Tuesday, 30 October 2007

The answer to myth 7: New processes and systems will create the new necessary behaviours

The traditional management of change is often based on changing the systems and processes. The establishment of new processes and systems often assumes that behaviours will follow as a consequence of those changes. It is expected and taken for granted.

However, as we know, it is often the case that people just continue to do things like they did them before. That is why we have all those incredibly big fiasco's of new processes and systems' implementations, often lead by a new IT system, which end up with ‘poor usage and acceptance’.

Viral Change tells us that the assumption is wrong. In many cases, we see temporary peaks of adoption, but with poor guarantees of sustainability. The role of behaviours in the process is flawed. New processes and systems do not create new behaviours. We need to have new behaviours in place first, in order to support ant new processes and systems. Remember the case of the un-collaborative sales force? (See my book, Viral Change, for this case study.) New processes and electronic systems do not create collaborating. On the contrary, you need to have collaboration in order to support these systems. Just a small change of paradigm!

Many organisations are stuck with this flawed process and it is not until behaviours are ‘re-placed’ that we start seeing the light. As described in the book, the biggest fiasco area I know is CRM: an area where the software and IT industry has produced very sexy tools and where the implementers use that incredibly weak assumption: ‘it is so good, people will adopt it’. There is no behavioural science expertise in most of those areas, so it is not surprising that the wrong assumption prevails. Even in those cases where people are aware of the naivety of the assumption, little is done to remedy it. Blaming IT or the specification or the project teams is a useful alibi. Blaming lack of stakeholder involvement is another one, a funny one, particularly when the implementation has been done through a myriad of project teams, user teams and stakeholder Task Forces.

If you want to read more about Viral Change, or want to revisit some of the other myths, you can read it all again in my book of the same title: Viral Change: the alternative to slow, painful and unsuccessful management of change in organisations

Thursday, 25 October 2007

The answer to myth 6: Communication and training are the vital components of change

This myth is very much related to the previous myth. Many change management initiatives look like communication and training programmes. Even people who would agree with you that this is ‘a part’, may be leading change programmes in which communication (and training) seems to be ‘the’ key, at least in size! It is easy, or easier, to develop hundreds of PowerPoint slides explaining the ins and outs of the change, the need for change, the alternative to change and the cost of no-change, etc. But the key question is: would people do things differently, once the communication and perhaps training programme has ended? The answer to that question is: maybe they will and maybe they won’t.

Viral Change tells us that communication and training are components of the change, but that we really need to focus on behaviours. Behaviours can’t be taught, at least not in the same way we teach people how to use a spreadsheet or how to do a business plan. You can only say you are teaching when the environmental circumstances are very concrete, rigid and ‘controlled’. For example, sales persons are ‘taught’ how to handle a conversation with a customer, how to close the sale or how to respond to expected objections. In those circumstances, people ‘learn’ how to respond, what to say, when to say it, etc. It is usually crafted in an almost algorithmic way: if A is true, follow path B, if B is true, follow path C, etc. This is very different from ‘teaching’ accountability or collaboration or competitiveness. Although you can provide theoretical frameworks for those themes, the only way to ‘teach’ them is through reinforcing specific behaviours that would be consistent with them. Behaviours and the rationale of ‘values behind them can indeed be explained, but behaviours occur through reinforcement mechanisms: by management, by peers (as in the peer-to-peer Champions interactions), etc. If you reinforce ‘understanding’ and ‘rationality’ of the message, you’ll get more understood messages, but not behavioural change.

Viral Change tells us that only behavioural change is real change. Communication and training must be adapted so that they support behavioural change. But communication and training per se will not create change as if by magic.

If you want to read more about Viral Change, or want to revisit some of the other myths, you can read it all again in my book of the same title: Viral Change: the alternative to slow, painful and unsuccessful management of change in organisations

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

The answer to myth 5: Everybody needs to be involved in the change

This is an obvious desideratum. But very often it’s unrealistic. Conventional management approaches tell us that we have to communicate everything to everybody so that everybody feels involved. There are different versions of this. In some cases what it means is ‘we really need to involve everybody’. In other cases, it means we need to ‘reach everybody’ so that (a) everybody has a chance to jump in or (b) nobody can say that they haven’t been ‘involved’…

Since traditional management and conventional management of change use ‘communication-to-all’ as a default vehicle, it is not surprising that the tsunami approach is the prevailing one. (I describe two different approaches to change management in my book, Viral Change: the tsunami approach – where big actions are taken, big communication and training programmes to all, washing over the entire company like a tsunami – and the butterfly approach – Viral Change at its best: small events/actions making big changes.) However, our understanding of networks in general and social networks in particular has changed things forever. A small percentage of the organisation is highly connected and is potentially of high influence. Communication-to-all is the most ineffective way to convey the rationale for changes and for expecting that involvement will follow.

You are better off using networks as a vehicle. I am not suggesting that communication is not needed. It is, but we usually have ‘massive communication’ as the single mechanism of hope. Viral Change uses the power of internal networks and their small worlds to effectively reach everybody, but not in the supposedly democratic way of the Town Hall meeting roll-outs. At any point in time, there will be different levels of ‘receptiveness’ in the population and the spread will happen in an erratic way. However, when this is happening, it is not just ‘communication’ as a currency that will follow through. It is endorsement, new behaviours, reinforcements and changes, all in one. Viral Change likes to talk less and do more... with better and faster results.

If you want to read more about Viral Change, or want to revisit some of the other myths, you can read it all again in my book of the same title: Viral Change: the alternative to slow, painful and unsuccessful management of change in organisations.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Recent interviews on Viral Change TM

In between debunking all the myths, I wanted to let you know that Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views interviewed me recently about Viral Change, the book and the concepts behind it. The interview can be found here. There is also an audio version here.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Myth 4: Cultural change is a slow and painful long-term affair

It is also a strongly held belief that cultural change is slow, painful and not something to be achieved in the short term. It is almost natural for people to think that way. Our view of the culture is one of that one macro-frame that is ‘the cause of everything’, so any attempt to change ‘that thing’ surely has to come associated with parameters such as long-term, pain, difficulty, etc. And we all know one example or two of this. People with this kind of experience have difficulty seeing things differently. And how could they?

The trick is to change the paradigm, excuse my language. And instead of seeing culture as the cause of ‘the behaviours’, we should focus on behaviours and manage/change them to see cultural change. The introduction of my book, Viral Change, is entitled Change behaviours, get culture. Viral Change takes a pragmatic approach and sees that when a small set of non-negotiable behaviours is installed in the organisation and becomes stable and widespread, these behaviours will have the capacity to create new routines, rules and norms which will equal ‘cultural change’. These changes are possible in short time frames such as three or six months. Viral Change is very adamant that if we can’t see those 'cultural changes' happening in those timeframes, something is wrong.

The power of the internal network to spread new behaviours is immense. Cultural change doesn’t have to be a long-term, painful affair. It is not something that is so big that we will have to postpone it until we have some serious time. That is, not this year, next year, maybe… It is something that can be done now and show you results in the next few months. You can read more on how in Viral Change or on my website.

Monday, 15 October 2007

The answer to myth 3: People are resistant to change

After a little break from answering myths, today I return to the list of myths I told you about in my post on September 24th. Today, it's the turn of myth 3...

There is nothing in our biology that makes us resistant to change! We are not resistant to change. We are change! We change from babies to children, from children to teenagers and then on to adults. We change jobs, move to a new house, get married (or divorced)… Life is change! But we can act in defiance against things that can disturb our level of control over things. And this is a very different matter.

However, we know that resisting behaviours, which come in lots of forms and shapes, always mean something. We need to look beyond the ‘it is human nature’ parapet and see why things are happening that way. To assume there is resistance by default is not healthy… or natural.

Viral Change proves that behaviours that could be called resistant disappear when alternative behaviours are reinforced. In Viral Change, we make extra efforts to lead that assumption out the door and to suspend judgement. When people see the endorsement of peers, some behaviours-of-change in other parts of the organisation, the incipient tipping points… many resistances will unexpectedly disappear.

Viral Change also asks you to suspend judgement until you see how the infection spreads. Some notoriously resistant people - possibly labelled like that from the start (“Mary will never change”) - may become converted ambassadors, while some ‘safe people’ (“John and Peter are OK, they will jump in.”) might become difficult and truly ‘resistant’.

Next time, I’ll look at why many of you think that cultural change is a slow and painful long-term affair.

The PopTech conference 2007

The PopTech conference on technology and society takes place every year in Camden, Maine, US around the same time. It has always been a real source of inspiration for me. This year I will not be able to attend but they are web casting the entire thing. Here are the details:

Dear Leandro,
I have something very cool to tell you about.
As you may know, Pop!Tech, (http://www.poptech.org/) the annual ideas summit, is convening next week in Camden, Maine. Each year, this three-day gathering brings together extraordinary thinkers, leaders and doers to explore the deep forces shaping our collective future, the social impact of new scientific insights and emerging technologies, and the most innovative approaches humanity is taking to address national and global challenges.
This year, with the help of Yahoo!, we will be webcasting the entire Pop!Tech 2007 conference - for free - at http://www.poptech.org/live between 9am and 6.30pm EST, October 18-20, 2007. Viewers can even submit questions to our stage live by emailing questions@poptech.org. The 2007 Pop!Tech program is online at http://www.poptech.org/schedule and speakers are at http://www.poptech.org/speakers2007/.

Please help us spread the word!
Please tell your friends and colleagues about the webcast, and if you have
a blog and you felt so moved, we would really appreciate a post.

I've attached the speaker list and schedule, and the speakers are also
included below.

PS. Also check out poptech.org, where we have now posted internationalized
editions of our Pop!Casts, freely downloadable videos of the best Pop!Tech
presentations from conferences past. Now, a subset of these are available
in eight languages -- Chinese, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian,
Arabic, Farsi and Swahili!
Here are just some of the confirmed 2007 presenters:
* Steven Pinker, the preeminent cognitive scientist and New York Times-best-selling author will speak on the nature and essence of human thought.
* Victoria Hale, founder of the world's first non-profit drug company, will share her work on fighting malaria and other illnesses.
* Nina Jablonski, the renowned anthropologist, will share her work studying the biology and meaning of human skin.
* Jessica Jackley Flannery, Internet microfinance pioneer, will discuss the future of 'bottom up' solutions to poverty.
* John Legend, the Grammy Award-winning R&B artist, will perform and share his work on global poverty alleviation.
* Van Jones, inner-city eco-activist, will speak about his work on a new "green collar" revolution in America's inner cities.
* Chris Jordan, the celebrated photographer, will share his breathtaking photographs which document of the human impact.
* Sarah Joseph, the founder of Emel magazine, Britain's leading Muslim lifestyle publication, will discuss emerging dialogues within the Islamic community.
* Paul Polak, founding father of market-based solutions to poverty and development, will speak about his efforts to built ultra-low-cost products for the bottom of the global pyramid.
* Jay Keasling, one of the founding fathers of synthetic biology, will share his path-breaking work on new health and energy technologies.
* Jonathan Harris, the mind-blowing interactive design star, will share his breathtaking work.
* Ted Ames, the Macarthur-Award-Winning ecologist and Maine lobsterman, will share his work creating sustainable approaches to our management of the oceans.
* Tom Barnett, the geopolitical and military strategist and best-selling author, who will explore America's strategic challenges in the next 25 years.
* Sam Barondes, the renowned neuropsychiatrist who will discuss the essence of human personality - what it is, where it comes from, and how it makes us who we are.
* Robert Boroffice, head of Nigeria's space agency, NASRDA, who will speak about how satellite technology can connect Africa.
* Adrian Bowyer, creator of low-cost, open-source fabrication technologies will speak about how this breakthrough technology can be used to empower ordinary citizens around the world.
* Louann Brizendine, neuropsychiatrist and expert on gender differences in the brain, will share her provocative work on how men and women truly do think differently.
* Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of Bosnia and leading Islamic thinker, will speak about global peace.
* Caleb Chung, legendary toy designer and inventor of the Furby, will share his latest "artificially alive," animatronic creation.
* Cary Fowler, the world's seed banker and director of the Global Seed Diversity Trust, will share his efforts to create a "global seed vault" deep in a mountain in Norway.
* Vanessa German, the urban slam poet, will inspire us.
* Dan Gilbert, the psychologist and best-selling author, will discuss human happiness and why we rarely hold on to it.
* Krista Dong, MD, a front-lines AIDS worker in South Africa, will speak about an inspiring new initiative to help HIV+ people in the poorest communities.
* Joe McCarthy, global mobility researcher, will share his insights into how mobile devices are empowering people around the world.
* Christian Nold, a technology artist, will demonstrate his work on "emotional mapping" technologies that show how people react to places.
* Claire Nouvian, the noted deep-sea conservationist, will share some of her breathtaking work which documents the deepest layers of the biosphere.
* Alan Dugatkin, an expert in animal behavior will share his insights into the biological underpinnings of human goodness.
* Nathan Eagle, the mobility expert from the MIT Media Lab, will share his research on the use of mobiles as a tool for social development.
* John Esposito, the preeminent Islamic-studies scholar, will lead a discussion on the history and future of Islam.
* Jeff Fisher, the healthcare psychologist, will share his work on a promising new software tool in the fight against HIV.
* Jessica Hagy, superbly comic blogger, will share her hilarious illustrations.
* Carl Honoré, celebrated journalist and chronicler of the Slow Food movement, will speak about the new dynamics of human culture.
* Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, will share lessons from her efforts helping women in post-conflict regions.
* Bill Shannon, the indescribably talented street dancer, will speak and perform.
* John Shearer, technology entrepreneur, will share his potentially breakthrough ways of distributing electricity.
* Paul Shuper, psychologist and HIV behavioral researcher, will share his work on a promising new software tool in the fight against HIV.
* Elizabeth Streb, the award-winning choreographer, will share her visions.
* Charles Swift, the Navy lawyer charged with defending terrorists at Guantanamo, will share lessons on balancing human rights with security in the post 9/11 world.
* Zinhle Thabethe, the front-line AIDS worker from KwaZulu Natal province, South Africa, will return to Pop!Tech to announce a significant new initiative to fight the epidemic in her home country.
* Katrin Verclas, mobile activism researcher, will share her research on the many ways mobiles are being used as a tool for social change.
* Zoë Keating, the mesmerizing techno-cellist, will perform for us.
* Sheila Kennedy, the architect and product designer, will relate her work on breakthrough new lighting technologies designed for the developing world.
* Daoud Kuttab, the pioneering Palestinian journalist and new media expert, will share his thoughts on the impact of new media in the Middle East.
* Kelly Joe Phelps, the mesmerizing blues guitarist, will perform.
* Dan Pink, the noted journalist will share his thoughts on the rise of the creative economy.
* Davy Rothbart, the founder of Found magazine, will share some his hilarious findings.
* Enric Sala, the rising star of marine ecology, will share his work documenting the human impact on the oceans.

As you can see, it's quite a lineup!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Viral is 'the new word'

So many ‘new’ things start attaching the word Viral. I am delighted. This is one on Leadership. Michael Watkins note entry in HRB online, on Infectious Leadership brings home the idea of top leadership influence. I couldn’t help replying: “Michael’s infective leaders are music to my ears since I base my consulting practice on creating infections (‘Viral Change™) as opposed to mechano-hydraulic processes of PowerPoint-communications. Interestingly , I could not stop smiling whilst reading Michael’s entry since the prologue of my book Viral Change starts with a true story of a new CEO who made a series of relatively informal comments on the organization, generating de facto cascade changes ultimately translated into true cultural change. When I interviewed him a few months later and congratulated him for what it seemed to me a good ‘change management programme’, he replied ‘what programme?’”

Thursday, 4 October 2007

The answer to myth 2: Only change at the top can ensure change within the organisation

As promised, I continue to reveal the answers to the list of myths I gave you in my post of September 24th. Today, I’ll explain why it’s not only change at the top that can ensure change within the organisation.

Sure, you need change at the top. You wish to see that the top leadership takes things seriously and that they are on the path of change. It may be that they themselves have declared these intentions, conscious of the importance of their role modeling. If it goes that way, bingo! But sometimes it doesn’t. There is a spectrum of leadership-at-the-top behaviours. On one end: total support, clear leadership and a pristine role model with high awareness of the importance of their behaviours. At the other end of the spectrum: total blockage, lack of support and unhelpful behaviours that jeopardize change efforts made in many other parts of the organisation. Success at that end of the spectrum happens despite leadership, not because of it. And there are, of course, situations in between! Conventional wisdom says that there is a good correlation between leadership and changes, but reality tells us that it is not often the case.

‘Change at the top’ is obviously desirable, but Viral Change does not wait until this is happening. The power of the distributed leadership - mainly across the Champions network – often leads to advances on the ground not mirrored at the top. Of course, this may be a problem. I am used to Champions telling me about these ‘disconnects’ and their worries about taking risks with no consequent support. My general advice is usually one of ‘suspend judgement’. Unless there is notorious toxicity in the system (leadership does NOT want the changes, no matter how much of a distributed leadership is pushing for them), many so-so leadership teams - which were supposed to lead but didn’t jump on the wagon at the last meeting - will see tipping points and changes occurring when they open the windows. And then they will suddenly become fully supportive and they may, dare I say it, even try to take credit for it.

In my next post, I’ll explore the next myth: ‘People are resistant to change’. Let me know how you feel about this myth by sending me a comment and then check my blog to see my take on it.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The answer to myth 1: Big change requires big actions

This is the commonly held belief that is behind the majority of so-called ‘large interventions’ or comprehensive, massive, expensive change management programmes. It is logically assumed that a significant change in the organization (whether it’s change of culture, ways of doing, etc. or a completely new direction) needs proportional efforts. And proportionate here means massive.

This model is consistent with ‘linear thinking’ or ‘linear dynamics, something very much embedded in our way of managing organisations. The reality is that we are surrounded by a non-linear world, where there is no apparent proportionality in the cause-effect as we see it. For example, in organizational terms, trust is not a terribly linear thing! Small things can generate high trust and small breaches can destroy it completely. There is no proportionality there!

Interestingly we all have examples of day-to-day life where ‘small things’ create havoc. I often warn my clients of this ‘tyranny of small things’: some rules, some bureaucracy, a few people creating disruption. We are used to this dis-proportionality but seem to have difficulty accepting that management of change also travels on disproportioned highways.

Viral Change knows all of the above very well and banks on the power of a small set of levers, behaviours, that can generate great change in a non-linear way. And we know that the organization highways for these behaviours contain things such as imitation, infection and tipping points. Change is most likely driven by a broad distributed leadership(Change Champions, for example).