Still Looking for THE Answer? Don’t Waste Your Time.

One of the things I’ve written about in the past is how to be a great consumer of Change or Transformation consulting.  I find my best and most successful clients are those that have done their homework and who know the kind of partner they want to hire.  Sometimes I’ll get a call about a potential project and the first question I’ll get is which methodology I use or am I Prosci certified.  I’m always a little reticent to even continue the conversation because I’m concerned that they’ve decided the problem is a nail and Prosci or Kotter or Conner is the hammer I must use.

I guess I can understand why Daryl Conner or John Kotter or the Prosci organization want to tout their way as the RIGHT way.  I just want to make sure that you, as the consumer of support for your change can make a better decision.  I’m not saying that any of those organizations can’t help you, I’m positive that they can.  What I am saying is that you might want to consider flexibility as one of your criteria when choosing a consultant.

I was talking with a few colleagues recently about our work helping senior leaders decode the human element of high-stakes decisions to maximize their results.  We don’t all characterize our work that way, but I do.  Some say they are change and transformation specialists, some say change and transformation coaches still others change management professionals.  No matter what we call ourselves, I’m sure we can all agree that at our core we help organizations get from A to Z with as little disruption as possible.

So during this conversation, we were talking about which change thought leaders we followed and how they influenced our work.  Several were clearly followers of Daryl Conner who wrote Managing at the Speed of Change and Leading at the Edge of Chaos, to name just a few of his books.  Still, others loved John Kotter’s work – and frankly who wouldn’t.  A few touted the Prosci methodology and others some lesser-known methods.

And then there was me.  I love everyone’s work and take the best parts, at the appropriate times to help my clients.  My CORE Accelerator™: Critical Outcome, Results & Execution framework allows for the uniqueness every project brings and puts the best thinking from myself and others to work.  When pressed I tell folks that I am methodology agnostic.

I use what I think is best from who I think is best, as the situation requires.

From my perspective, different approaches and schools of thought can only make your solution richer and more sustainable.  I discovered Daryl Conner when I was just starting out and was so thrilled with his straightforward approach.  It helped me shape my own method with clients and introduced me to the importance of developing resilience.  I had never thought about resilience before, but his argument of its criticality made me look for it and prove for myself and others how important it was.

John Kotter’s work speaks to executives in ways I might not have articulated myself.  Sometimes I use his work to frame the challenges and get into the discussion.  In fact, sometimes I find that using Kotter’s words is the only way to get an executive’s attention.  And I’m OK with that.  Because once I get their attention I can move the conversation in the direction that will lead us to the best solution in that moment, at that time.

Truthfully, I haven’t met a change book or article that wasn’t useful to me in some way.  It’s why my bookshelves are filled with lots of books about change and resilience and communication.  In fact, I wrote one myself: ChangeSmart: Implementing Change Without Lowering Your Bottom Line.   There are lots of great blogs out there too.  One I particularly like is by Dr. Jen Frahm at www.drjenfrahm.com.  But there are many of them and if you approach them as holding part of the answer not looking for THE answer, you will find them useful.

But here’s my secret.  I don’t just look forward to the latest and greatest books and articles.  I look backward too.  My favorite book about change and the one I return to again and again is one that was published in 1987 and might actually be out of print.  The book is called After-Shock: Helping People Through Corporate Change by Harry Woodward and Steve Buchholz.  The chapter headings could have been written last week.  Chapter headings like Change: The Only Constant and The Change Model: Endings, Transitions, Beginnings and the content in them are as relevant today as they were 32 years ago.  And William Bridges’ work on Endings, Transitions and Beginnings shows how impactful those concepts are, even today.

But here’s my purpose for writing this blog post.  It isn’t to tout my favorite theorists or writers, but to simply say – there is no RIGHT way to go after successful business initiatives that will require your business to change.  There will be better approaches depending on unique factors inside and outside of the business, but one RIGHT answer no matter what? Never.

So if someone tells you that utilizing exclusively Kotter is the way to go, or Conner, or Prosci or even Bridges, I would think again.

There is no one right answer, THE answer doesn’t exist.

Just as diversity and inclusion in organizations is having a (long overdue) upsurge, diversity in thought on how to decode the human element of high stakes decisions and help change your company for the better should too.

Beth Banks Cohn
Beth Banks Cohnhttp://www.adrachangearchitects.com
BETH is dedicated to helping individuals and companies implement business changes that actually work. Beth believes in the ripple effect – that change handled well benefits everyone in an organization, over and over again. As a recognized expert in change as well as corporate culture, Beth consults domestically and internationally with a wide range of disciplines and businesses. Beth is the author of two books: ChangeSmart™: Implementing Change Without Lowering your Bottom Line and Taking the Leap: Managing Your Career in Turbulent Times…and Beyond (with Roz Usheroff).

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Jeff Ikler
Jeff Ikler

Beth, thank you for this informative romp through change literature. Like you, I’m engaged in helping individuals and organizations navigate productive change. An eye-opening book that I read a few years back is Patrick Lencioni’s THE ADVANTAGE. It’s not what I would call a typical book on change. Rather, it looks at two different types of leaders and their organizations: smart and healthy. Smart, in a nutshell, focuses on decision sciences such as strategy, tactics, marketing, sales, infrastructure – what I call “the work.” Nothing wrong with that. Healthy focuses on that, of course, but in the context of the “people doing the work.” Healthy organizations focus on people development, teamwork, reducing silos etc. In short, organizations don’t shift on a sustained basis unless the people do. I like it and still reference it because it increases the likelihood at getting at what is the core problem in most organizations: leadership. My book on leading change in schools comes out this March: SHIFTING: HOW SCHOOL LEADERS CAN CREATE A CULTURE OF CHANGE.

Dr. Mary Lippitt
Dr. Mary Lippitt

Congratulations on your customer centric and situationally focused approach. When I teach Organizational Change course for MBA students, I stress the need to customize change. I also find that the organizational life cycle provides key insights on how to do that effectively. Thanks for the post.

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