At last weeks in person MBL Change Management Masterclass in London there were delegates from law firms (both lawyers and support professionals) and investment banks. These nine change management insights were selected from the day by the delegates and this article supplements the learning resources provided at the session.
Delegates were pursuing a variety of change programmes including: organisational design and culture; introducing new technology, automation and systems; productivity and efficiency; new business strategies and models; introduction of planning and performance management processes; succession and people development; improving the client experience; new marketing and business development behaviours; revised policies and priorities management.
1. Develop a vision and focus on outcomes
From reviewing many different change management frameworks, models and case studies it became clear that change programmes – and their leaders and sponsors – must develop a compelling future vision and focus on the desired outcomes. They need to avoid becoming bogged down in the process of implementation. We explored visioning and storyboard techniques to assist in this process.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” Socrates
“A change catalyst’s strength lies in his/her focus on outcomes. A project manager’s strength lies in his/her focus on process. You need both”. Campbell MacPherson Change management – Change Catalyst book review by Kim Tasso
2. Achieve buy-in from the outset
Rather than trying to achieve buy-in after the change programme has been designed, it is helpful to get as many stakeholders as possible involved from the outset. If they are consulted early about the need for the change, the possible solutions and the potential obstacles they are more likely to be committed to the change programme from the outset. In insurance parlance – buy-in needs to be BTE (before the event) rather than ATE (after the event).
3. Choose a change process
We reviewed several change management frameworks – from simple four steps through to 12 levels – from a variety of experts. Delegates developed their own change processes – taking the best from these models to fit with their aims and organisations. Interest focused on the following stages:
- Ensure the leadership team has empathy and emotional intelligence Research on leadership and emotional intelligence (EQ) (kimtasso.com)
- Separate from the past
- Create psychological safety (this is mentioned further in this article Dealing with resistance to change (kimtasso.com)) and help people accept that “there is no failure – only further learning”
- Have a positive future vision and reframe change as good and healthy (and not to be feared)
- Provide the tools, processes, resources, training and time to implement the changes and adjust behaviours
- Structure follows strategy (organisational alignment occurs AFTER a clear vision and transformation process is articulated and agreed)
- Maintain momentum and motivation by celebrating the successes. Shine a light on the bright spots and small wins (this idea is explored further in this book Change management book – Switch (Chip & Dan Heath) (kimtasso.com)
4. Don’t re-invent the wheel
Many firms have tackled the same or similar change programmes. So don’t reinvent the wheel. Learn what others have done. Management guru Tom Peters called this “creative swiping”. One delegate was embarking on the creation of a new transformation team – and was urged to look at how other firms had achieved this (e.g. Innovation is action | Clifford Chance)
Similarly, we spent some time exploring why past change initiatives hadn’t succeeded and insights included: leadership change, lack of investment, failure to tackle resistance, clash between culture and desired change and a lack of role models. It was noted that in many professional service firms, the desired change can be achieved simply by ensuring that senior role models exhibited the desired new behaviours.
5. Address emotions as well as rational thinking
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” H P Lovecraft
“There are five basic fears, out of which almost all of our other so-called fears are manufactured. These fears include extinction, mutilation, loss of autonomy, separation and ego death”. Dr Karl Albrecht
“Emotional commitment is four times more powerful than rational commitment” Campbell MacPherson
At the workshop we spent considerable time exploring the psychological aspects of the personal transitions (Your personal transition – Endings, neutral zone and new beginnings (kimtasso.com)) of individuals before considering the organisational change aspects. Many early change models stressed the importance of harnessing emotional commitment as well as rational commitment (e.g. Change management book – Switch (Chip & Dan Heath) (kimtasso.com). And emotional commitment is covered in detail in the following more recent change management books:
- change process – Emotions when reacting to change (kimtasso.com)
- Change management – Change Catalyst book review by Kim Tasso 2018
- Book review: Neuroscience for organizational change by Hilary Scarlett (kimtasso.com) 2020
6. Repeat the message
Delegates reflected on the statistic that it often takes six attempts before a change management initiative succeeds. And that around 75% of all change programmes fail. It was also recognized that as change leaders spend so much time immersed in their change programmes that they sometimes forget that those around them need more time to familiarise themselves in the data, consider the options and come up with their own views on the solutions.
This means that internal communications and engagement programmes need to be significantly ramped up during the change programme.
7. Take employee engagement seriously
Employees are just one of the stakeholder groups that need to be engaged. Not just telling people what’s happening and why – but taking them on the analysis, thinking and planning journey. We talked about the broader process of employee engagement within firms – beyond the often one-way internal communication from senior management to staff. We also touched on the value of shadow boards – both to connect with the views of the younger generation and to help in their leadership development.
There was mention of the use of Worker Councils in EU countries to maintain productive management-staff communications. We reflected that a truly engaged workforce could be effective at identifying the need for change – and ideas for the best way to achieve those changes. This month there is an article in HBR which shows how employee engagement can drive digital transformation Democratizing Transformation (hbr.org). We also talked about the ultimate employee engagement in Kaizen quality programmes where small work teams take responsibility for the output and for identifying and achieving continuous improvements.
Further information: Change management and Employee engagement (kimtasso.com). There are some great examples of employee engagement described in the People in Law Awards 2022 – Winners 2022
8. Choose traditional project management or agile
There was some discussion about whether it is best to use traditional project management techniques or more agile methods. There was no conclusion as it was felt that it depended on the firm and the situation(s). However, there was general agreement that large scale project management techniques such as Prince 2 were possibly too complex for most professional service firm change management projects.
- Why is project management important for the professions? (kimtasso.com) a brief introduction to project management
- Reviewing books by legal and accounting clients – Sams and Morley (kimtasso.com) One of these books provides an introduction to agile concepts
Having discussed the idea of visionaries and integrators in leadership teams (a concept discussed in Gino Wickman’s book “Rocket Fuel”), one delegate mentioned the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®) principles in the book “Traction” by the same author:
- Vision: Develop and communicate a strong vision
- People: Have the right people in the right seats
- Data: Get the pulse on your business
- Issues: Build a solutions-oriented environment
- Process: Systemize your way of doing business
9. Celebrate successes and small wins
Personal transitions and organisational change take time. And organisational change usually lags personal transitions. Often the communication focuses on what needs to be done. But effort is required to recognise and celebrate the successes – and the small wins (through recognition, anecdotes, storytelling and case studies) to motivate people on long term change programmes.
“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end” Robin Shama (author of “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” book series. Sharma worked as a litigation lawyer until age 25, when he self-published MegaLiving, a book on stress management and spirituality).
Other points discussed
I promised to share the following information with the delegates after the session:
Cyberpsychology A recommended book on the potential effects of technology use on children “Cyber effect: A pioneering cyberpsychologist explains how human behaviour changes our brains” by Mary Aitken
Book review: Legacy – What the All Blacks can teach us (kimtasso.com) I mentioned this leadership book – focused on the creation of a vision and shared values of the All Blacks rugby team
Design thinking for problem solving What is Design Thinking? – IDEO U
There are two kinds of motivation, ‘Towards’ (something you want) and ‘Away-From’ (something you don’t want). And there is an adaptive third in most populations Change management and creativity – the adaptive third (kimtasso.com)
Association of Change Management Professionals standards The Standard – The Association of Change Management Professionals (acmpglobal.org) (free 76 page download)
In the discussion of cultural differences, we talked about both the Hofstede and the Trompenaars Hampden Turner models of culture How can I improve my cross cultural communication (kimtasso.com) Here is the link to the country culture comparison: https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/