Effectively Changing Your Organizationís Thinking and Behavior

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What Leading People Through Change Will Do for You

Leading People Through Change is designed to help you diagnose and prescribe the actions you need to take in listening and communicating about change to create rapid progress in thinking and behavior that your organization needs most. A highlight of this approach is to customize the solutions to those methods that come most comfortably and naturally to you and those you work with. You will also become a better leader by practicing more ways to lead change in your organization. Your colleagues will benefit by having their capabilities stretched and developed in the way that effective exercise does for muscles.

Benefits from Leading People Through Change will vary enormously with the value and success of the change that you are putting into place. You can also find that this type of leadership will allow you to make more changes than before, further compounding the advantages you will receive from Leading People Through Change.

Key Problems with Traditional Ways of Changing Thinking and Behavior

To help you decide if you need this process, we have put together a checklist for you to test yourself and your organization against.

  1. Do you always try to change thinking in the same way, even if your approach did not work the last time? Jimmy Carter talked a lot about a "malaise" in America when he was president, but he never got much action in response. Or do you have a variety of usually effective ways to communicate, as Roberto Goizueta of Coca-Cola used to greatly expand his companyís stock-price multiple?

  2. How often do you check to see if the message is received, understood, and agreed to by your employees, colleagues, and partners? Do you check once a year through the annual Human Resources survey (as most companies do), or do you test daily until you have succeeded (as hardly anyone does, but one could easily do through intranet connections)?

  3. Do you demonstrate in an accurate and understandable way the full consequences of continuing on the current path (as Sears did by showing each store employee a model to calculate the effect of their positive and negative actions on company earnings, stock price, customer satisfaction, employment levels, and so forth) or do you make a few speeches in favor of the change and drop the subject after a few months (like many do)?

  4. Do you ensure that each person who will be affected by the change receives over 1,000 messages in different forms reinforcing the change as one of our clients did recently, or do you provide the usual dozen or fewer?

  5. Do you keep the old reward and recognition programs in place that encourage people to keep doing the same old thing, or do you adjust them all for the change you want to encourage? One company found that its stock price soared after years of stagnation when the executives were offered a large incentive to create a substantial and sustained increase in just a short period of time. Another company found that it could remove almost half of its business investments and grow faster after changing bonuses to reward executives for using less capital.

  6. Do you just talk about the change (as most do), or do you provide 25 or more opportunities for each person to experience the benefits of the change in the first month of beginning to change as another client did?

  7. Do you recruit, retain, and encourage people who adore change, or do you ignore this opportunity to upgrade your organizationís potential for change?

  8. Do you make rapid change a positive part of your corporate culture as one of the benefits of working for your organization, as Cadence Design Systems and Intel do, or do you pursue it as a last-resort alternative like Kmart did until recently?

  9. If people will not change, do you help them to find another job as Lou Gerstnerís IBM does, or do you provide them with the alternative of not changing as the old IBM did?

  10. Are you prepared to respond to why people do not want to change (including the fact that the change you propose is a bad one) which Stan Gault did at Goodyear, or do you just keep "talking at them" until they knuckle under?

Why Change Is Difficult For Everyone

When someone asks you to change what you are doing, your initial reaction can often be feeling a rude sense of surprise. After all, if your awareness of the situation and self-image indicated that you needed to change, you would have already done so. At the objective level, you may not have noticed the issue, or (if you are aware) you may not agree with the need to change. At the emotional level, you may also resent the invasion of "your turf" and feel a reduced sense of being respected. Few leaders know how to overcome these natural reactions and make change positive, fun, and easy for themselves and others.

Why Change Is Needed And Can Be Positive

My favorite example of the need to change relates to the long, straight freeways and highways that fill Californiaís deserts and Central Valley. These stretches of road are so long (often over 100 miles) that drivers frequently fall asleep from the monotony of the driving experience and sameness of the surroundings, and even more often find it difficult to adapt to the first turn in the road or the first strong side-wind that threatens to push them off the road. Taking a less direct route may take a little longer, but it will usually offer much better scenery, and be a safer and more interesting drive.

In this context, change allows us to have more interesting passages through life while preparing us for new things that we must adapt to or suffer the consequences.

At the 1997 meeting of TWENTY TIMES PROGRESS (a group of senior executives who explore ways to grow their organizations twenty times faster), those attending said that their number one issue was that they knew many valuable ways for their organizations to change, but could not persuade those involved to want to make the change. Published studies also show that in many large organizations, the message about what change is being implemented is seldom received and understood by those lower in the organization. In either case, the monotony of the straight road has lulled us into having less ability to adapt.

This means that your organization can have the best strategy and implementation plan in the world, yet can come up short because of difficulties in communicating and persuading you and your colleagues to want to implement these ideas. Everyone just keeps driving straight, even if that leads to a ditch at the first turn in the road.

One of the most highly-valued leadership skills is to create quick and effective responses to new opportunities and changed conditions. The football coach who can make adjustments during the game is far more effective than one who can only make corrections during the following weekís practices. Highly-admired companies are able to make change something that everyone seeks out as an opportunity to grow and learn. They do this by creating a positive expectation about change among employees, practicing positive changes, and creating management processes that facilitate enjoyable change.

Joe Costello, the former CEO at Cadence Design Systems, stands out as an excellent leadership example in this regard. The company provides software-based tools to design semiconductors more rapidly and effectively. These tools need to be continuously improved to handle the rapidly-growing challenges of chip design. The opportunity to operate in such a cutting-edge environment helps Cadence recruit the most talented and change-seeking software engineers in the chip design industry. At the same time, many sophisticated and less-sophisticated customers find that the tools get harder to use as the technology develops. Joe helped lead Cadence into a two-way path of tackling the customerís problem by simultaneously making the tools easier to use, and by providing optional chip design services for sophisticated and less-sophisticated customers alike. Many people inside and outside of Cadence thought that the latter idea was a poor one. Just a few years later, it had become the core of the companyís expansion. As a result, the company went from losing money a few years ago to becoming the most effectively-led company we could find from 1994-1996. As one measure of this success, Cadence shareholders enjoyed a 663% stock-price gain over 3 years while the S & P 500 grew by 59%.

Partly for Joe Costelloís excellence in helping Cadence embrace change and partly, Mitchell and Company recognized Cadence as a Prototype Company of the Future (this is an award given to companies that are providing positive models of what all organizations should be doing). Other reasons for this award include Cadenceís remarkable contributions to the development of semiconductors and enhancing the potential for human development. We held a site visit at Cadence in 1998 to learn more about how they successfully change thinking and behavior to achieve more, and will visit regularly in the future to learn about the effects of their approaches and new developments they pursue. We are especially interested in how the new CEO, Jack Harding, will continue or enhance the change leadership style that has been effective for Cadence.

A Review of How Leaders Have Been Encouraging Change

After hearing about problems that executives have with leading change, Mitchell and Company quickly turned its attention to the important opportunity to achieve faster, beneficial changes by reviewing the best practices that we have seen in business and other fields. What we discovered was that many leaders have shown successful ways to achieve part of the solution by excelling in talking about the change, helping others understand the change, and benefiting from listening to reactions to the possible changes. Some leaders stand in front of the group, and shout and wave their arms to get your attention. Others sit next to you, and tell you gripping stories. Still others show you information about the future that dramatizes why you are about to get into trouble, even though everything seems to be smooth now. Some instead do an amazing job of covering every available surface of the company with the message.

No one, on the other hand, has put all of these more effective practices together into a useful way . . . except when the very existence of the organization was immediately questionable to everybody or the leader was a genius at communications (Winston Churchill rallying the English people during the terrible bombings experienced during World War II comes to mind, as does Ghandi leading the drive for Indian independence from Great Britain). Survival has had a way of greatly concentrating the mind on what needs to be done, and geniuses usually can find a way to succeed.

This leaves us with the question of what should we do when immediate survival is not at stake. We also looked outside of business situations to find places where change occurs easily and effortlessly, with happiness for all concerned. Here are some changes you have probably liked. Perhaps the earliest of these occasions is when you learned to communicate with words (rather than just with cries and gestures), and began saying "Ma Ma" to your beloved Mother who held and hugged you all the more. As adults, you may have decided to leave home to go someplace you have only heard about before, spent a fortune doing it, demanded more of yourself than when you were at home, and had the time of your life because this was a vacation (something you chose to do). At work when your boss comes in and tells you that you are being promoted, you normally are bursting with happiness and excitement about the new opportunity. These examples are important for you to understand how to make change easy and pleasurable for people, and to relate that change to the leaderís role. The results of our findings were then distilled into a powerful, improved way to lead called

Leading People Through Change.

As part of this process, Mitchell and Company did a retreat with some of our most loyal and long-term clients to learn more about their ideas concerning how we had helped them to change the thinking in their companies. To our pleasant surprise, these clients reported that our greatest successes had always come in helping them think about new situations and alternatives for persistent problems. The clients were then able to create and implement better solutions for themselves. In one case, more change occurred in six months after an assignment in this area, with very substantial profit benefits, than had happened in the prior ten years. The reason for this success related to quickly changing the way the people in the business saw themselves, their situation, and their alternatives.

Leading People Through Change is based, in part, on Mitchell and Companyís two decades of experience in helping companies to make large, beneficial changes relating to corporate strategy, stock-price improvement, and operating and capital cost reductions. To this we added our many special studies of best practices in change leadership by others both in and out of a business setting, as well as reviewing the extensive literature on this subject. These lessons were enhanced by a consideration of the Theoretical Best Practice potential in this area. This way of leading can be combined with any of the ways to determine where you want to go that we have shared with you in the past (such as Innovation Leadership to identify your highest-potential activities, Capital Management and Effective Win-Win , Cost-Reduction Management), or you can combine this style of leadership with your own new directions.

Next Steps

If you would like to learn more about Leading People Through Change, please contact Don Mitchell (mitchell@fastforward400.com) or Please e-mail Don Mitchell at askdonmitchell@yahoo.com, and he will send you a series of questions tailored for your use on existing changes you are pursuing to help you test your potential to benefit from this exciting and valuable process.

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