Managing change: Develop relationships, move quickly and tame the monsters (HR manager's bookshelf)

So many things can get in the way of smooth organizational change. HR and organizational development professionals are often charged with supporting, even helping to lead, major change — but it isn’t easy. Here’s a look at some new books that shed light on the realities and the requirements of meaningful transformation.

First, the people and the organization are rarely fully prepared and comfortable with the prospective changes in structure, policies, strategy, processes, tools or corporate culture. The Change Monster refers to “the emotions and fears everyone has when going through major change.” HR and change management practitioners may find this easy-to-read, down-to-earth book valuable in guiding their efforts and in raising awareness about the importance of effective change management among organizational leaders.

Often change initiatives get bogged down even before they start. Fast Forward deals with questions of getting started, establishing momentum and not missing the boat by failing to take real and visible action in the early days of a transition effort.

In the midst of these rough waters, HR’s effectiveness as an internal or external consultant and coach becomes a high priority. In Relationships that Enable Enterprise Change, seasoned experts guide the reader through key skills of building trust, demonstrating courage and developing interpersonal agility, skills that can make or break our ability to help organizational leaders as they plan and implement change.

The Change Monster
By Jeanie Daniel Duck,
286 pages, Crown Business (2001),
ISBN 0-609-60771-5

Major changes described in this book include mergers, re-engineering and strategic transformations. The author says executives generally think they understand what’s involved in a change process, but then are surprised by the difficulty, complications, time and effort actually entailed. Her aim is to shed light on what’s happening, build appreciation of issues and dynamics, and help leaders address concerns.

The book is laid out along the five phases of the “change curve” — a kind of map to the territory of change. The curve assists in understanding the complexities, and in recognizing that different groups, organizational units and individuals are likely to be at different places in the process at any point in time.

Readers progress through the phases with continuing illustrations from two stories of companies and leaders: a success story from Honeywell, and a tale of difficulties encountered at a fictitious, but realistic, merged pharmaceutical firm.

Phase 1: Stagnation

In this phase, the “change monster is in hibernation” as complacency, comfort and delusion rule in the organization. There may be depressive ennui or hyperactivity, but in either case, there is little appreciation of challenges, threats or the need for change.

Stagnation ends with growing awareness of pain, an abrupt crisis such as an edict from the board of directors, a takeover or merger, restructuring or significant re-engineering and cost-cutting. Initial reaction may range from demoralization and denial, to constructive recognition of reality and diagnosis of what’s required to move forward.

Phase 2: Preparation

This is the time when emotions ride a roller coaster, and it’s the phase leaders would prefer to skip. In fact, they often attempt to skip it, at great cost. This phase can be brief or lengthy, but when it goes on too long, everything can unravel.

The issue to be addressed is the lack of alignment among leaders, the most common cause of failure. Ultimately, gaining alignment on the need for change, a vision, and a detailed, well-articulated strategy is essential among both leadership and the general workforce.

Here the author stresses that corporate culture is a huge issue, often bigger than the differences among national cultures. Activities to address culture change include a “ready-willing-able” assessment approach and broad steps to build an appetite for change through change management strategies and communications.

Phase 3: Implementation

This phase holds tough lessons for many executives and managers:

•A detailed plan is not the final deliverable; rather, it’s the start of the hard part.

•Operational changes are not enough; people and the organization must change as well.

Now, reality bites. In implementation, different tactics can be used to broaden involvement across the organization and to use both formal and informal networks to keep communication flowing.

Phase 4: Determination

Inevitably, fatigue and setbacks occur as the need to really do things differently sinks in. “The monster roams the hallways, and retreat wears many disguises.” All this happens at a time when there’s a risk of believing that the transformation is already over and accomplished.

This is where the fate of the initiative is indeed determined. Special attention is required on:

•exploring hard questions and negotiating the “land in-between” the old and the new;

•ensuring leaders sustain their energy, communication and connection with people; and

•getting and keeping people involved in the issues and their resolution.

Phase 5: Fruition

This time is sweet. Things come together, there is evidence of success and “the monster is slain” or corralled, at least for now. It’s the point at which to celebrate, and cement the trust and unity that have been established. HR should strive to embed the capabilities, skills, attitudes and approaches that worked and capture the learning.

However, this is also a dangerous time. Complacency and a new period of stagnation may lurk ahead. The final chapter calls for continuous change to avoid this pitfall.

The author has a senior role in the organization practice with the Boston Consulting Group. She also brings her experiences from personal life and her work as an artist and as a former middle manager at a financial institution.

Fast Forward
By Elspeth Murray and Peter Richardson,
268 pages, Oxford University Press (2002), (416) 441-2941,
ISBN 0-19-515311-1

To undertake change successfully, you must first correctly diagnose the nature of the challenge from among four types:

•Operational change, the most shallow type: What we are doing is right, we just need to do it better; no change to mission, values or strategy (“tweak” the organization).

•Strategic change: The fundamentals are right, but we need to refocus, change objectives, strategies, possibly mission (reposition the business).

•Cultural change: We have to change the way we think and act, change our vision, values and leadership (reorient beliefs and behaviours).

•Paradigm change, the deepest type: We have to recreate the business or disappear; change, redefine and recreate the total enterprise.

The central message of Fast Forward is that “the first 200 days of a major change initiative largely determine its outcome. The first 100 days should be used to create speed and a sense of urgency, and the second 100 days should build the critical mass required to achieve breakthrough momentum.”

This book will appeal to many senior executives. There’s a strong challenge to move quickly, and the book presents a highly systematic approach and even, in places, takes on a mechanistic tone as the authors lay out steps, timing and what works and does not work for stages of the process:

•translating change into action;

•building rapid decision-making capabilities; and

•launching a new strategic plan.

The authors, affiliated with the School of Business at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., draw on Canadian, U.S. and international examples and experiences for a series of chapters dealing with specific types of change scenarios:

•rapid value creation from acquisitions;

•rapid new venture creation;

•rapid introduction of new information systems;

•turnaround: getting back on track fast; and

•mobilizing for culture change.

On culture change, the book challenges conventional wisdom that deep change must take several years, proposing instead steps and procedures for rapid culture change that has lasting impact.

For each scenario, a framework of 10 winning conditions is applied. These include correct diagnosis of the depth of change, early development of shared understanding, creation of a limited and focused strategic agenda and demonstrating leadership commitment.

The final chapter addresses the question, What Next? The same 10 winning conditions are adapted for the purpose of maintaining momentum through a three month followup period, and through the longer term.

Relationships that Enable Enterprise Change
By Ron Carucci and William Pasmore,
246 pages, Jossey Bass Pfeiffer (2002), available from Wiley Canada, 1-800-567-4797,
ISBN 0-7879-6080-2

This invaluable handbook is for serious consultants (internal or external) who want to enhance their relationship with senior leaders of organizational change. The authors, assisted by their colleagues at Mercer Delta Organizational Consulting, state the independent views and guidance of a trusted change expert is a critical element in the successful leader’s effort to bring about beneficial and sustainable change.

Relationship intelligence, or “rQ,” is the name given to a collection of abilities and skills which the consultant brings to the coaching and advising role. There are eight prerequisites:

•understanding of organizations as dynamic systems;

•knowledge of leadership theory and effectiveness;

•knowledge of groups and teams;

•underlying base of theory and knowledge of change;

•technical expertise in relevant fields;

•a working model of the consulting process;

•business knowledge and language of the client; and

•relevant experience for drawing insights.

One chapter is devoted to each of the six rQ skill sets:

•building trust through self-awareness, modelling, emotional intelligence, boundary management;

•showing personal investment;

•building courage through holding the client accountable, asking tough questions and providing non-judgmental feedback;

•showing advocacy, acknowledging clients’ struggles, providing encouragement and helping them stay the course;

•combining capabilities through collaboration, sharing goals, building client ownership, clarifying expectations; and

•developing interpersonal agility through exceptional listening, signal detection, humour and dexterity with different styles and communication methods.

This title is part of the “Practicing Organization Development” series (
go/od), whose other volumes include The Conscious Consultant: Mastering Change from the Inside Out, and The Change Leader’s Roadmap: How to Navigate your Organization’s Transformation.

Related titles were reviewed in CHRR, Aug. 12, 2002 (see "Related Articles" link below.)

The Trusted Advisor

By David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford, 240 pages, Touchstone (2001) ISBN 0-7432-1234-7. Hardcover version, Free Press (2000) ISBN 0-7432-0414-X

Flawless Consulting, 2nd edition

By Peter Block, Jossey-Bass, 2000, ISBN 0-7879-4803-9 and the Flawless Consulting Fieldbook & Companion by Peter Block and “30 flawless consultants,” 480 pages, Jossey Bass (2001) ISBN 0-7879-4804-7.

Ray Brillinger is a senior consultant with IBM Business Consulting Services. He provides change management, business transformation and organization effectiveness strategy and implementation support to clients. He can be reached at (905) 316-8733 or [email protected].

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