Archive | Change Navigation

SCARF Model: Anticipating Organization Stress

SCARF Model Infographic

The third in the Tried & True Series: Trusted Models that Stand the Test of Time.

Have you ever felt that your life was in immediate danger? You might remember feeling a burst of adrenaline as your heart race, and you moved into action or froze in your tracks.

Research shows that other situations, in which there is no physical danger, can trigger a similar response. This “fight, flight, or freeze” response decreases the ability to plan, make rational decisions, and perceive subtle social and cognitive signals. Unfortunately, these skills are needed during organizational change—just when people are likely to be triggered.

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Surviving Resistance to Change

Resistance to Change Infographic

The second in the Tried & True Series: Trusted Models that Stand the Test of Time.

Most leaders encounter resistance to change. The resistance can take various forms. People can protest the implementation plan, the approach, your leadership, the font size used in change communications, and the decision to change in the first place.

This new infographic on resistance highlights the work of three masters. Rick Maurer’s Three Types of Resistance is a classic method of understanding why people resist and how to respond effectively. Ingrid Bens teaches us how to have conversations about resistance in ways that work. The late Herb Shepard’s teachings offer wisdom from his years of work with organizations.

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Change Communications that Stick

Five Levels Infographic

The first in the Tried & True Series: Trusted Models that Stand the Test of Time.

Some tools never lose their value. The hammer. The umbrella. The wheel. These tools have been around for centuries and we trust them.

We have similarly trustworthy, proven tools in the organizational world. The Tried & True series shares trusted models that stand the test of time in graphical form.

For our first set of models, we’ve culled through the thousands of tools available on change. We’ve chosen seven that we rely on because they consistently do the job. The first of our tools is the Five Levels of Communication.

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The Change Journey

The Change Journey Graphic

Organizations still struggle with change. After all our collective years of experience and learning about change, it’s still hard.

Part of the challenge is that we still insist on using techniques that assume organizations are like machines. Get the right tool, technician, and process, and the results will follow.

The problem is that organizations are comprised of people. People are often unpredictable. We have opinions. We don’t like feeling as if we’re being controlled or treated unfairly. And we really don’t like being treated like machines.

Rather than thinking about change as a linear, predictable process, we need a new way.

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Three Ways Human Networks Can Help Drive Change

Power of Networking

The technology vice president of a local financial services company was frustrated. A bottom-line strategy depended on the success of a recent reorganization. Unfortunately, the reorganization was not generating the expected results. In fact, people were behaving just as usual, despite new reporting relationships and a redesigned divisional structure.

This situation is more often the case than not: leaders design and institute strategies that fail to achieve results. According to a 2006 McKinsey survey, only 38 percent of change initiatives were completely or mostly successful at improving performance.

In other words, even when strategies are successful, they don’t come close to returning intended results.

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How to Help Managers Lead Change

Image: Lindsay Phillips on

We’re undergoing significant change and I can’t be everywhere. What can I do to help my managers lead change?

Always Do This

Make sure your managers always know what’s going on. That significant change is just one item on their very full plates. As soon as a client hollers, the change will get placed on the back burner unless you help keep your managers focused. Information updates should be on every staff meeting agenda. Be sure to cover what’s new and different since the last staff meeting, what’s on the schedule for the coming month and how that will affect their staff, and what milestones are planned for the next six months.

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Change Leadership Challenge 5: Use Networks for Change

Networks and Performance. Image from
This is the fifth in a series of posts about change leadership. Previous posts covered active, committed leadership, building a compelling business case, embedding change, and meaningful employee participation. “I’ll tell you how communication really works around here,” the data architect told me over coffee. “Jeff, Susan, and Ramesh make a decision. I play video games with Jeff during lunch and get the scoop. I tell the other architects.” Jeff successfully found the key to getting information in this organization: work through the network, not through the hierarchy. Unfortunately, too many organizations assume that formal communication processes work, when in reality people use networks to get information. Make sure your next change initiative isn’t undermined by tapping proactively into your company’s hidden human networks.
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Change Leadership Challenge 4: Meaningful Employee Participation

Meaningful employee participation is important during change. Image by SandiaLabs on flickr.
This is the fourth in a series of posts about change leadership. Previous posts covered active, committed leadership, building a compelling business case, and embedding change. Remember when you first learned to ride a two-wheeled bike? It took some work to find your balance. You wiped out a few times and scraped some knees. But you did it: You figured out how to steer, brake and fly like the wind down a hill. When you did, you felt exhilarated, proud of yourself and pleased with your accomplishment. Now compare that experience with how change often works in organizations...
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Change Leadership Challenge 3: Embedding Change

Embed your change in to the fabric of your organization. Image: Johntrathome on flickr.
This is the third in a series of posts about change leadership. Previous posts covered active, committed leadership and building a compelling business case.

Everyone has a story about a flavor-of-the-month management fad that was abandoned before completion. Going through fire drills for some business trend the CEO read in an airline magazine is frustrating and draining for employees. Unfortunately, employees have enough negative experiences with aborted initiatives to be cautious when leaders hype a new change.

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Four Rules of Leadership for Tough Times

Thank You Cards

The leaders knew bad news was coming as early as 2002. As with many other companies, First Allmerica Financial had been damaged by the post-9/11 stock market plunge. After much consideration, the company decided to stop writing new life insurance policies, which caused the first round of layoffs.

In 2005, the inevitable occurred—the company sold its life policies. This created a unique challenge: The 250-plus remaining employees had to service existing business while transferring knowledge to the acquiring company. Managers needed to motivate and retain staff members, even though they had been given tentative lay-off dates up to 12 months into the future.

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