Management columnist Harvey Schachter's weekly compendium of tips to power your performance.
Harvard Business professor John Kotter's eight-step process for leading change has been adopted by many organizations and is foundational thinking for most executives these days. But since it was first presented in a 1995 Harvard Business Review article and subsequent book Leading Change, the business environment has changed. London-based consultant Paul Arnold suggests on his Able and How corporate blog that 20 years later, our thinking requires these updates:
– Forget change programs: Prof. Kotter viewed change as coming through carefully planned and nurtured programs. These days, Mr. Arnold says, organizations face multiple concurrent changes and shifting priorities, so the planning and execution of change needs to happen "in real time." Corporations must be agile, adapting rapidly to a changing environment.
– Change has many leaders: Prof. Kotter urged executives to build a "guiding coalition" for the change effort, since that high-level leadership buy-in would ensure success. But these days, it's not just a small coalition that leads change, it's individuals all over the organization in greater numbers than originally thought.
– There's no end to change: Prof. Kotter offered a linear change model, with a beginning, middle and end. "Such an approach seems almost quaint today. Imagine Marissa Mayer announcing that Yahoo had reached the end of its change program. Organizations today are trying to create a culture of change, where a constantly evolving mindset is needed, people must be open and receptive to change and leaders empower the organization to live that culture. They set the tone. While Kotter focused on top-down change, nowadays change can emerge bottom-up," Mr. Arnold argues.
– Change can't be standardized: Prof. Kotter was oriented toward people, but over time Mr. Arnold feels they have disappeared from the equation and organizational change programs have become all about technical solutions and standardized processes. Instead, we need to go beyond technical solutions to developing an adaptable culture and change across the entire organization.
– Welcome to the millennials: Millennials are flexible, innovative, and not interested in five-year plans. Their digital youth makes them agile by nature. "This new generations embodies change and may just be able to make constant change a reality," he says.
So think more about the millennials in your workplace than the copy of Leading Change on your bookshelf.
2. Tips for improving your job interview chances
Wear something memorable to your next interview. That's the advice of entrepreneur Dave Kerpen, who wears orange sneakers to networking events, although you probably want to be less flamboyant and opt for a colourful scarf or an unusual pair of eyeglasses that will set you apart from the other candidates.
"It adds a nice touch to your personal brand," he told Quartz. It also might help you be remembered later in the process, when the selection is being made.
If you're offered water or coffee at the start of the interview, take it. We're inclined not to, since we don't want to put anybody out. But if you have somebody over to your house and they turn down an offer of water or coffee, you might feel put out. It's the same here. It creates discomfort at a crucial moment, when first impressions are being formed.
During the interview itself, remember that it's not about you. It will feel that way, of course. But he advises: "If you can get the person talking and getting inspired about their own visions and dreams, they're going to love you."
3. Andy Grove: The power of debate
When Andy Grove died last week, many tributes were given about the legendary co-founder of Intel and author of Only the Paranoid Survive. But perhaps the most important lesson for managers was about the power of debate.
Harvard University business professor Clayton Christensen, on the HBR blog, said Mr. Grove "never believed that he and his colleagues had the answer. They always were arguing about everything. He knew that they needed to make decisions, of course. But he viewed each decision simply as a road marker that noted progress along the path of argument about how to improve."
Prof. Christensen is famed for his work on how organizations are disrupted and overcome by challengers. When Intel's microprocessor business was being threatened by low-cost competitors, Mr. Grove asked what he should do. Instead of specific action, he got a theoretical lesson on disruption, which proved ideal since it helped the Intel team to predict the next threat or opportunity.
"Andy understood that he couldn't stand still. It seemed that the day after they made a decision, Andy and his colleagues would start to argue again. That is why Intel under Andy Grove was continuously improving. They were always trying to improve everything – and I will miss this," Prof. Christensen writes.
In his tribute, Bryant University professor Michael Roberto went back to Only the Paranoid Survive, where Mr. Grove wrote on constructive conflict at key strategic moments:
"It is important to realize what the purpose of these debates is and what it isn't. Don't think for a moment that at the end of such debates all participants will arrive at a unanimous point of view. That's naive. However, through the process of presenting their opinions, the participants will refine their own arguments and facts so that they are in much clearer focus. Gradually all parties can cut through the murkiness that surrounds their arguments, clearly understand the issues and each other's point of view. Debates are like the process through which a photographer sharpens the contrast when developing a print. The clearer images that result permit management to make a more informed – and more likely correct – call. The point is strategic inflection points are rarely clear. Well-informed and well-intentioned people will look at the same picture and assign dramatically different interpretations to it. So it is extraordinarily important to bring the intellectual power of all parties to this sharpening process."
4. Quick hits
– Create a Magic 15. Hyrum Smith, in his book The Three Gaps, encourages people to set aside 15 minutes each day to quietly reflect, seek inspiration, and plan their day. Suggest other team members do the same and honour their colleague's Magic 15. (Source: SmartBlogs)
– HALT before you make a bad decision. Consultant Charlie Gilkey says don't make decisions when you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired – four conditions that lead to the acronym HALT.
– When was the last time you or your organization didn't hire somebody because of a reference check? If it's never, as consultant Tim Sackett suspects, then drop the wasteful charade. More useful might be to ask candidates about their direct reports for every position they have held – rather than their preferred references – and hope you can hold a meaningful, off-the-record call, with some.
– Financial journalist Antony Currie suggests corporations take note of CIT Group Inc.'s decision to reduce its retiring CEO's 2015 bonus by 30 per cent because John Thain didn't successfully integrate OneWest, a California bank acquired last year. Usually bonuses are issued for negotiating an acquisition. But he writes: "Closing a deal is only the beginning. CIT's approach, tying incentives to the actual achievement of the promised benefits of a merger, is the right one."
– Start the day with three words to set your intention for what's ahead. In the New Zealand Herald, wellness coach Louise Thompson gives as examples: Focus + Calm + Joy, or Fun + Ease + Flow.
And in closing, consultant John Maxwell says, "All good communicators get to the point before their listeners start asking, 'What's the point?'"
Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter