organization and their jobs better in the long run. For the Peachy Company, show how your initiative builds on past successful changes. Tap some of the same people and repeat the successful tactics.

Determining what flavor characterizes an organization's past experience with change helps you frame the change correctly. Good luck and go eat some ice cream! 

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Leaders' actions define organizational culture.

Leaders shape culture. The organization mirrors the people that lead it.


In a meeting with the management board of a multi-billion dollar company, the leaders sat around the table bemoaning the fact that "we just don't make decisions fast enough", "those new little guys can make decisions faster than we can."


When asked "Who is "we"?" the answer of course was "all of them, out there" in the organization who just couldn't get it right.


After not too much talking, the group realized that in reality "WE" were sitting right there in the room. The leadership team's inability to make quick decisions was having a cascading effect on the organization. The "we" in the room needed to start making decisions faster if the organization was going to speed up.


Sure, making decisions faster doesn't sound hard, but it meant that the leaders had to be more tolerant of failure in themselves and in others; and that they had to make decisions using the best available data in a defined period of time.


When the leaders started demonstrating the new paradigm through their words and actions, others followed. Projects in the product development cycle started moving faster, critical positions were filled in the organization in weeks as opposed to months, and market research was completed in months rather than years.


A smaller client was founded 15 years ago by a charismatic man that never met a customer he didn't want to serve. If someone had money they wanted to spend for his kind of product, he was going to make sure he got the business.


A hundred million dollars a year and a hundred employees later, he has built a remarkable organization that serves some of the most sought after clients in the industry. But during the last few years profits have stalled, turnover has increased, and a sense of defeat permeates the organization.


What went wrong?


Well, in a nutshell, the leadership style and the culture that nurtured growth during the startup phase are now strangling profitability in the larger organization. The leader that couldn't say no to a customer 15 years ago still can't say no to a customer today...even customers that ask for things the organization can't do profitably.

That attitude trickles down to the rest of the organization - and sometimes with devastating effects. Saying "no" is just not done in the organization.


Besides the unprofitable customers, people don't say no to suppliers that are no longer providing quality products at a price as low their competitors are getting from other suppliers. The organization doesn't say no to employees who aren't working out - instead, hiring more people rather than having the right people.


And individuals don't say no to work that just won't fit on their plates - they eventually quit because of burn-out instead.


How can they fix it? It will start with the leader. To get to the root of the problem, the leader needs to take a good long look in the mirror and face up to the role he has played in their current situation. None of this is to say the company founder is consciously doing anything wrong. He built a profitable hundred million dollar business for goodness sake! It is just that, now that the business has grown, he needs to start behaving differently.


There are other steps the organization can take to address some of their issues - such as implementing more guidelines around what customers they will serve and how, and improving standards for underperforming suppliers and employees. But if the leader demonstrates a culture appropriate for the organization's current growth phase, those steps really are not necessary. And if the culture does not change, any efforts to add more rules or guidelines will fail.


Once leaders are modeling the new culture in what they say and do (or don't say and do), the organization can start to shift behavior patterns and norms until the strategy and the culture are once again aligned.


Q&A: In Your Shoes 
From a Client's Perspective kathye photo
Kathye Habig     
Director, Performance     
      Improvement & Consulting     
TriHealth, Inc.     


What advice do you have for others trying to drive change?

Many enterprise-wide changes are under-resourced, under-planned and lack strong Executive Sponsorship. Without resources, planning and sponsorship, the expected change will not be sustained on a long term basis.  Commitment to the change effort is an absolute requirement from the top of the organization (or the key leader at a lower level). The Sponsor ensures the human and financial resources are available to a Team Leader who orchestrates the change desired.


Other key elements include education and communication plans that enable knowledge transfer to those impacted by the change. It is also beneficial to ensure the team charged with the change effort has appropriate skills such as project management skills.

What one thing has helped you the most in driving change in your organization?

Having a strong Executive Sponsor who provided the commitment and resources for driving the change has helped me the most. My Sponsor was articulate in communicating the "burning platform" for the change, understanding of some resistance, yet still expected employees to make the expected change. This is very hard work and took a lot of executive time. However, this short-term, intense effort provided a longer term "win" since the change outcome was achieved and the support from top leadership believable....."actions speak louder than words" and being able to "walk the talk" are phrases most heard by front-line staff during a change process. For the frequent "driver of change", it is always great knowing the Executive Sponsor for a change initiative is strong, engaged and committed to the change effort.

In This Issue
Vanilla? Rocky Road? Or Peachy?...What type is your organization?
Mirror, Mirror On The Wall...Who's the fairest leader of them all?
Q&A: In Your Shoes...From a Client's Perspective
Change Guides News

New Book Releases

Look for our new book, "The Eight Constants of Change" due out in February, 2008

First Year a Success
We are happy to share that our first year of certifying people in our Change Management Methodology has been a great success!
All 2007 participants indicated they would, "recommend this program."

"The best part of the session was sharing stories and applying the tools and concepts to participant projects."

Lisa Humphrey, Senior Consultant of Performance Improvement at TriHealth
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