Monday, November 13, 2006

5 Books on Managing Change

By Michael D. Maginn
(McGraw-Hill Professional Education)

Harvard Business Review
(Harvard Business School Press)

Harvard Business Review
(Harvard Business School Press)

By Jerald M. Jellison, Ph.D.
(McGraw-Hill Companies)

By Michel Crouhy, Dan Galai and Robert Mark
(McGraw-Hill Companies)

Author Maginn defines organizational change as “when the organization is moved from the status quo to something different. “From-to” is the change.” He writes that whether a company is on the upside of the growth curve or fighting to survive, one thing is common: The people working within those organizations are experiencing change in a very personal way. “Employees have to stop what they have been doing and work in different ways with different—or fewer—team members. They may have to work away from home more frequently or move to another facility in a strange, new city. They have to work with new technologies that require new skills, say new things to customers, meet with each other more or less frequently, or do more with less.”

“When people face these kinds of dramatic changes in the way they live and work, the reaction can be negative and unproductive. What had been predictable and stable at work is now replaced by confusion, vagueness, and uncertainty.

“When change affects an organization, the leaders of the organization—from the top executive to line supervisors—need to demonstrate leadership skills as never before. The managers of an organization provide the bridge from the old way of doing things to new work practices. Paradoxically, these managers are also employees who experience the same reactions as anyone else. How can a leader lead when he or she may be uncertain and uncomfortable about the future?”

What comes to mind is the quote,¨ “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails.”

A few of Maginn’s suggested 24 tools for managers, individuals and teams are: understand the “from-to,” choose a productive response; paint a picture of what’s happening; Build new rules for a new game; squash the rumor mill; and customize help for struggling individuals. Pick up a copy of the book and read the interesting and useful details.

On the other hand, HBR on When Things Come Undone offers six fictional case studies on change. One case goes:

“C.J. Albert, the head of family owned Armor Coat Insurance, is just settling in on a Sunday evening when he receives an unsettling phone call from his star salesman. Fifty-two-year-old Ed McGlynn has just returned from a business dinner with his younger technology mentor, and he’s none too happy with the way he’s being treated. If C.J. doesn’t take this attack dog off him, Ed warns, he’s gone.

“C.J. had indeed assigned 28-year-old Roger Sterling—the company’s monomaniacal, slightly anti-social director of e-commerce—to teach Ed about digital strategy and the Web. Reverse mentoring seemed like a good way to create a digital insurance that would allow Armor Coat to keep up with its competitors.

“But there’d been tension between Ed and Roger right from the start—stemming from their personalities and their two departments. So when the two reluctantly agreed to meet for dinner to talk, their conversation didn’t go well. Ed insisted that great sales reps, not the internet, are crucial to selling insurance. Roger insisted that the Web will revolutionalize the way insurance is sold and distributed—that Ed either give in or move on. Ed took off in a huff and subsequently phoned C.J. Roger followed Ed’s irate call with his own weary ultimatum: “Either Ed goes or I go.’

“C.J. faces some difficult Monday morning discussions with both disgruntled parties. What should he do? Six commentators offer their advice to this case.”

As Woodrow Wilson once said, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”

What, indeed, would you do? Think about it given the context of your organization and compare your answers with those of the commentators. Or simply look up the answers of the commentators; get a copy of this Harvard Business Review book. The other case studies in the book are The best-laid plans, Welcome aboard (but don’t change a thing), The cost center that paid its way, and What’s he waiting for?

In HBR on Leading Through Change, John P. Kotter writes about leading change, “one lesson is that change involves numerous phases that, together, usually take a long time. Skipping steps creates only an illusion of speed and never produces a satisfying result. A second lesson is that critical mistakes in any of the phases can have a devastating impact, slowing momentum and negating previous gains. Kotter’s lessons are instructive, for even the most capable managers often make at least one big error.”

W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne writes about Tipping Point Leadership. “The theory of tipping point hinges on the insight that in any organization, fundamental changes can occur quickly when the beliefs and energies of a critical mass of people create an epidemic movement toward an idea. Like William Bratton, police commissioner of New York City in 1994, any manager looking to turn around an organization can use remarkably consistent methods to overcome forces of inertia and reach the tipping point.”

The other writers discuss instructive topics like Why do employees resist change?, Conquering a culture of indecision, Change through persuasion, Moments of greatness, Change without plan and The hard side of change management. If you are having problems with your change initiatives read this book.

What’s common among IBM, Chevron and 3M and even your golf swing? They use the J Curve to manage change. “The J Curve provides a platform for dealing with the human dimensions of change. The letter J approximates the path that most major changes follow, whether it’s introducing a new business process, merging mega corporations, or chaning your golf swing. First, there’s a precipitous drop in performance followed by a ragged period of limited progress, and then a steep climb in performance improvement. If you understand where you and your employees are on the J Curve, you can make sense of all changes, past and present.

“Change is about what happens to performance over time. Whether it’s a whole business unit that’s making the change or just one person, the arc of change normally follows a similar pattern. The J Curve nicely describes the pattern of progress or stages of change—The Plateau, The Cliff, The Valley, The Ascent and The Mountaintop.

“Some changes, though, doesn’t always follow that script. Some changes never climb to the dizzying heights of increased productivity and profitability. Many reasons exist why changes don’t produce the expected benefits. You can help team members and coworkers handle change more smoothly and quickly when you understand what they’re thinking and feeling. You can learn to help them with their doubts and worries as they move along the J Curve’s predictable stages.”

Finally, whenever there are changes, there are risks. Authors Crouhy, Galai and Mark writes: “The future cannot be predicted. It is uncertain, and no one has ever been successful in forecasting the stock marker, interest rates, or exchange rates consistently—or credit, operational and systemic events with major financial implications. Yet, the financial risk that arises from uncertainty can be managed. Indeed, much of what distinguishes modern economies from those of the past is the new ability to identify risk, to measure it, to appreciate its consequences, and then to take action accordingly, such as transferring or mitigating the risk.

“The simple sequence of events (identify risk exposures, measure and estimate risk exposures, assess effects of exposure, find instruments and facilities to shift or trade risks, assess costs and benefits of instruments, form a risk mitigation strategy and evaluate performance) is often used to define risk management as a formal discipline. But it’s a sequence that rarely runs smoothly in practice; sometimes simply identifying a risk is the critical problem, while at other times arranging an efficient economic transfer of the risk is the skill that makes one risk manager stand out from another.

“Risk management is really about how firms actively select the type and level of risk that is appropriate for them to assume. In this sense, risk management and risk taking aren’t opposites, but two sides of the same coin.”

The authors discussed the breadth and depth of risk management in 414 pages, but I assure you it is easy reading and offers practical examples and solutions.

Coming from two holidays, you have a lot of catching up to do with your readings to grow in your career and personal life. Happy reading!