Change Management

May 13, 2011

Drain The Moat

Wide Moat

Do you know the song, Fortress Around Your Heart by Sting? The gist of the song, utilizing a battle-themed metaphor, is about a lover that cannot be won back due to a history of previous quarrels building up insurmountable defenses. This song has taken on new meaning to me as a result of a recent client experience.

We received a request to identify the best approach to satisfy the CRM requirements of a regional subsidiary within a global medical device business. Central IT, based at the corporate headquarters and located on a different continent, had selected a solution that this region did not embrace. The issue was centered on the belief that the chosen on-premise software was not going to be sufficiently agile as compared to a business-preferred cloud vendor’s capabilities. Our analysis compared the business requirements against the two technology approaches to determine which had the greatest ability to satisfy the demands.

It was a difficult engagement. The enmity and distrust between the business and IT was a strong dynamic and a serious impediment to reaching a productive conclusion. Our investigation necessitated an assessment of IT capabilities, which was resisted at every turn with severe defenses. Our recommendations were rebuked as if we were conducting a castle siege. There were no flags of truce, just like in Sting’s lyrics.

Because of the direction the technology marketplace is heading, we are likely going to witness more of this bunker mentality, but it does not have to be this way. Certainly we have seen great progress over the last decade regarding the concept of IT / Business alignment, but it is probable that the evolution of software to the cloud will be a great stressor to this improved organizational relationship. The migration of applications to the cloud can be viewed as a threat to the IT function, and it is typically accompanied with the need for organizational changes, particularly regarding skills and roles, which adds more stress. But, new technology approach is also an evolution of progress and can serve as an opportunity for IT to advance its abilities to serve the business more effectively.

Within companies that experience a tenuous relationship between the business and IT, the move toward the cloud will more than likely be a challenge. Because of a history of skirmishes IT no doubt has erected a fortress with a moat, drawbridge, and cannons. The business regularly pounds on the ramparts with artillery fire. It does not seem productive to me.

I propose a truce – stop firing and send up a flag. Let’s lower the drawbridge and drain the moat. Maybe we can re-forge the cannons into something less counterproductive. If we are going to re-examine how we achieve CRM, such as the consideration of a move to the cloud, it will require both parties to work on the same side. Yes, I understand that the business can be frustrated with their IT support and I also understand the frustrations of those who deliver that support. But, the analysis required to understand a migration to the cloud, and whether it makes business sense, will require collaboration.

So, are you considering a move to a castle in the clouds (that was what our study found would satisfy the client requirements best in this particular case)? Business stakeholders – you need to engage your IT folks as allies in the process. IT leaders – drop your defenses and view this as an opportunity to advance the capabilities of your function. Don’t surround your applications with towering battlements.

We can build a better castle working together.

Neuschwanstein Clouds

January 15, 2010

Resisting Innovation

On my way to a customer last week while nicely making way through mid-day traffic, I noticed out of my side window another wind turbine had popped up. We don’t have that many in New England so they still make a strong impression when first appearing in a new location. Seeing the large white blades cycling through the blue sky got me thinking about all those folks who are against this form of green energy.

What was so glaring about this situation on that ride into Boston was the looming ugly smoke stacks towering over the power plant just less than a mile from the wind turbine. While I understand that the good people of London have a fond feeling toward their iconic Battersea smoke stacks (partially due to them gracing the front of a Pink Floyd album cover) I don’t think anybody around our parts are particularly fond of sour moke stacks. They serve to represent destruction. However, it does not seem that much energy goes into complaining about their presence. On the other hand, a wind turbine, which represents symbiosis, somehow creates all sorts of consternation.

What is up with that? This means of powering homes and businesses does not destroy our planet. It is nearly free. And I personally find the towers far more aesthetically pleasing than old brick spires that belch toxins into our air. Do these people really think we are going to hurt birds or fish? Come on, man! (sorry ESPN).

With that rant out of the way, I have to make the same observation about many of the client organizations I work with. I am mortified at the number of folks who want to hold onto their old clunky technology because they have a misguided belief that it will be better than the new, updated technology planned to support their business. Perhaps the old software fits like an old shoe, and the new software will need some breaking in. Never mind that the old shoe is causing a bunion.

Most of the new CRM software platforms today are much friendlier to the business, just like wind turbines and our Mother Earth. Typically the new technology costs less to operate, provides better individual benefits, and has the potential for much greater business benefits. It is possible there will be a trade off or two. Yes, the old clunky system probably has some customization that will be lost. But, there is a good chance that the process that has been automated by that customization is old and clunky too. It very well may be that the inherent processes built within the software are better. If it will only be given it a chance.

Yes, there is a trade off with wind turbines. They are large, and they will change the landscape they are erected within. I am fine with seeing them out my window overlooking the North Atlantic. I will accept that trade off against what the alternative is. I wish more people would take this attitude both with this new form of renewable energy and with their new CRM software.

Turbo Transforma

July 03, 2009

How's Your Weather

For those of you reading this posting from outside of the New England region you may not be aware that we have had a run poor weather to the degree that some of us are thinking about moving to sunny spots like London and Seattle for an improvement. But, there is a silver lining to the plethora of clouds otherwise ruining our summer vacations. Berries. If blackberries were a disease, the WHO would declare my back yard as an epidemic zone.

At our house berries equate to pies. There have been years where we have had to go on long berry picking expeditions just to get a pie’s worth. This year you can pick about 4 or 5 pies an hour and not have to move more than about 20 feet just on the edge of my lawn. So, we are going to capitalize on our good fortune and bake some pies. If you invite us over for a BBQ don’t expect potato salad because we will be bringing a pie – maybe two. Of course, the cook outs have been problematic as we have been going through some trouble getting the grill lit during the down pours.

Silver Lining

The better question is what is the silver lining you are pursuing right now? One of the great things about a difficult economic cycle is that it can serve as a catalyst for your business to create a change. Some may be dealing with a burning platform type of situation. Revenue has been hit so hard that it is a situation of change or go extinct. However, I am not referring to that sector. My recommendation is for those of you who are doing so-so, if treading water.

One of the things we have learned about organizational change is that people can do very well when they have a mobilizing force to rally them toward a cause. A recession can serve as that force – although we may be looking at a window that is starting to shut. Have you been considering a new product line or market segment? This may be the time. Yes, there are risks, but the psychological environment is good and sometimes it is the organizational culture that gets in the way of change not the market.

If you do decide to take this on, there are a couple of things I recommend. First, make a big deal about the fact that you are making a change in the business direction. Don’t do this under the radar as a test – at least not internally. Once again, the opportunity here is one of mobilization. You want to do the all-hands-on-deck thing. It is a way of also getting folks out of the burrowing down attitude that can come with the doom and gloom they hear on the news.

Second, don’t be too conservative even if the capital is a bit tight. If you can act quickly in turning the ship you may be in a very good position when things turn the corner economically. If you don’t have as much money to invest as you would like, be aggressive in other ways. Maybe push hard on web and e-mail marketing if you can’t expand your sales force. Use contractors for development if you can’t increase your R&D staff. It is a time for creativity

Finally, don’t ignore your existing customers in all this. Invite them in. They may be the best source of your input and feedback. They are changing too. Doing this whole thing collaboratively may be your best path. If nothing else, send some of your front line folks out there to get some suggestions.

Eventually it is going to stop raining here in New England and the water may warm up in August enough to actually swim. I’ve got my boat gassed up and ready to go, when the clouds break. Are you ready for when the money starts flowing again?

April 03, 2009

Conditions for Change

One of the interesting things about our new presidential administration is that it is being inundated with behavioral scientists. We heard a lot about the term “change” during the campaign, but now there are folks who specialize in making change happen who are helping guide policy making for everything from economics to nutrition.

This is great news for a number of reasons. Too often in the past policy has been formulated through special interest. I am not naïve enough to believe this will go away, but I am encouraged that individuals who understand the science of change are getting a chance to influence outcomes successfully. Additionally, as a fellow behavioral scientist, I am glad that my profession is getting a little time in the press.

My experience is that when folks hear the term “change management” they think of fluffy stuff like encounter workshops where people can express feelings but not much else gets accomplished. Of course, then there is also the old joke: “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but the light bulb has to want to change!” Hopefully, those working with the Obama cabinet will provide some positive exposure to this discipline that is a true science.

Psych Institute

What we have learned about this team of specialists so far is that they are making recommendations that involve fundamental change management concepts that apply equally to societal changes as well as organizational changes. Few CRM programs are exempt from these dynamics. So, following along with what is going on in Washington will be educational for managing organizational changes within CRM.

The principal conditions for effective change management include the following:
• Clear Direction – CRM programs will have a better chance of success when it is clear what the program is attempting to achieve and how it supports business strategy.
• Compelling Rationale – When people understand the reasons why change is required and the benefits it will bring, they will have more inclination to go along with the changes.
• Leader Sponsorship – Individuals in leadership roles have a strong positive influence over program success if they visibly and actively support the changes.
• Cultural Conformity – Peer pressure is a real factor when it comes to change and employees are more likely to conform if they believe their co-workers are doing it too.
• Minimum Barriers – The process of change is difficult enough and even less effective when programs create complexities in processes or technology – simple and easy is best.
• Personal Competency – In the end, change comes down to the individual and assuring that they have the capability to perform new tasks is essential to success.

I truly find it interesting that these same conditions for change are being built into policy development in the Beltway focused on the economy, healthcare and energy management. We won’t know how well they are working for some months to come, but you don’t need to wait to build these into your CRM program now.

January 23, 2009

Cats and Dogs

When I was a kid I made the observation that some people acted like cats and some people acted like dogs. Cat people were independent and maybe even a bit unreliable. Dog people were amazingly loyal and steadfast. You could really count on your dog friends, but there was something elusive about the cat friends, which was strangely appealing.
I still think about this categorization process from time to time. There are cat people and dog people in my life today. And, just like my actual feline and canine family members I appreciate what each brings to the relationship. It is great that cats can take care of themselves so well, but it is also great that a dog can make such a faithful companion.
The same set of characteristics that differentiate a Maine Coon from a Chesapeake Retriever also apply in the work place. Some are really good on their own and some need to belong. One dimension of this is related to the type of employment that is desirable. For example, for those of you who are facing the prospect of an impending layoff you may be pondering the opportunities provided by free lancing rather than looking for another employer.
For some the idea of being on one’s own is extremely appealing – no boss, no politics, no working for somebody else. For others this is terrifying – no security, no coworkers, no regular income. I think this is one of those dog and cat differences. Cats are going to be more comfortable on their own. Dogs are going to look for another place to join.
I have had the chance to work in both situations and I have discovered that I am definitely a dog – perhaps a German Shepherd, but with the desire to run with a pack. There are benefits in numbers. But I have friends who do better and are more comfortable running their own show. If you are not sure where you fall on the continuum it can be a risky experiment. However, if you do some self reflection and you come back with the feeling that going out as an independent consultant fits you, I strongly encourage it. If you get squeamish, it is probably better for you to be banging on the job boards.
Good luck with your decision.


December 26, 2008

The Year of Change

This time of year we see a lot of top 10 lists for this or that topic as a way of wrapping up the previous 12 months. One list I ran across – the top 10 buzzwords for the year – found the word “change” as the number one for 2008.

This is all very exciting stuff for me, as my lifelong career focus has been on managing organizational changes. Of course, the authors of this list were not thinking about organizational change management, they were thinking about political change, economic change and hopefully a change in the attitude of the rest of the planet toward our nation.

On the other hand, it is all the same thing. Organizations are social systems, just on a smaller scale than countries. I suspect that all of the same forces that are creating change here in the states (and in many countries across the planet) are also creating change within a majority of companies across the globe. You have a choice about these change – be a victim and accept what ever the change hands you, or take a stance and prepare to manage and guide events in a constructive fashion.

When it comes to managing and planning organizational changes, I use a fairly simple methodology to assist my clients to deal with changes effectively – utilizing the following four basic stages:

Plan – define the target end state and identify the actions to mitigate resistance
Communicate – provide a strong sense of direction and regular updates on progress
Enable – ensure that the necessary resources are available to complete the change
Reinforce – utilize mechanisms to reaffirm incremental changes and reward successful accomplishment

Bough Tricolore

While this approach may appear simplistic I am constantly surprised at how seldom these stages are followed correctly when organizations attempt changes without the requisite attention to change management. It is not rocket science, but it does require effort.

I am not one for prognostication, but I suspect 2009 will be a year where we begin to see the ramifications of change that were initiated in 2008. Certainly some are going to be tough to get through, but I also look forward to some positive changes as well. If you are looking for a New Years Resolution, I have one to offer. Be proactive with change management this year – your business will benefit from this resolution should you have the gumption to see it through.

Wishing everyone a prosperous and peaceful 2009!

November 07, 2008

Carpe Diem

History Made

It has been an historic week for us here in the States and I am hopeful, like many, that we are taking a positive step forward. While watching a cable news channel the day after the election the story was focused on the transition and need for speed – act while there is an atmosphere of acceptance and good will. In other words, Washington D.C. is maleable for the moment and carpe diem is the best advice.

This all brings back to mind my ’68 Mustang. My brother sold it to me for $50 and I was thrilled with the idea of the freedom my first car provided to me. Of course the 289 horses in such a small frame made for additional thrill. But that special car has nothing to do with our recent election. It was the rust on that Mustang, and more specifically the work that I performed to replace that rust, which is the point of this posting.

For those of you who have done a little body work this will make a lot of sense. The stuff one uses to make a fender whole and smooth again, Bondo, is an interesting chemical compound. You take a big glop out of the can and you mix it with a little squeeze of paste out of a tube and then for about 20 minutes you have this wonderful substance that can be formed into any shape, curve or contour. It can match the flare of a wheel well or the convex recession of a door. And then, like magic, it hardens and becomes one with the car. A little excess can be sanded, then painted and the rust is gone and the old beat up car transforms into a new sleek silver art piece on wheels.

Our President Elect likewise has virtually 20 minutes of pliability before things harden on Capitol Hill and become much more difficult to form into the shape we need to get back on track. I hope he can act swiftly.

We all face this within our companies from time to time. For different reasons we undertake big changes. Sometimes they are thrust upon us – reorganizations that will be caused by this unfolding recession, acquisitions that demand realignment of resources; and sometimes we choose to take changes on proactively – moving into new markets with new products and services, updating technical systems to modernize the workforce.

No matter the reason, once we start the change process, typically with the expenditure of a huge amount of organizational energy, there is a period of pliability. The organizational Bondo is in a stage of acceptance that is far easier to form into the desired shape at that time than it will be later once the dust settles.

Often I am told by my clients when I propose a secondary change that they would prefer to take on the additional effort once that proverbial dust has settled. Under many circumstances this postponement is a mistake. Again, carpe diem is the better answer. It is an issue of the economy of scale of organizational change. If your employees are going to muscle through a change in technology and process, a little bit of structure or policy change on top of it is going to be nothing. In fact, if the additional changes are related, it is probably best to have them be combined.

Sometimes the counter argument is to doll out a little change over a sustained set of periods – an attempt at the boiled frog syndrome. I don’t buy this rationale because all it does is prolong the stress to the organization. People get exhausted and the performance of the organization suffers.

No, this whole organizational Bondo thing is very real. Act while you are in the pliability period. It is easier to change the organization when it is in a state of change readiness. Once it goes back to the more rigid and natural state, change is harder, more stressful and less likely.

No, are you thinking about your first car?

68 Mustang in Flux

August 29, 2008

60 Moments

As I started to formulate the topic for this entry Andy Rooney came to mind. You have seen old episodes of 60 Minutes where the old curmudgeon would come on the screen with a nasally whine and complain about something that most of us would consider inane.

While I don’t want this to come off that way, I do have somewhat of a complaint to air, and also propose a solution for. You see, it kind of drives me crazy when people use the term Change Management imprecisely. Before we go forward, stop and take a moment to think of what your definition of change management is. I’ll wait while you think it through and maybe even write it down.

Feline Curmudgeon

OK, so I have heard the same term used to represent four pretty different things. They go something like this:

1) Change Management = the process for effectively managing scope changes within a technology project.
2) Change Management = the methods for minimizing the resistance to planned organizational changes
3) Change Management = the meta-methodology utilized to drive the transformation of an organization from the current state to a future state
4) Change Management = the process of reducing headcount in an organization through layoffs

I have fairly good evidence of these four due to the Google search I have automated, providing me new postings daily from across the World Wide Web on the topic. Virtually all of the different postings will fall into one of these four categorical definitions. However, I think it is confusing and can cause professionals to get into difficulty when attempting to communicate their intentions around doing something about one of these important business issues.

For purposes of clarity I would like to suggest four different, more precise terms to represent each of the four topics, as follows:

1 = Change Control
2 = Change Readiness
3 = Business Transformation
4 = Workforce Deployment

Now, with that out of the way we might want to ask the question, what relevance does this all have or is this just another inane whining in the spirit of that Sunday evening TV news program?

The relevance for me is that each of the four topics can be connected to a CRM program and I think it is useful to not get them confused. Two of them are more important to me than the others where I spend a lot of time focusing .

Change Readiness is really critical to CRM programs because almost all involve the introduction of new technology into the organization. Historically, organizations have done rather poorly accommodating technology change – mostly because the resistance to the technology has been ignored rather than managed.

My favorite way to illustrate this is with the 1959 motion picture The Battle of the Sexes. This movie starring Peter Sellers is totally mis-titled because the story line is all about the introduction of a computer into a well running office and how the employees go about sabotaging the technology in order to fight the change. It is both hysterical and a biting satire on the struggles businesses encounter harnessing the power of technology. Plus, it was decades ahead of its time. Check it out.

Most CRM projects that fail do so because the resistance to the technology change is not addressed properly. I spend significant effort helping clients with this aspect of CRM programs.

Business Transformation is also another critical topic for a subset of CRM programs. There are times when the strategy for the program involves making substantial changes to the way work is performed, which is due to substantial changes to the strategy, policies, and approach the organization is taking in the market place. Under these circumstances the CRM program needs to focus on changing the organization, not just introducing some new technology along with some accompanying process modifications.

Transforming a business takes more planning, more resources, more expertise across a wider range of functions, and much, much stronger commitment from the executive team than the average run-of-the-mill implementation of This too is an area where I focus much of my attention with client organizations.

If Andy were delivering this in a monologue, he would probably then go on to complain that confusing Business Transformation with something like Change Control is dangerous and that people should get their act together and call things by their correct names. Yes, managing scope is different from managing sweeping business change, so perhaps he would be right to a tantrum.

July 18, 2008

Get Ready


Discussing change management along with CRM has become pretty commonplace. Back in the 90’s I had trouble getting an audience when attempting to explain the need for managing changes within CRM programs. While I feel some vindication with the amount of press that the convergence of these two topics gets today in the technology media, I feel there are still some misconceptions.

One of the difficulties is that the term change management is now offered up too easily, as any buzz word. This causes program managers and CRM stakeholders to become careless with what it means and what it requires. Plus, it has taken on meaning in some circles as synonymous with down sizing or with business transformation. So, there is confusion out there.

I like to begin the process of clarification by asking the question, is your CRM program being put in place to keep the lights on or are you out to change the business? The answer is going to be somewhere on a continuum. At the one end is an organization embarking on CRM by bringing in call center automation in an effort to assist the service agents to better keep up with demand. At the other end of the continuum is the organization that develops a customer segmentation model utilizing newly implemented analytics software. This program will change everything from how the company thinks about its customers all the way to how a customer is treated during every touchpoint.

If your program is going to look more like the latter than the former you need to be ready for change. If you need to transform the business to get the results you are seeking from your CRM program, then you also need to put the correct effort into it. Most programs are good at providing the tools needed for making the business changes. However, transformation requires more – changing the strategy, leadership, policy, roles, rewards, processes, competencies, and possibly even the organizational culture. These all need to be planned and managed as much as the implementation of the tools.

Business transformation is hard to do, mostly because it requires making changes to all the factors above, plus dealing with the resistance to the changes. But the number one cause of business transformation failure is due to programs starting without sufficient clarity and alignment regarding the expected end state. So, when answering the question, “are you ready?” it is best to start with asking whether the program objectives are clear and agreed to. Where are you on the continuum – just run the business or actually change it? Once you have this truly settled you can plan effectively for the rest of the program.

May 23, 2008

Customers In Middle Earth

Back in the last millennium I was introduced to JRR Tolkein in a literature class as a freshman in high school. The teacher wanted to give us an opportunity to learn a bit about the dynamics of change. The quest at the center of the Lord of the Rings saga was all about the transformation of Frodo as an individual and not so much about all the other stuff going on.

Fast forward a few decades and finally some decent cinema emerges with hobits, ents, wizards, and orks. It was magnificent. The whole thing came to life, but the story changed a bit. The version on the screen was about good versus evil and a messianic character with long greasy hair. The Shire, however, became real, along with Rivendale and Morder. It was fabulous.

Next, I find myself in London with time on my hands one evening and opportunities in the West End. The problem was that I couldn’t decide between Billy Elliot and Wicked. But, just when I had thought I made up my mind, there was a poster as I travelled up a particularly long escalator on the tube. It was a picture of a beautiful elf princess, looking a bit like the daughter of a 70’s rock star. The Lord of the Rings was playing at the Drury Lane – my plans were settled. – no Wicked Witch of the West.

This is where the story takes a turn. The stage version, which by the way was marvelous, is all about going through the process of change. My freshman literature teacher would have been so pleased. They got it right. There was an prevailing emphasis on what one has to give up in the process of achieving something important and worthwhile.

Naturally I immediately thought about CRM. You must all think that I am seriously nuts.

Middle Earth

So, give me some room with this. CRM is truly about taking on a quest. I don’t want to over dramatize this, but it is really true. To be successful, you have to give up certain things. You have to let go of some old stuff in order to have what is new in the CRM vision. For example, most of the time there is a certain amount of independence that may be lost with a CRM program – usually there is some new accountability or discipline involved. Much of the time you have to put in a little extra effort, and sometimes that effort is for the benefit of somebody else initially and does not return as a benefit to you until later in the cycle.

You cannot get to the CRM end point without giving up something. Just like Frodo. CRM is not about a battle of good versus evil. It is about figuring out what works well, and not doing things that don’t work well. Although that is a significant battle, however.

One thing that I have not completely figured out in the comparison between CRM and the Lord of The Rings is the fact that Frodo does not get to reap the rewards of his successful quest. He goes on to something else (something better we are expected to believe). Not sure what the message is here relative to those who lead successful CRM programs.

As a final note, I should state that it is a noble thing to attempt to portray thousands of pages of fantasy within a single production on a stage and the limitations of live performance. The critics have unfairly ravaged the production. As a result, the time is running out for seeing this extremely entertaining, mesmerizing, and ultimately true to the story line stage version of a classic piece of work. Gollum alone is worth the price of admission.

On the other hand, shortly after finally finishing the Trilogy back in the 70’s I had the opportunity to attend a poorly reviewed production of a musical about gangsters, also at the Drury Lane. Chicago came back two decades later as a block buster. If you can’t get to London before the end of July, perhaps you will have another chance to see this CRM metaphor on stage involving little people with hairy feet.

August 10, 2007

Two by Two

I ran across a blog on the SAP blogsite the other day that shared some good ideas for managing change within technology projects. - check it out.

Back Seat Drivers

I use a tool for identifying the change management risks for project work that include similar factors as discussed in the recommended blog above. I’ll share those in another posting. How do you determine what is most critical for addressing? Use a similar tool to audit where you are and forecast what is going to get in the way. Put actions in place to proactively address the suspected issues, but also reactively address as well. Make sure you have consensus about project outcomes with your sponsors. Involve your users to maximize adoption – that kind of thing

Most of the time management commitment is the factor that bites the hardest. Without strong management sponsorship the likelihood for success is poor. In the aforementioned SAP blog it is suggested that the building of the Tower of Babel is history’s first project – although a failed one. I’ll propose that the first project was successful, and it was due to strong executive sponsorship. Go see Evan Almighty for your proof.

March 30, 2007

Paradigms = 20 Cents

Perhaps one of the hardest aspects of CRM is getting individuals to embrace changes that have a strong impact on their frame of reference. When people have to think or act or feel differently as a result of a CRM initiative, success can be elusive. Take the following for example:
“When I get done with a client visit I phone in the figures to an admin back at the home office and call it a day. Now you want me to enter it all into a computer while I am out on the road? Plus, you want me to type in stuff about the call – are you nuts?”

This illustration pretty much says it all. A field rep is being asked to use technology differently, follow a new process, do what is perceived as double extra work, perform a task that somebody less skilled is supposed to do, and provide information to management to make it easer to be checked on. And we wonder why we have so much trouble with these programs.

Tobacco Bay X2

CRM often requires impacted employees to encounter some form of paradigm change. This requires concerted effort to overcome and will require planning and resources to drive adoption to levels required for CRM program success. (See the past entry titled, Yet Another List of 7, for recommendations for driving up user adoption.)

The difficulty in getting staff past their resistance to change becomes compounded when management doesn’t acknowledge that the change management hurdle is a legitimate and resource requiring element of the program. I have had more than one CIO look me in the eye and say, “It doesn’t matter if they want to use the new system – they won’t have a choice!” How telling that statement is.

So, in this case the paradigm change really is a management issue. Management members, especially those managing the access to resources, must accept that overcoming resistance to change is a key aspect to successful CRM planning and execution. The bigger the change, the bigger the resistance, which requires commensurate attention to user acceptance.

If you were to force me to place a figure on what kind of budget is required to drive user acceptance, I will quote the conventional 15 percent of overall program budget (which also includes training costs). However, it is not just the resource allocation which is needed. What I am going to state next is going to sound really hokey. But, I am firmly resolved in my belief that management must also believe that dealing with resistance to change is a legitimate endeavor. Giving it just lip service somehow seems to undermine the efforts of the program. Look for a future entry for more on this aspect of the paradigm change issue.

February 09, 2007

From NFL to NBA to SFA

Now that the Super Bowl is behind us (Virginia McCaskey please find your team a real QB) it is time to fill the pigskin void with alternative action such as bobsledding, figure skating, or even basketball. There were some interesting happenings over in the NBA that could be worth a brief conversation. I’ll give credit to Mike Hoban writing for for making the connection between the professional hoopsters and common challenges with the sales force.
All American Ball
As you may have heard, at the beginning of the season, the NBA decided to roll out a new basketball. It was a real double dribble, with the players totally rejecting the new synthetic ball. There is much that can be questioned about this particular business fiasco, such as, what business reason made them choose to do this – did a sports manufacturer have a stake in the outcome? Another big question is why did they proceed with this significant change without getting the endorsement of the players?

This should all sound very familiar to my friends in sales operations. They have seen plenty of changes to tools of the trade rejected by the players. Pipeline report forms, expense reimbursement templates, forecasting tools, activity reporting procedures – the list of rejected tools is endless. And they were all good ideas! Certainly the chief of the island of misfit tools is Salesforce Automation. The money that has been invested and lost on this technology is staggering – even more than the combined endorsement deals for the NBA players this year.

You have seen in previous entries my observation that SFA often gets into trouble when management is the beneficiary of the tool at the expense of the sale rep. There is a delicate balance between satisfying the needs of management or the business and satisfying the needs of the folks who actually do the selling. This is a critical balance that often goes wrong and results in poor SFA adoption. This story from the NBA, however, provides an interesting example of a third factor in the need for balance, and that is Information Technology (both the business function as well as the physical technology itself).

Back in the 90’s more than one CIO chose to purchase a big CRM package because it made sense from the perspective of IT. However, the purchase and implementation was not done with the requirements of the business or the needs of the users fully in mind. As a result, big money was wasted and CRM developed a tarnished reputation. The new basketball was introduced in a very similar fashion.

Sometimes IT has to do things that cause abrasion with the business – upgrades, maintaining standards, introducing support procedures, prioritizing enhancements. These are all necessary for running the function, but they don’t always please the business. Yet, just going out and buying new software or switching to a new ball just can’t be done this way. More effort has to go into striking the balance: the balance between Management, the User and IT. This is not an easy love triangle, and it requires much involvement between the parties, but for the introduction of tools like SFA it is the only way to be successful. It will make the difference between fouling out or making a 3-point buzzer shot.

December 01, 2006


Recently I met with a Sales Operations VP for one of my clients who was chartered with the task of purchasing a Sales Force Automation (SFA) solution for the sales organization in his company. As he described it to me, the problem was that the enterprise needed to improve the performance of their sales reps because of a “flattening of revenues”. The solution, in their mind, was a software system that would be good at effectively producing territory activity reports and weekly forecasts.

Now my guess is that there are two reactions to this initial description of the situation. The first reaction is most likely, “Hey, that sounds just like what I need for my sales function!” The second reaction, which is more closely linked to my initial reaction is, “Wow, that sounds more like a solution that is making it easy for sales management to produce reports, while putting the burden on the average sales rep.”

Now, I don’t want to offend anyone, but if you were leaning toward the first reaction, I think it would be helpful for you to read on a bit, because you may be about to fall into a trap. Putting in a software system to make reporting easy, under the guise of improving sales rep performance, is usually a recipe for disaster.

OK, so I admit that it is stupid, and cliché, and unoriginal, but the acronym WIFM is what comes to mind when I encounter these situations. You know what it means – what’s in it for me? If there were any laws governing the introduction of SFA software into an organization, the first law would be called WIFM. This is because it is nearly impossible to successfully implement an SFA solution into a sales organization without including a means by which the average sales rep gets a real, solid, honest-to-goodness benefit from using the system. End of story.

But I am going to explain anyway. I have referenced this before, but if you go look at the research by companies like Gartner, or any other analyst firm, you will find study after study that demonstrates that user adoption of SFA systems requires the buy-in of the user (sales person) and the buy-in is contingent upon the individual finding a benefit to the utilization of the software, for themselves – not for their boss or for the company. I have read study after study that lists this issue in the top 10 requirements for success, or the top 7 risk factors, or whatever. My experience with Sales Force Automation says it is The #1 variable to address if you want to be successful. If you want to implement SFA, make sure your sales people see a tangible benefit.

And, furthermore – I’m not done ranting yet – absolutely don’t spin this. Don’t give them a system that carefully satisfies management needs and then try to convince them, with hype and cajoling, that it is good for them too. These are smart people you have hired; please give them more credit than to believe you can put this over on them. They will figure it out and the result will be, according to the undeniable statistics, that they will completely underutilize the software, if use it at all. There goes the ROI out the window.

November 17, 2006

Cow Tipping

Have you seen the movie Cars? It is very entertaining and better than I expected, as I found myself in need to pass some time on a transcontinental flight recently. Without question my favorite part of the animated movie is the tractor tipping scene. Don’t worry – I won’t spoil it for you, but it does remind me of an important topic that I often equate to cow tipping.

So, before anyone gets out of joint, I need to go on record as stating, 1) I have not performed the cow tipping act; 2) I do not condone cow tipping. Also, I understand that no cows or tractors were injured filming the movie Cars. With that disclaimer out of the way, let me explain.

There is a problem for many managers with regard to their attitude toward managing the natural dynamic we commonly know as “resistance to change”. A change is to be introduced into the organization, such as new technology, a new work process, or a new work schedule and everyone knows that it will be met with resistance. A common approach to dealing with the resistance is to keep the change quiet, introduce it quickly and without any choice, and then expect people to comply once it is announced, with no potential for discussion or modification. This is the cow tipping approach to managing organizational change.

So, you have heard of cow tipping, but are not quite sure what it is. It goes something like this. Some teenagers are out driving the back roads of rural somewhere after dark, possibly with a six pack, and they pass a field with cows standing, motionless, asleep. Somebody in the car suggests a cow tipping excursion, and they stop on the side of the road, jump the fence, and run as fast as they can toward the cow. Upon impact, they push with all their might against the side of the cow, which is taken by surprise and topples over.

This is the same as making a change without employee involvement (they are metaphorically asleep) because if you do this while the cow is awake, by the way, the cow has an amazing ability of leaning toward the oncoming push. Think about the physics – 2000 pound cow leaning against two 160 pound teenagers. Cows don’t tip over when they are awake. And employees also often push back when they are given the option of taking on an organizational change when they are awake – and they too collectively weigh more than management.

A more effective change management approach is more like getting the cow to agree to recline – don’t ask me how because I’m not a farmer or rancher – but I know its possible and the metaphor does not have to work perfectly – give me some license here. When you tip over a 2000 pound cow it often gets hurt in the process and dairy cows might not produce milk normally as a result. The same things happen to poorly introduced organizational changes. Employees have bad reactions and productivity gets impacted negatively.

When it comes to introducing significant organizational change, I always opt for some form of involvement to reduce the inevitable resistance. Don’t tip over the cow in the middle of the night and take what appears to be the easy approach. Rather, find a means to get it into the desired position in a way that causes fewer problems.

Now, go check out that tractor tipping scene. I guarantee you will laugh.