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How To Be a Better Change Agent

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Everyone recognizes the need to change, so why is it so difficult for organizations and people to embrace change? One data point that has been floating around for over 20 years is that 70% of organizational change initiatives fail. Ironically, despite the ubiquity of this "fact," it was first suggested in 1993 as nothing more than an "unscientific estimate." The reason this statistic has been repeated so often for so long is that it comes close to matching our own experiences--more specific and recent research has since found that only 54% of executives say change initiatives at their companies are adopted and sustained.

Clearly, this is a tremendous issue that defies easy solution. Every failed change initiative is not just a missed opportunity but also an expensive mistake--one study found that one of every six large IT projects go so badly that they can threaten the very existence of the company.

So how can we individually be more effective at being change agents in our personal and professional lives? First, we need to appreciate that:

There is no such thing as a change agent. That may sound odd considering I’m writing about being a better change agent, but this is a skill, not an ability. It is not something you are born with but something you can improve upon. All of us are change agents—none of us gets the luxury of waiting for others to change us, and that means we must sharpen our skills.

Being a change agent is risky: No matter how much business leaders say they want change agents, being a change agent is risky. Change agents fail, stumble in their career and can damage their reputation. We must appreciate that advocating for change entails risk, which is why it is essential we are aware of the specific risks and work to mitigate them.

People hate change. We humans like to feel safe and comfortable, and change is risky and discomforting. Successful change agents must know how to inspire people, helping them to see and embrace the benefits of change.

If we do these three things—sharpening our own skills, mitigating risks and inspiring people—we can succeed at leading change.

Published in: Business
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How To Be a Better Change Agent

  1. 1. How to be a better Change Agent AUGIE RAY 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 1
  2. 2. If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less. General Eric Shinseki 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 2
  3. 3. 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 3 of organizational change initiatives fail70%
  4. 4. Studies Validate Change is Hard  75% of business and IT executives admit that their projects are either always or usually “doomed right from the start.” (Geneca, 2011)  Employers felt 55% of change management initiatives met initial objectives, but only 25% felt gains were sustained over time. (Towers Watson, 2013)  Only 54% of executives say change initiatives at their companies are adopted and sustained. (Booz & Company 2013)  17 percent of large IT projects go so badly that they can threaten the very existence of the company. (McKinsey 2012) 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 4
  5. 5. 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 5 Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. Arnold Bennett
  6. 6. Three Realities of Change Agency 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 6 Advocating for change is risky People hate change There is no such thing as a change agent Inspire people
  7. 7. Three Realities of Change Agency 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 7 Advocating for change is risky People hate change There is no such thing as a change agent Inspire people
  8. 8. Hone your change agent skills  Resilience  Patience  Self-awareness 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 8  Networking  Communication  Facilitation  Love of learning  Contrarian thinking  Analysis
  9. 9. Critical Thinking Skills and Habits Change Must Be Anchored in News and Trends People do not adopt change for change’s sake— there must be a pressing opportunity or challenge, so change agents:  Schedule time every day to read and learn.  Adopt tools to gather info (alerts, newsletters, Flipboard, follow thought leaders, etc.) and save information (OneNote, Evernote, etc.)  Curate news in their social channels, becoming a source of information for others. 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 9 Love of Learning Contrarian Thinking Analysis
  10. 10. Critical Thinking Skills and Habits Change Contradicts Conventional Wisdom By the time everyone sees the opportunity or threat, it is too late. To see what others do not, change agents:  Practice discomfort with complacency, seeking new, better ways.  Consider untraditional information outside their industries or even outside the business world.  Accept nothing. Challenge everything. Don’t zig when everyone zags; just question why. 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 10 Love of Learning Contrarian Thinking Analysis
  11. 11. Critical Thinking Skills and Habits Change Only Occurs When Others Are Convinced Business leaders do not until they are convinced it is necessary and confident in the outcome. Change agents must:  Remove passion and biases.  Use your network to challenge your pitch.  Embrace the risks.  Identify and prepare for objections.  Build a logical case. 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 11 Love of Learning Contrarian Thinking Analysis
  12. 12. Three Realities of Change Agency 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 12 Advocating for change is risky People hate change There is no such thing as a change agent Inspire people
  13. 13. Being a Change Agent is Risky 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 13 Ron Johnson 15 years 12 years 18mo Introduced design partnerships such as Michael Graves Oversaw launch of Apple Stores Dismissed after “the worst quarter in retail history”—a 25%+ drop in same-store sales in one quarter
  14. 14. Being a Change Agent is Risky 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 14 Ron Johnson “When I got to Penney’s, I had no choice because I was told people wanted change, but the truth is nobody wanted change.”
  15. 15. What Went Wrong at JCP? 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 15 Ron Johnson  Traded sales promotions for “fair & square” prices.  Swapped brands JCP shoppers wanted for high- end brands beyond the budget of the traditional customer.  Initiated plan with no tests, focus groups or pilots.  Attempted to run JCP like a startup.  Punished skeptics. “I don’t like negativity. Skepticism takes the oxygen out of innovation.”  Replaced leaders who understood JCP business.
  16. 16. The Building Blocks of Change 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 16 Capital Process People Culture Customer  Traded sales promotions with “fair & square” prices.  Swapped brands JCP shoppers wanted for higher-end brands; offered items beyond the budget of the traditional Penney’s customer.  Initiated plan with no tests, focus groups or pilots.  Attempted to run JCP like a startup.  Punished skeptics. “I don’t like negativity. Skepticism takes the oxygen out of innovation.”  Replaced leaders who understood JCP business.
  17. 17. Build Capital Diligently, Spend It Wisely 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 17 Capital Process People Culture Customer Being a change agent requires you amass personal capital. Political winds change often. To mitigate risks:  Seek sponsors and mentors and listen to them  Build a network and engage with them  Seek approval and support  Own up to mistakes
  18. 18. Keep the Customer King 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 18 Capital Process People Culture Customer Do not forget to put the customer at the center of your thinking. To mitigate risks:  Base ideas on documented customer needs, behaviors and perceptions.  Don’t alienate current customers while striving to attract new ones  Develop ideas for those customers that are strategic targets for your organization.
  19. 19. Process Is Your Friend, Not the Enemy 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 19 Capital Process People Culture Customer Process frustrates change agents, which is why it is twice as important they respect the process. To mitigate risks:  Seek partners with project management skills to help create project plans  Create a logical, staged plan  Test, test, test
  20. 20. Work Within the Existing Culture 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 20 Capital Process People Culture Customer Culture changes slowly, and change agents get more done when they work with rather than against existing culture. To mitigate risks:  Align your ideas to current strategic initiatives  Understand and respect organization structure  Consider corporate mission and values
  21. 21. Make People Allies 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 21 Capital Process People Culture Customer People don't resist change. They resist being changed. Peter Senge
  22. 22. Three Realities of Change Agency 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 22 Advocating for change is risky People hate change There is no such thing as a change agent Inspire people
  23. 23. Inspire People to Embrace Change Make Change Worth Everyone’s While 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 23 Change Goals & Rewards Raise the Pain (a Little) Create a Positive Vision Involve People It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it! Upton Sinclair
  24. 24. Inspire People to Embrace Change Make Change Worth Everyone’s While Change goals and rewards to reward the right behavior. To inspire people:  Identify the goals and metrics that measure the behaviors you wish to change  Change reward systems to compensate people for the right behaviors; for example, employees will not become more oriented to customer satisfaction if they are only rewarded for productivity, efficiency or sales 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 24 Change Goals & Rewards Raise the Pain (a Little) Create a Positive Vision Involve People
  25. 25. Inspire People to Embrace Change Help People To See Why They Must Change 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 25 Change Goals & Rewards Raise the Pain (a Little) Create a Positive Vision Involve People And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Anaïs Nin
  26. 26. Inspire People to Embrace Change Help People To See Why They Must Change Change is painful, but the eventual pain of failing to change is even greater. To inspire people:  Realize that change can threaten jobs—plan for the concern, be candid and help people change  Encourage people to understand the risks of not changing and the benefits of changing  Make it about them… 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 26 Change Goals & Rewards Raise the Pain (a Little) Create a Positive Vision Involve People
  27. 27. Inspire People to Embrace Change Encourage People To See Their Futures Positively 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 27 Change Goals & Rewards Raise the Pain (a Little) Create a Positive Vision Involve People I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. Mother Teresa
  28. 28. Inspire People to Embrace Change Encourage People To See Their Futures Positively Make change personal and exciting. To inspire people:  Paint a picture of how change will bring benefits to employees  Create a plan to support employees  Commit the time and resources necessary 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 28 Change Goals & Rewards Raise the Pain (a Little) Create a Positive Vision Involve People
  29. 29. Inspire People to Embrace Change People Embrace Change When They Have a Voice 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 29 Change Goals & Rewards Raise the Pain (a Little) Create a Positive Vision Involve People You teach me, I forget. You show me, I remember. You involve me, I understand. E. O. Wilson
  30. 30. Inspire People to Embrace Change People Embrace Change When They Have a Voice Support and impetus for change comes top-down. Adoption of change comes bottom-up. To inspire people:  Listen and react to hopes, ideas and concerns  Tell people what; let them have a say in how  Provide the time necessary for change—plan for storming, norming and performing 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 30 Change Goals & Rewards Raise the Pain (a Little) Create a Positive Vision Involve People
  31. 31. Be a Better Change Agent 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 31 Know and mitigate the capital, customer, process, culture and people risks He or she who helps people embrace change rules the world Adopt habits that improve your communication, emotional and thinking skills Inspire people
  32. 32. Thank you When you're finished changing, you're finished. Benjamin Franklin Feedback and dialog welcome at @augieray. 10/13/2016 @AUGIERAY 32

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