‘Managing Change’ Category


Managing Change: Never, Never, Ever Quit

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Leaders get tired and discouraged too. It is often tempting to give up. It’s easy to lose focus. Distractions are everywhere. Pressing on in the face of strong opposition or demoralizing apathy is no fun. Self discipline is never easy, but forcing yourself to keep your commitments when your closest colleagues are backsliding means you have to proceed on emergency power. And no leader’s batteries can charge themselves.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If something is going to get done, someone is going to have to keep at it until it’s done. That’s what leaders do. They keep their eyes on the prize. Don’t misunderstand. Leaders don’t keep doing things that are not working. They just try something else. When that doesn’t work, they try something else again. Leaders regularly change what they are doing, but they never quit doing something.

How can you do it?

1. Make a public commitment. Raise the stakes. It’s a lot harder to quit when you have to go back on your word to do so. Making a public commitment invites others to hold you accountable. The fear of public humiliation is motivating.

2. Stay focused on results. This focus limits the danger of distractions. Unless you stay focused on results your day will fill up with exhausting tasks that may or may not have anything to do with your ultimate goals.

3. Study comparative performance data. When you examine your comparative data, it will be clear that others have found a way to perform better than you are currently performing. This means it can be done. This limits your ability to waste time making excuses for your own inferior performance.

4. Surround yourself with people who will not let you quit. Collegial diehards are God’s gift to leaders. These people are tough. They will not accept your bull. They will confront you in love. They will scoff at your feeble rationalizations and make you uncomfortable. They are never satisfied. And they lead by example. When you weaken, they will pull you along. This is why leadership is a team sport.

5. Remind yourself of past successes. People who never quit enjoy more success than those who do. Those past triumphs can provide just the inspiration you need to keep going.

How do you keep doing while others are merely wishing and hoping?

Managing Change: Celebrate Incremental Progress

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Leaders tend to take the long view. We are naturally focused on results. We are not looking for immediate gratification. We are pleased by incremental progress, but we view it as necessary but insufficient. We understand that lasting change takes time. We have learned to persevere in the face of adversity. We have learned to do what needs to be done in spite of how we feel. We are resilient. We are patient. If we have not learned these things, we have begun to look for something else to do instead of being a leader.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Most people need to feel special every day. They are looking for immediate gratification. They are not inclined to take the long view. Their view is pretty much limited to the end of their shift. These workers are clear about their motivation. They work to live.  They do not live to work. While this motivation annoys highly motivated leaders to no end, it is not necessarily a bad thing—if you know how to manage such attitudes. These folks form the essential core of every organization. They are never going to turn into self-motivated movers and shakers. They need daily positive reinforcement. An employee once told me that he should be given a bonus for showing up on time. And he really believed it.

How can you do it?

1. Understand others’ needs. The Golden Rule is seriously flawed. People do not want to be treated the way you want to be treated; they want to be treated the way they want to be treated.

2. Understand the power of positive reinforcement. It works better than negative reinforcement—and much better than no reinforcement at all.

3. Watch for incremental progress. You will see a lot more of this than dramatic progress. You may have to watch closely and you will have to measure your results regularly, but finding some incremental progress to hang your hat on may be just enough to keep your change initiative alive for another month.

4. Make a big deal of it. People enjoy celebrations. Remember, people go nuts when their team wins even though they had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome. They still feel special. That’s how powerful the need to feel special is. Don’t miss this opportunity.

How do you celebrate incremental progress?

Managing Change: Attach Consequences for Failure to Comply

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Most leaders want to be liked. They want everyone to be happy. They want everyone to read their minds and do what needs to be done without having to be told. They want to keep the peace. They want to avoid conflict and confrontation. And they want to produce exceptional results too. How has that been working for you?

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Everyone knows that positive reinforcement is more effective, but negative reinforcement still has its place. When people don’t do what they are supposed to do and when they do what they shouldn’t do, unpleasant consequences must follow. If not, the people who are behaving appropriately will begin to feel discouraged. If this sorry state continues, they will give up and go to work where good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished. Unhappiness in the workplace is not always a bad thing. Slackers and troublemakers should be unhappy. Your stars should not.

How can you do it?

1. Make your expectations clear. Most organizations now publish a Code of Conduct and require their new hires to sign a document affirming they understand and will comply. If you don’t have such a document, begin drafting one today.

2. Check to make sure that your expectations are reasonable. Ask your best people to review them before you finalize them. If your best people cannot support your rules, you are being unreasonable.

3. Clarify the process noncompliance will trigger. Include this description in the Code of Conduct document.

4. Follow the process. The failure to attach consequences for noncompliance will result in the perception of favoritism. This is worse than not having a process in the first place.

5. Fire the incorrigibles. Keeping these people in the organization will create an enervating competitive disadvantage for your company in the marketplace.

How have you successfully attached consequences for failure to follow key organizational processes?

Managing Change: Audit for Compliance

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Auditing takes time and energy. Most people don’t find auditing to be much fun. When the audit reveals that people are not doing what they are supposed to do, leaders have to confront them. This is no fun either. And when the leaders aren’t complying with the recommended process themselves, no one has the heart to invest energy in an audit process that no one will take seriously. Leaders want easy lives too. They want to agree on the change required and then delegate the hard stuff to others.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

It’s just human nature. If you don’t inspect what you expect it will likely not happen. We all do what we want to do first, then what we have to do next. If whatever it is does not fall into one of these two categories those tasks quickly fall to the bottom of the day’s to-do list. We are never more creative than when we are coming up with excuses for ourselves.

How can you do it?

1. Design the audit process up front. If you come up with an audit process for compliance as an afterthought, everyone will have even less interest in it.

2. Begin auditing from the start. If you wait until it is clear that noncompliance is a major problem, you will be too late.

3. Create a simple audit process. If your audit process is too cumbersome or time consuming to sustain, it will not survive in the hostile organizational environment.

4. Launch the audit process as a pilot. Make it clear that you expect to improve the process as you go along.

5. Find some audit champions. The people who see no value in auditing will never be effective. Assigning audit tasks to the unwilling is about as effective as persuading folks to roll rocks uphill.

How have you audited effectively to achieve sustained organizational change?

Managing Change: Make It Easy, Simple, Quick and Fun

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Leaders are not hesitant to do this exactly. It is just that it is not always possible to make required changes easy, simple, quick and fun. Leaders understand these are the only kinds of changes that people will embrace without a lot of resistance, and most leaders look for ways to make change enjoyable and rewarding. This demands a level of creativity that many leaders don’t possess. It comes down to this—making change easy is hard.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

We all understand that knowing what we need to do is not usually the challenge. Doing it is. If you can’t make at least part of what needs to be done simple or quick or easy or fun you are pretty much doomed. This starts with you. You have to make the change first yourself. That means you have to figure out what to do next then find a way to have fun doing it. Sometimes the best you can do is to make fun of being so miserable.

How can you do it?

1. Get fired up. Enthusiasm is contagious, but you can’t share your enthusiasm if you don’t have any.

2. Recruit the creative types to your cause. Those who can come up with witty slogans and humorous associations from our everyday lives are huge assets in managing organizational change.

3. Come up with some funny stories. The best stories are those about yourself and your bumbling attempts to make the changes that have failed.

4. Create some competition. People get into this. They can’t help themselves. The chance to feel special even for a moment is highly motivating.

5. Break the required behavioral changes into simple steps. Do not make people figure out what they need to do next. Most of them don’t care that much.

6. Measure everyone’s progress and publicize it. This keeps the competitive juices flowing.

How have you made an organizational change easy, simple, quick and fun—or at least one of these things?

Managing Change: Break It Down into Manageable Tasks

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

The need to do this never occurs to many leaders. They believe it their job to come up with the ideas and strategies. Others are supposed to execute those strategies. The painful truth is that leaders couldn’t always lay out the steps if they wanted to. After deciding on the big picture, they are often clueless about what to do next. This is one of the reasons leadership is a team sport. Every leader need not do everything well, but every leader should know what needs to be done.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If a change in an organizational process is to produce results, people must change their behaviors. The odds are against you. Your best hope is to break down the required changes into understandable steps with the next step not being too scary. You can see why change management is often referred to as a change management process. One process will not support every change, but every important organizational change deserves a detailed process map that lays out the discreet steps to the intended goal.

How can you do it?

1. Face facts. You and your colleagues are not ready to lead a change initiative until you have laid out all the necessary steps. Your initial plan need not be perfect, but you must have one.

2. Brainstorm. Get four or five knowledgeable people together and lay out the specific steps as clearly as you can. You can’t whip up much of a storm with just one brain.

3. Show your draft steps to key process owners. These are the people who actually will get this done—if it’s going to get done. You don’t want to surprise these people. Don’t ask their permission, but consult with them on how best to achieve your goals. Merely informing them won’t get it.

4. Take the first step together. You’re the leader. They expect to follow you up the hill. They will not be inspired by encouraging text messages from a command post that is out of the line of fire.

5. Take every step together. They are looking for you to tire. They’ve seen leaders wear themselves out with new ideas before. They are pretty certain they will see this again. But no one wants to be left behind. They all want to get onboard not one minute too early and not one minute too late.

How do you break down change into manageable tasks?

Managing Change: Draft a Process

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Most leaders are idea people. They find details boring. Leaders generally prefer to leave the implementation of their ideas to others. There is a good reason for this. Coming up with ideas is easy. Designing and documenting detailed processes is hard work. It also requires an intimate knowledge of the process in question. Most leaders are not that knowledgeable about their organization’s key processes and, more depressing still, they don’t particularly want to be. People don’t like processes—period. They are tiresome. People want to do what they feel like doing. They want work to be simple, easy, quick and fun. Processes are rarely any of these things.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Here’s the case. Following processes consistently is how you get things done, how you achieve and sustain exceptional results. Designing improved processes is how you improve things. Complying with well-designed processes is how you decrease variation in the workplace. It’s how you decrease errors, avoid rework and deliver on your promise of quality service. You don’t like process design? Get over it. Processes are the keys to your success as a leader. Don’t forget that.

How can you do it?

1. Draft a detailed process yourself. Design a process that—if followed consistently—will achieve and sustain the change you are trying to make. Revise it until it is as complete and simple as you can make it.

2. Show it to the experts. The experts are those process owners who will need to follow the process every day. They know what will work and what will not.

3. Seek constructive criticism. Get over yourself. Admit you are not the expert. The process owners will appreciate the time and energy you’ve put into trying to understand their work. If you are sincere, your frontline colleagues will tell you what needs to change to make the process work.

4. Document the process. There are a variety of good ways to do this. You can use checklists. Simple text instructions are often the best. Some prefer formal flowcharts. Merely hoping that everyone will remember what they should do and do it is not a good approach.

5. Hold people accountable for compliance. It would be nice if we would all just follow our key processes without having to be nudged, but that is not how human nature has evolved so far.

6. Improve the process. Few processes are perfect right out of the box. Even if they are, people, technology and the work environment change and your processes must be improved to account for that.

How do you use draft processes to achieve and sustain organizational change?

Managing Change: Recruit Passionate Colleagues

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Recruiting others to your cause can be a real barrier. Change is hard. People will not be falling all over themselves to sign up to help. The most passionate leaders have plates that are already full.  And fervent people are pretty opinionated. They may not agree your idea makes sense. Committed colleagues may view your proposal as a threat to something they are working on or they may conclude this change initiative will consume organizational resources that should be invested in another project. If you haven’t accumulated emotional capital with your colleagues by helping them in the past, they will not be eager to invest in you in your time of need.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

This is the first bar you must clear. If you can’t recruit a small group of hard core champions for the change you are proposing, your proposal is a bad idea. Others’ refusal to join your cause may be your sign. You may not be the leader who should head up this project. You can’t be a leader if no one will follow you.

How can you do it?

1. Present your idea as a concept. It doesn’t make sense to get too far out on a limb at first. Admit that this may not be the right idea or the right time when soliciting your colleagues’ initial reactions.

2. Ask the right people. Ask people who will give your idea a fair and thoughtful hearing. Ask people who will ask hard, clarifying questions. Ask people who will tell you the truth even if it hurts your feelings.

3. Ask people to help you make a compelling case for or against your idea for a changed process. Make it clear that you have not yet decided whether to proceed. Invite them to participate in the idea development stage. Whether you decide to proceed or not, they will appreciate your open mindedness and they will appreciate your consulting them early on.

4. Thank them for their perspective. Whether they are for or against, let them know you appreciate their time and effort.

5. If they are supportive, ask them whether they are willing to sign on for the next phase of the change process. Some will decline. Those who agree will be informed leaders who are much more likely to be passionate and to stick around to see the change through.

How have you recruited passionate colleagues to your cause?

Managing Change: Lead by Example

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Everyone knows leaders are supposed to lead by example. This is what all the books and articles on leadership say. Yet leaders still regularly fail this important test of leadership. Why is that? It’s hard. It’s much easier to tell people what they should do than to do it yourself.  It’s easy to recommend that your employees keep their BMIs under 25, exercise at least 150 minutes per week, avoid all tobacco products, drink alcohol moderately if at all, participate in the evidence-based screening tests that apply to them and follow their physician’s recommendations about their chronic conditions to the letter. What could be more simple and straightforward? How many leaders do you think do these things themselves?

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If you are not willing to lead by example, you should not take a leadership position. Good intentions are not enough. Leaders exist to produce exceptional results, not to have good intentions. This obligation is a powerful motivator for the leaders who are up to it. When you accept this responsibility publicly and invite others to hold you accountable, your determined steadfastness will help to motivate those with less commitment and will power. After all, that is the point of leading by example.

How can you do it?

1. Admit this is your responsibility. People appreciate knowing that you take your obligation to lead by example seriously.

2. Invite people to hold you accountable. I pick up trash at work every day. If I walk by a piece of trash on the hospital grounds, I want my colleagues to confront me. Only when I pick up trash can I reasonably expect my colleagues to do the same.

3. Confess your struggles and failures. You don’t have to be perfect to be a successful leader. You have to be sincere, committed and honest. And you have to produce results.

4. When possible, share your personal results publicly. I post my weight on the web. Few of my colleagues have followed my example. Does that surprise you?

How have you led by example?

Managing Change: Make a Sustained Commitment

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Leaders are generally highly motivated. They know how hard it is to make a permanent change in their lives. They understand it’s even harder for less motivated folks. And a lot of people at work are motivated to change as little as possible. So while making a sustained commitment sounds lovely, actually making one is much less attractive. That’s why leaders are hesitant. And they should be.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

There’s no way around it. You cannot ask people to make a change you won’t make yourself, and you cannot make any significant change in your life without a sustained commitment. That’s not all. You don’t only have to change yourself; you must persuade others to change themselves too. You are up against the very worst human nature has to offer.

How can you do it?

1. Admit that this is the first step. Talk openly about your reservations. Discuss similar changes you have made and sustained in the past and those attempts that have failed. Speculate why they failed.

2. Remind others this is their first step too. Ask them to be honest about their reluctance. Ask them to give examples of the behavioral changes they have “hardwired” in the past. Invite them to share their failures too.

3. Describe exactly what behaviors everyone will have to change. This is not the time to be coy. Be as brutal and forthright about your expectations as possible. When the going gets rough down the road, you will need to remind everyone—especially yourself—that you were clear from the start.

4. Hold yourselves accountable. This is where sustained change starts to slip first. You let stuff slide because you don’t want to be viewed as too critical or nitpicky. The minute others see you let something slide they will start to let things slide too.

5. If it’s true, admit that you’re just not up to this. Maybe this project is not so important after all. Maybe it is that important and you are not the person to lead the charge. Leaders do sometimes say no to a critical project and still thrive as leaders—but not often.

How have you made a sustained commitment in the past and persuaded others to join you?