Client Login
News | Blog | ADRA Change Architects
Wednesday, 17 May 2017 00:00

Change Management Mindmap


Because sometimes you need a little visual stimulation

I've had this image on my desktop for some time now, and can't remember exactly where it came from.  But I know I like to look at visuals like this when I'm feeling a little 'linear' in my thinking.  When you've been poring over a lot of text and spreadsheets, mindmaps can be a good way to get your brain thinking in different directions, and suddenly you feel a lot smarter than you were 15 minutes ago.

This particular mindmap is titled 'Behavior Change Program', and that's really what change management is all about:  Helping the organization, and the people within it, to change their behaviors, both on a corporate level and an individual level.

The next time you're feeling stuck in the process of change, try a mindmap - you never know where it could take you.

Published in News

I suppose that every profession has its (negative) stereotypes, but some days it seems like change management has more than others.  Maybe it's because change management often sits next to OD (organizational development), which tends to sit next to HR...and everyone loves to make fun of HR, even when they're simultaneously saying that people are their mosst important asset.

cliches in change management

Whatever the reason, I found myself thinking about these stereotypes and cliches today, and how I address them.  Maybe you'll find my responses helpful the next time you're trapped in a boardroom watching a PowerPoint presentation littered with statements that sound good but actually aren't helpful at all.

1.  "If you're not riding the wave of change, you'll find yourself underneath it."

I guess this is supposed to conjure images of a surfer, skimming expertly atop the swell, while unsuspecting swimmers are pulled to their deaths by the undertow.  But it's good to remember that waves are transitory, and in fact can be generated in enclosed bodies of water that go nowhere.  So - to continue the metaphor - you may be expending an awful lot of energy to 'ride' something that isn't going to be there tomorrow anyway.  A better strategy might be to become a stronger swimmer.

2.  "We need to see some quick wins in order to get buy-in."

All I have to say about this one is:  If you didn't get buy-in before you started, a few quick wins aren't going to help you.  This says to me that you haven't helped anyone, senior management or employees, understand the goals and rewards.  Quick wins won't change this - they'll only leave you on a path you can't sustain.  If you have to constantly demonstrate 'quick wins' to keep people on your side, you aren't set up for success.

3.  "Let's not get trapped in the past."

Yes, change is about moving forward.  The problem is that "Let's not get trapped in the past" can often become "Let's throw the baby out with the bathwater", which is not productive.  Examining your organizational history with an eye to keeping the good stuff and changing the bad is a more effective foundation for meaningful change.

4.  "We need to get all our ducks in a row."

There's a big difference between 'taking the time to get it right' and 'putting the launch date off for another 6 weeks because Bob from Accounting can't be bothered to come to meetings and his team still hasn't completed their deliverables.'  Great change management sometimes requires decisive action - like telling Bob that whether his ducks are coming or not, everyone else is off to the pond.

5.  "This organization is already changing - every single day!"

This cliche is particularly dangerous, because it's both completely true and completely false at the same time.  No organization is completely static:  Market conditions fluctuate, employees join and leave, clients buy more or less - so yes, the organization is changing on a day-to-day basis.  But in many fundamental ways it's not changing at all.  Overall, it's still selling the same products, using the same computers, operating from a stable location, etc.  Not all change is created equal.  You may be able to change the brand of coffee in the staff room without too much upheaval, for example, but replacing the coffee with tea is likely to be significantly more problematic.  And that's just coffee, not a major process shift.

6.  "Everyone around here is used to change because we change a lot."

If you think your employees are used to change because you are constantly changing their world, you're wrong.  They're tired.  They are bone tired.  And they aren't any better at change but they've figured out it doesn't matter, because you change so often they know nothing you mandate will be around for very long.  This doesn't bode well for the overall health of the business, so you might want to get your money up-front.  

No doubt there will be a Part II to this list of cliches, because I know there are many.

What change management cliches get your eyes rolling?

(As always, find me on Twitter @BethBanksCohn.)






Published in News

One of the drawbacks of being a change management consultant is that you're often working alone.  Yes, you're usually working with a team, but that team is generally multi-disciplinary, and you're the change management lead, so you don't get a lot of opportunities to connect with peers in your field.

That's why I like to read other change management bloggers.  It's a sort of substitute for that fertile water-cooler conversation that is so great for stimulating discussion and sparking ideas.  I don't always agree with the blogger in question - but even the posts I disagree wtih can often get me thinking and on the way to clarifying (and articulating) my own opinions on various change-related issues.

top 10 change management bloggers

So this week, I offer you my Top 10 list.  These are the change management - and other - practitioners whose blogs I have bookmarked and check out regularly - and whose tweets I'm most likely to pay attention to.

Here's who I'm reading these days, and think you should, too.  (They're in the order they appear in my bookmarks folder, not in order of preference - they're all great.)

  1. Conversations of Change, by @jenfrahm
    Jen has recently blogged about 'gendered change champions' and gamification - in other words, she's got some interesting and unusual perspectives on change management and leadership that always get me thinking.
  2. Enclaria blog, by @HeatherStagl
    Like me, Heather lives at the intersection of 'change management' and 'coaching', and often blogs about how the two connect.  I loved her recent piece on 'Bankable Leadership'.
  3. Horizontal Change, by @ggitchell
    One of the things I like most about Garrett's blog is that he's so prolific - scarcely a week goes by that he doesn't post at least a couple of articles.  More importantly, he's got a unique perspective, such as his recent 'Wonderfully Disillusioned' piece.
  4. Leader Communicator blog, by David Grossman
    David isn't strictly a change management consultant, but he often writes about subjects which intersect with change management, like leadership, communication and employee engagement.  He's also a regular poster, so I check in with him frequently.
  5. ReplyMC blog, by @lucgaloppin (and contributors)
    This site bills itself as the 'Online Magazine for Organizational Change Practitioners', and it has pieces on change, motivation, leadership and other change-related subjects,  Unfortunately, recently the site hasn't been as active as it used to be, but I'm hoping that's just a temporary hiccup.
  6. Change Guide blog, by Stacy Aaron
    Stacy's another writer who I wish wrote more often, but she's got enough of a back catalogue on her site to keep me going for a while.  Her pieces are especially good when you need to teach non-change people about change.
  7. Voices on Project Management, by various authors
    I know that change management and project management are often uneasy bedfellows, but the truth is that we're often up against many similar challenges, and I like to hear what project management practitioners have to say about the ways they handle these challenges.
  8. Conspire blog, by Mindjet
    Mindjet isn't a change management company - they make software that's supposed to help organizations collaborate, innovate and change.  I like to stop by their blog because they often have interesting pieces on innovation, leadership and productivity - all of which have a lot to do with change management.  (I will say that I have absolutely no experience with their software, but it has a nice logo.)
  9. Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice, by @kbondale
    Some of the more traditional change management types I know will roll their eyes when they see that Kiron is a project manager who writes about change management, but I loved his recent piece, 'Neglect quiet stakeholders at your own peril.'
  10. Synergetic blog, by Faith Fuqua-Purvis
    If you've been kicking around the change-related blogosphere for a while, you've probably come across Faith - she's been a thought leader for a while now.  I love her pieces - I just wish she posted a little more often!

Of course, this list isn't comprehensive, and no doubt you have your own favorites who you'd have liked to see on the list.  But these are the sites I find myself visiting most often lately.  I look forward to hearing about your current favorites.  You can find me on Twitter @BethBanksCohn.

Published in News

The other day I was having lunch with a colleague, a long-term change management practitioner.  "Getting people to understand the need for a formal change management strategy and implementation plan has always been a bit of a struggle," she said.  "But I feel like it's getting harder.  Leaders of organizations seem to just assume that everyone is comfortable with constant change, so there's no need to 'manage' it."

She's right:  These days, when organizations think about change, they tend to think it's something they do all the time (maybe it's called 'innovation' or 'disruption' or 'process improvement', but it's all 'change') anyway, so there's no need to 'manage' it.  And who needs a change management expert anyway, when a junior project manager with a GANTT chart can track timelines and send reminder emails to people who miss deadlines?

In some ways I agree that the role of change management has, in fact, changed.  Twenty years ago, launching a new enterprise-wide software system - for example - required a whole lot of change management, because it often signaled a fundamental shift in the way the business operated and the average worker took longer to adapt.  Today, depending on the organization, department and function, deploying a new piece of enterprise software is often easier, because the technology is more seamless and most employees are quicker to adapt.


Change management really isn't about chasing people around with a GANTT chart or making sure the latest Sharepoint update has been installed.  At the end of the day, change management - at least the way I see it - is about helping organizations handle change with the most beneficial effect on the bottom line.

Here's the thing:  Constant change is tiring.  As I said in my first book, when you are constantly changing, your employees aren't getting better at it - they are getting tired.  And when your employees are tired, they aren't as productive.  Employees don't really 'embrace' constant change - they just brace themselves because they know more change is just around the corner.  It's like when you're on a roller coaster ride and you grip the handrail really tightly in anticipation of the next wild turn.  Now, I know some people love roller coasters, but even the most die-hard fans don't want to ride them all day, every day, for a living.

That being said, I know change, even constant change, is now the norm for most companies.  So help your employees help you by becoming the best and most transparent communicator you can.  Spend time tellin gthem the 'why' of the change, help them see how they fit in, re-train them if necessary - and cut them some slack, acknowledge their pain.  You might just find that productivity (and enthusiasm) go up.

I've talked about this before:  When change isn't properly communicated and implemented with an emphasis on the 'people side of change', it costs the organization time, money, and, in many cases, the top-performing employees.

And that's where change management is important.  Developing a change management strategy is about gathering requirements, listening to feedback, communicating effectively and making time for training - all of which will ensure the change happens more seamlessly and painlessly than it would otherwise.  The result?  A healthier bottom line, faster.

Published in News

Humans need narratives in order to make sense of their world - we're hardwired to respond to stories.  If your change initiative doesn't provide a strong 'story' that your employees can understand, internalize, and communicate to others, I can guarantee it won't work the way you want it to.

"But," I hear you say, "I'm not exactly J.K. Rowling over here.  How am I supposed to come up with a 'story'?"

Don't worry - storytelling isn't about writing a novel about your business.  It's about creating a narrative that puts the new information in a context that helps people make sense of the change and understand why it's important.  Here's how to get started.

OPTION 1:  Tell the story from the employee’s perspective

In this approach, the business story is told from the employee’s point of view, and should include one or more of the following elements:

  • Use the employee as the protagonist to demonstrate why the new model makes sense (“Employees in X department were finding that processing new orders was taking more than 24 hours, which made it difficult to meet deadlines.  The new system will cut the average employee’s workload in half.”)
  • Describe how the new model will solve customer problems (“By cutting the 24-hour processing time in half, customers will get their orders faster and with less time spent on CRM.”)
  • Communicate how the new model or approach will make better use of resources, activities or partnerships compared to the old model (“By partnering with Acme Inc., we’ll gain new markets for our product line which will increase sales and help the company grow - which in turn will deliver benefits to all our employees in the form of greater job security, better career opportunities, and increased compensation.”)
  • Demonstrate how the change will better reflect the employee’s values, beliefs or ideology and thereby increase their job satisfaction (“By changing to the new system, we’ll cut our energy use by 25%, because we believe that companies have a responsibility to look after the environment and we know our employees believe that, too.”)

OPTION 2:  Tell the story from the customer’s perspective

In this approach, the story is told with the customer as the protagonist.  This approach is particularly useful for businesses with a strong customer focus and where employees are already inclined to identify with customers.

  • Describe specific challenges the customer faces and how the new model will help address these challenges (“We know our customers have been hit hard by the recession, so our new a la carte pricing helps them manage expenditures more effectively.”)
  • Use some drama and emotion to help the story resonate with employees (“Our products are used by 3400 childrens’ hospitals across the country.  Our new process will ensure that our products do a better job of making children’s surgical recovery times easier and less painful - which means they can go home to their families much sooner than they did before.”)

Remember:  Stories which are perceived as patronizing or overly simplified can backfire:  “They told us X in the meeting, but I saw on the news that our share price is down due to Y.  I guess they’re lying to us as usual.”  Whether you go with Option 1 or 2, keeping the narrative honest, transparent and authentic is crucial to organizational buy-in.


Adapted from Business Model Generation [ link to ]  by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur.




Published in News

Imagine:  You’ve created a new organizational structure which turns the traditional hierarchy on its head.  Your new org structure is new!  It’s creative!  It’s innovative!  Most importantly, you know it’s exactly what your organization needs in order to move to the next level. 

You announce your new structure on a Monday morning, and tell everyone that it’ll go into effect two weeks from that Monday.  You take the senior leadership team through an exciting PowerPoint presentation detailing your plans, then send them out to make it happen in their departments.  You’re excited - the future is so bright, and your organization is going to be so well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities coming down the pike!

Cut to:  Six months later.  You’re sitting in a conference room with your senior leadership team, trying to figure out how, exactly, your business has fallen so dangerously behind the competition.  The innovative organizational structure that seemed so promising 6 months ago has dissolved into chaos, your top performers are starting to evacuate, and if you don’t come up with a miracle, fast, you won’t be at the head of the boardroom table much longer.

So what happened? 

(Change + innovation) - (change management plan) = Changerous

Things get changerous when you try to implement a whole new model without a change management plan.

“Change management?!” you scoff.  “Who has time to be that boring and old-school?  Around here, change is hardwired into our DNA.  We’re dynamically synergistic, we’re early adopters!  We’re so far ahead of the curve we’re practically Zappos!  Go on - take your Gantt charts with you, while our all-Millennial workforce conducts our entire business via Tumblr!”


Here are 3 things you might want to think about:

  1. Done right, change management plans can (and should) be just as innovative as the change itself.  It might help you to know that Google had a very detailed change management plan for the implementation of Google Glass
  2. Your business may have done a lot of changing in the recent past, but that doesn’t mean you’ve gotten better at it.  In fact, it may mean that your employees don’t bother to make changes because they know next week they’ll have to do it differently anyway
  3. Your 20-something employees may seem amenable to change, but their lack of experience may make it difficult for them to really implement it effectively.  Even the brightest, most agile employees need to understand how their jobs will change, and how all the new pieces fit together.

Think about it this way:  You’ve been driving for years, and you’re pretty good at it.  Then someone hands you the keys to a Maserati, says, “It’s all yours - have fun!”, and walks off into the sunset.  You get in the car, turn the key in the ignition - and then realize it’s a stick shift, which you’ve never driven before.  Trying to get it out of the parking garage without getting a couple of lessons in driving manual transmissions?  That’s changerous.


Published in News

Ah, disruption.  In 2010, the word - as applied to new-fangled business models - was barely on the radar; in 2011, it was the new new thing; by 2012, it was so overused that Forbes wrote:  "If your organization pivots to disrupt an industry, you need a new strategy."

Like so many buzzwords and buzz-concepts, disruption started out with good intentions:  It represented the notion that in order to be really successful, organizations had to think in whole new ways for their industry.  So far, so good - we all know that the world is moving faster than ever, and the only way to prevent your organization from getting stuck behind the curve is to work hard at staying way ahead of it.

Except that the people who do all the talking about 'disruption' seem mostly to be guys wearing skinny jeans, Gucci hoodies and Google glasses who spend a lot of time showing off fast-paced presentations on their iPads and rather less time demonstrating how, exactly, you're going to explain your new disrupted business model to Marge down in shipping/receiving.

So poor Marge, who's been doing a fantastic job in the shipping/receiving department for the past 15 years, walks in one day to discover that, thanks to 'disruption', her paper files have been sent to the storage facility and she will hitherto be doing all her documentation on a tablet that's been left on her desk, using CRM software that's still in beta, while the skinny-jeaned disruption guy has moved on in search of his next TED talk.

Marge and her team are flummoxed:  With no files to access, no idea how to use the new software, and no information about why this disaster has happened, they panic, and spend the rest of the week getting virtually nothing done.  They spend Week 2 coming up with their own stopgap system so that at least they can process outgoing orders, and Week 3 is spent catching up on the time they lost in Weeks 1 and 2.  They spend most of Week 4 fielding complaints from the sales reps, who are now getting 16 calls a day from annoyed customers because the company's normally seamless supply chain has suddenly gone off the rails.  By Week 5, Marge and her team have a whole new system in place, but it's totally disconnected from the rest of the organization and it's even less efficient than what they were doing before.

This is definitely 'disruption' - just not the kind of disruption anyone intended.

Change management isn't nearly as sexy as a guy in a Gucci hoodie wielding an iPad and raving about Peter Gabriel's latest ideas about interspecies internet.  But change management is what ensures your innovative 'disruptive' idea actually makes it to the bottom line in one piece - and without wasting 4+ weeks of Marge's (and everyone else's) time.

Next time, we'll talk about practical strategies for getting from 'disruption' to 'ROI'.



Published in News
Saturday, 22 June 2013 17:02

5 Most Popular Posts of 2013 (so far)

Well, it's almost the end of June, which means we're already halfway through 2013.  It's always hard to believe how quickly the months go past, and I think it's a good idea to make time to take stock.

With that in mind, here are our 5 most popular blog posts of 2013 so far.

1. 5 Easy Ways to Lose Top Talent During a Change

Going through a change initiative can leave even top performers feeling spooked and looking up the names of recruiters.  Here are 5 ways you can almost guarantee your top talent will leave you instead of sticking it out.

2.  Change Challenge:  A long-term employee refuses to change

What do you do when a long-term, highly-valued employee just won't get on board with changes that are designed to move the company forward?

3.  Change Leadership:  A tale of two departments

When one department does a great job of adapting to a change initiative, but the other doesn't, the answer probably lies in the different leadership of the two departments.

4.  Do 'Empathy' and 'Business Results' Really Go Together?  Yes.

The truth is, ignoring the emotions  that happen as a result of a change in the workplace will end up costing more than acknowledging them.

5.  Change Management:  The Zombie Apocalypse

IT may have tried to kill change management, but it's not dead yet.

Published in News

So you've just spent the past 12 months working on your change initiative:  First there were weeks of requirements gathering, followed by a lengthy strategic planning process, then systems setup and training - it's been a long, involved year.  But now it's the official launch date, and you can finally relax - right?

Well...not really.  As the kids say, it's about to get real up in here.

Even the best laid plans...

Sustaining a change can sometimes prove elusive.  Once a business initiative is implemented, project teams cease to meet regularly, feedback loops dry up and everyone gets back to business as usual.  Except that the old 'business as usual' doesn't exist any more, and confusion ensues.

It's important to remember that while you've been working with this change for months, it's still relatively new to almost everyone else affected by it.  Employees may have been through training and other types of preparation, but the changed environment isn't second nature to them yet.  And make no mistake:  To sustain a change, whatever you're asking people to do must become second nature to them.

Change is happening all the time

No company is static, no matter what business it's in.  In addition to the 'official changes' encompassed a change initiative, the business and the marketplace continue to evolve independently.  It's important for the project team - and for those departments which are involved in sustaining the official change mandate - to demonstrate how the new ways continue to align with the business.  This may involve weaving changes into new market information, reflecting them in new marketing materials and sales processes, or demonstrating how the changes will continue to positively impact customer service.  Actively creating these connections will help people transition from 'previous state' to 'present state' while maintaining continuity.

Respect the past

The last thing people want to hear during a change launch is that everything they've been doing up to now has been a waste of time.  As you move into the implementation phase, avoid trashing or discounting the previous way of doing things - it will only create morale issues that will adversely affect employees' enthusiasm for the change.

A better approach is to show how the changes are necessary building blocks for the future of the organization, and how they will deliver great outcomes for both the company and for the individuals involved.

Demonstrate progress

People will always get more excited about a change - and do a better job of sustaining it - when you can demonstrate that you are moving towards your goals.  It's imperative to build key metrics into your change management project plan, and keep them updated both as you approach the implementation and well afterwards.

The most obvious metric is the impact of the change on the bottom line, but there should also be a range of other metrics that you can point to:  It may be the successful launch of a new product, an expansion into a new area, an advance over the competition - whatever makes the most sense to your organization and the change mandate.  Keeping employees updated on progress well into the implementation phase will help maintain motivation.

Giving it all some closure

As we've discussed, implementation day isn't the end of the change initiative.  However, there is value in taking the time to recognize that a change has been successful - that the new ways of doing business have become second nature and are delivering results.  By recognizing this 'closure', and communicating it to employees, you're giving everyone permission to feel good about what they've accomplished and acknowledging their hard work.

You may not be able to set a calendar date for this closure - it may make more sense to time it to a sales goal or compliance target - but it should be set at the beginning of the change initiative, and clearly communicated to the organization.  It's a good way to draw a line under the initiative, which will make it easier to move on to the next one (because there's always a next one!).


Published in News

A year or two ago I was working with a senior executive team on a change initiative that would affect about 200 employees in the IT services department of a pharmaceutical company.  When we got to the portion of the strategy that dealt with how we'd communicate the changes to the team, I met resistance.

"Why do we have to have this 'kickoff' all-team meeting at the beginning and an intranet site for daily updates on the changes?" one of the executives said.  "I just don't understand why we have to waste all this time and money on explaining everything to the junior employees.  They don't understand the overall business, and they won't understand why we're making these changes.  If they want to keep their jobs, they'll just do what we're telling them!"

open communication for change management

Unfortunately, this isn't an uncommon reaction.  Many senior execs seem to think that (a) junior and mid-level staffers are too dumb to understand 'the big picture' and (b) people who are collecting paycheques should simply do what they're told, and not suck up all kinds of resources by demanding explanations.

The truth is that emplyees often have a better grasp of the big picture than might at first be evident - it's hard to be a successful, long-term employee in any job without having at least some understanding of the organization as a whole.  What's more, the internet age means that the average employee has more access, to more information, about the organization for which s/he works than ever before.  Employees are more familiar with terms like 'shareholder value' and 'market capitalization' and 'competitive advantage' than they were even 25 years ago.  All of which means they're probably much better equipped to understand business decisions - even those made 'at the highest levels'.

What's more, study after study shows that the best employees - the most productive, valuable ones - are those who are actively engaged in their jobs and their organizations.  In other words, the best employees are definitely not the kind of people who want to just 'do what they're told' - they want to understand their role within the organization, how they're contributing to the organization's success, and that their efforts are making a difference.

If organizations want to keep these high-value employees through a change - and keep them productive - they must communicate the reasons for change, the rationale for decisions, the process of change, and how everything works together to achieve the goal.  Does it take time and money to do this?  Yes.  Will everyone on the team understand every detail?  Probably not.  Will it, in the end, help you retain your top performers and navigate the change successfully?  Absolutely.


Published in News
Page 1 of 2


Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
Read More

changesmart tm

ChangeSmart™ Advantage

Change is a fact of life today in business, but that doesn’t make it any easier to carry out successfully. ChangeSmart™ is a framework, a way to approach change. It is a roadmap for success.
Read More




Improve your bottom line through change.



Achieve your goals by focusing on three critical areas.


Contact Us

OFFICE: (732) 786-8223

FAX: (732) 786-8224