The Death of Change – Part 2

who_killed_changeToday on The Bigg Success Show, we were happy to visit with John Britt. John is a partner with Mountjoy and Bressler, LLP where he helps organizations introduce change successfully. He is also one of the authors – along with Ken Blanchard, Judd Hoekstra and Pat Zigarni – of a great new book called Who Killed Change? Let’s get to the conversation …

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marylynnJohn, in light of what's been happening with the economy, it seems like change in organizations is happening pretty fast these days. So there often isn't time to go through the proper preparation. Any suggestions for when you have to implement change quickly?

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john brittWhen I think about the context of change, in my mind I see three overlapping bubbles – process, technology, and people. We have lots of good process people these days. If you’re not good at the IT stuff, you have someone that you call. The thing I wouldn’t leave out is the people. Sometimes, because of the pace of the change, the leaders make a decision and are heated up for the idea. Ken Blanchard has the top fifteen reasons why change fails. Number one is that people announcing the change think it’s the same as implementing the change. As a leader – just because you’ve worked through your personal concerns, information concern, and all those concerns to get you over the hump – sensitize yourself for when you announce it that those people to whom you’re announcing it are where you were three or four months ago. Or two weeks ago. Walk in their shoes. That doesn’t mean to not lead assertively and back peddle on what the change should be. Just sensitize yourself to help the people come along.

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georgeIn talking with a lot of entrepreneurs who are trying to get those processes going and introduce changes in their organizations so they can work on their business rather than in it, they struggle with the same thing I did. There’s a great quote in your book, “”Those who plan the battle rarely battle the plan.” One of the biggest transformations that I personally experienced – and I’ll give your partner Ken Blanchard a bigg shout out here because Raving Fans and Gung Ho really helped me with this – was thinking that it all has to be top down. The reality is that it’s much better if it’s bottom up. And I didn’t say bottoms up, just for the record!

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john brittI agree with you. But a caveat here that this is a bias of mine. It’s the leader’s job to decide what changes should occur in an organization. That’s why they get paid. That’s not to say they shouldn’t talk to their employees. But they should understand their business, their competition and the market environment. And then once they’ve made a decision to change, they need to be resolute in that decision. On the opposite side of the coin, they need to be just as flexible in how they make the changes. I’ve worked with too many clients where there’s this auditorium announcement: “Here’s where we were; here’s where we’re going.” There’s pushback because people need their questions and concerns answered. The leader extends the twelve-month implementation to eighteen months. Then it’s a 24 month implementation. We have to step up to the plate as leaders and business owners and say, “Here’s where we were, here’s where we are and here’s where we’re going,” but with the same passion be able to say, “We’re a team together and you guys are on the front lines so I’m going to give you a lot of flexibility on how we get there.” So rather than using the term “buy in” to a change – which connotes that we’re selling something – let’s look for their involvement and advocacy of the change.

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marylynnLet me go in a different direction. Here at Bigg Success, we say bigg success is living life on your own terms, whether you’re that traditional entrepreneur or work in the corporate world. George has more experience as the business owner. I have more experience in the corporate world. Believe me, I’ve gone through many of those auditorium style change announcements. Is there a tip you have or some suggestions to help us accept change better?

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john brittOh, so flipping the coin and being asked to change. One of my favorite bumper stickers says, “Change is easy. You go first.” Change is easy, ma
ybe, when you’re the one imposing the change, but maybe not so much when you’re being asked to change. People being asked to change have to understand their culture and the way their communication works. They have to be good citizens of their corporation. On the same hand, they have both the right and the responsibility in a change to ask questions. I read something not long ago where the author asserted that resistance to change might be overrated. He stated that, at any given significant change announcement, eighty percent of the audience is neither an advocate nor a resistor. They are anxious and reluctant. How we lead them will determine whether they become a resistor or an advocate for the change. If you’re sitting out in the auditorium and the CEO or COO asks for questions, you need to feel free to ask the question. It needs to be done in a non-threatening, professional way. But people have legitimate questions when change is announced. The questions are predictable. What is it? Why now? What’s wrong with the way we’re doing it? What about me? Will we be able to work together as a team? How will we implement it? Will we have tools, resources and training? Will I win or lose? These are natural questions that we have as humans. So the person being asked to change should ask their questions in the right setting. It might be that they don’t ask the CEO; they walk away from the auditorium announcement and make an appointment with their manager. That’s the key thing for most employees. I don’t think that most employees mind change; they mind being changed.

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georgeFor the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, we recently did a show about setting goals like John F. Kennedy. One of the things we didn’t share in that show was how, in his speech to Congress, Kennedy pointed out that if we were going to get people involved, it would mean giving up some other things. One of the things you point out in the book is one of the mistakes we make as leaders. We just pile on more. We don’t think, “If I’m going to have my people work on this, I need to let them give up that.”

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john brittYeah, we have to be realistic as leaders in changes. When we’re asking them to take on new training, new requirements, and new skills, there has to be some flexibility and latitude in the job that they’re doing now. In Who Killed Change, we talked about Budget. The focus of Budget was really on the allocation of appropriate financial resources for changes. But we have to just as sensitive and aware of the budget of time. We have to do a better job of budgeting peoples’ times when there’s a significant change.

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Learn more about John and the book Who Killed Change. We highly recommend this book to you.

Thanks John for sharing your time and wisdom with us.

And thank you so much for stopping by today. Please join us next time when we’ll discuss how to know that you’re ready to be an entrepreneur. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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