Strategy Perspective Blog Posts: 2013

From Vicious Cycle to Virtuous Cycle

December 16th, 2013

Breaking a Vicious Cycle If an employee who is engaged enough with a change to resist it, can become a resource. From her viewpoint, she might be able to see issues with the initiative or its implementation, which can be addressed to strengthen the change. Or he might just have misperceptions of the expectations under the new way of doing things. If so, he is unlikely to be alone. Correcting such misperceptions early can save a great deal of grief later on.

Disengagement is a bigger problem than resistance. When more than half of initiatives fail, how much sense does it make to jump on the bandwagon early? It the role of effective change leaders make getting on board and supporting an initiative the sensible rational choice.

Read more about how employee engagement is the leverage point to breaking a vicious cycle and turning it into a virtuous cycle of success on about turning a Vicious Cycle to Virtuous Cycle →

Tags: Change Management, Breaking a Vicious Cycle, Employee Engagement

Using the 7 Levers for Constructive Rabble Rousing

November 25th, 2013

When the best leader’s aim is fulfilled, the people say, “We did it 
ourselves.” —Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching Project-based learning (PBL) is an approach to K-12 education designed to engage students through solving real-world problems. For example, rather than learning botany, geology, and horticulture in the abstract, students might redesign a community garden. Working in teams, students learn to identify and describe the problems, design solutions, and work together to fix them. Proponents of PBL cite the central role that solving problems and working collaboratively has in students’ further education and careers. It is a skill that extends to their ability to think critically and tackle difficult issues as future productive citizens.

Read more about how the Seven Levers and some constructive rabble rousing helped move faculty from traditional classroom led insturction to PBL on→

Tags: Leadership, Seven Levers of Change, Challenging the Status Quo

So Whose Example Is It?

October 28th, 2013

'Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things, not at the preiphery' WarrenBennis For any change leader, success depends on engaging employees and motivating them to become advocates of the new initiative. This is where the Seven Levers of Change come into play. The levers are meant to be used in combination, to engage and encourage employee support for the new initiative. Some levers are extremely important, but none is a panacea. A couple of them can be dangerous if used carelessly. (See, Some Interactions or A Success Story). I want to use this post to talk about one lever that is always needed: leading by example.

A good, example set by the change leader, can set the stage for effective implementation. Read more on→

Tags: Leading by Example, Seven Levers of Change

Tame the [Scope] Creep

Sept 30th, 2013

DynamicComplexity Scope creep refers to expanding a project while it is in development or even deployment. It is the cumulative effect of adding "one small thing" to a project too many times. The increased scope impacts budget, schedule, and quality—and has derailed more than one project.

It might be tempting to believe that adding requirements to a project—whether it is change management or eLearning—increases its scope only by the work needed to implement the added component. However, new requirements need to be integrated with the rest of the project. Thus, adding a work component increases the interfaces with the existing components all of which have to be understood and managed. Know the consequences of adding "just one small thing" to your project. Read more on about how to Tame the Creep→

Tags: Scope Creep, Managing Complexity

Addressing the Fundamental Problem and Not Simply the Symptoms

July 22nd, 2013

Shifting the Burden Trying to address a problem by concentrating on its symptoms can undermine the possibility of finding a lasting, long-term solution. The systems thinking archetype “Shifting the Burden” casts light how this happens and how to avoid it.
Many times people resist a change because they don’t have the tools to make it work, they don’t see any intrinsic or extrinsic reward for the new approach, or they are unclear whether it aligns with the tasks that they are required to accomplish. Understanding such concerns and dealing with challenges they represent is a fundamental way to strengthen an initiative. However, it requires first listening to the resisters, getting a grasp on their doubts, and identifying and addressing the underlying problems—serious work that can take time and financial investment. It can appear easier to assume that they are simply satisfied with the status quo, and try to directly address the symptom of resistance rather than the underlying problem.
Read more on about how “Shifting the Burden” helps avoid this self-defeating distraction→

Tags: change management, systems thinking, resister, engagement

Using Talent Management as a Change Agent in Your Organization

June 27th, 2013

Thanks to Sean Conrad of Halogen Software for this guest blog.

Halogen SoftwareDoes transformative change always have to be disruptive? The answer to that question is beyond the scope of a single blog, but leaders about to unleash change in an organization almost always want to minimize the disruption. One way to do this is to use processes you may already have in place to help drive the change. Talent management, when done effectively, has the power to change organizational culture and positively impact business results. Here are some best practices for strategically leveraging your talent management process in support of change initiatives.

Set and Cascade Goals to the Individual Level
An important part of successful talent management is the goal-setting process. When individual goals support larger, departmental and organizational goals, resources and priorities are aligned and employees know what is expected of them. It is also important to help them understand how their efforts contribute to their own futures as well as something larger than themselves. This is a key component of ensuring sustainable organizational performance, according to research conducted by CPID (The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development). "By encouraging employees to find their own meaning at work, they connect and create a true sense of what they are at work to do, that’s beyond profits or short-term efficiency measures and regardless of the sector they operate in."

Identify Key Behaviors and Competencies Needed for Success
Some might be organization-wide, such as a cultural shift from lagging the market to leading it. Others may be specific to certain departments and employee groups. But certainly any change initiative means that a number of people are going to have to change what they are doing or how they are doing it. Begin by identifying the employees most critical to ensuring the success of your initiative. What are the most critical few skills and behaviors that will leverage the change? For example, if your initiative involves applying a new process to cut warehouse backlogs, you might begin your focus with warehouse managers who need to learn and use the new process. A key behavior change might involve working differently with the shipping department. A key competency might be fluency with the new inventory management system.

Embed Key Competencies in Talent Management Processes
Once you know the targets for the change and what they need to learn and do to ensure success, make these key competencies a part of the tools you use in talent management processes:

  • Job descriptions and interview guides used to recruit and select new employees. That way your new employees will come in already displaying the key competencies, moving your initiative forward and acting as resources and models for the existing employees
  • Performance reviews. Include the key competencies as performance measures used to evaluate and reward employee performance. This adds a level of accountability that ensures attention to the changes needed to drive your initiative.
    Train managers to observe performance throughout the year and provide frequent feedback so employees have the opportunity to travel up the learning curve in adopting and displaying the new behaviors and skills. Hold managers responsible for leading their subordinates by example, one of the Seven Levers of Change discussed elsewhere on this site.
  • Employee development plans. Identify where an extra measure of job-specific training is required and make it part of manager-employee development discussions. Hold managers accountable for providing learning opportunities that provide the skills necessary for the change. Make employees responsible for applying those skills back on the job. For transformative change initiatives, consider delivering training on the change process itself that includes tips and tools to help employees build resiliency and agility, such as the Change, Dialogue, & Action workshop.

Reward and Recognize Success
Another of the Seven Levers of Change can also be enacted through your talent management program. As employees master the competencies needed for change and begin to apply the behaviors and achieve individual goals, recognize and reward them. Recognition can be as simple as praise and thanks (a much greater motivator than many realize!) or as complex as a structured bonus program.
Use various means to keep employees informed of progress as the change initiative begins to bear fruit and milestones are achieved. Helping them see that leadership appreciates what they did as individuals to contribute to success will motivate and encourage them to continue efforts to make a difference in the future for the organization and for themselves.

As a senior product analyst at Halogen Software, Sean Conrad helps HR teams improve their organization's performance management processes, so everyone gets more out of them. He's a regular contributor to the Halogen blog, often writing about talent management trends and best practices.

Tags: change management, talent management, employee development

Drivers of Change

May 29th, 2013

Strategic ChoicesYoga master BKS Iyengar wrote, “The moment you say, ‘I am satisfied with that,’ that means stagnation has come.” While he was referring to a personal practice, the same advice applies to any organization. Satisfaction can become complacency. In an ever-changing business environment, this can lead to stagnation and loss of sales, market share and even talent to a competitor.

PEST analysis, has served as a strong, practical taxonomy for analyzing the macro-environmental factors affecting business. It has been expanded, giving a new acronym, PESTEL and additional perspective. Read more on →

Tags: change management, leveraging the PEST, strategy

Chose Change Initiatives with Attention to Long-Term Goals

April 24th, 2013

Strategic ChoicesUnrelenting leadership is a prerequisite to drive any successful change initiative. Nonetheless, nearly everyone has a “war story” to tell about a initiatives that were hyped and then ignored by management. Most people have several.

The remedy is aligning each change with the organization’s long-term goals. It helps foster management commitment and engages employees. Otherwise, the initiative comes across as another temporary overlay that can be safely ignored...and it too often is. Read more→

Tags: change management, commitment, strategy, engagement

The Levers Are Effective Tools Not Simple Rules

February 26th, 2013

The Seven Levers of Change describe actions that leaders can to use to shape an environment that to foster acceptance of an important organizational change program. They include introducing employees to the program, taking advantage of the knowledge and commitment of employees who understand and appreciate its value, and creating an environment that supports employees getting on board to support the program.

Flexibility is KeyThe levers are all fairly generic and their flexibility means that the levers can be put to use in a variety of organizations and initiatives and a variety of company cultures. Their generality makes them powerful tools, but they are not rules that give a formula for change Read more....→

You can go to to read more about taking advantage of the adaptability of the Seven Levers of Change, including an example of an application in a manufacturing firm.

Tags: Seven Levers, flexibility, change management, leadership

Stakeholder Expectations

January 25th, 2013

Until the recently, “stakeholder” referred exclusively to a person who held the stakes in a wager. It has come to mean anyone who has an interest in or is affected by the actions of a business, professional association, political group, or non-profit. For an organizational change initiative, a stakeholder is any person whose participation, support, or decisions can influence the outcome of the initiative. This typically means customers and employees, but can include suppliers and even the community.

FeedbackLike a wager, the final outcome of a change initiative cannot be not known at the onset. Identifying and managing the stakeholders’ expectations is central to ensuring its success. Yet, the inescapable fact that the requirements of any initiative can evolve, and employees with different roles can have different “stakes” in the change initiative makes managing expectations difficult.... Read more about understanding and managing stakeholder expectations at

Tags: stakeholders, results, change management, feedback

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