Structure in Threes: Change Management and Adoption

Wednesday I went back to Microsoft main campus to meet with friends, colleagues and management for a potential new role.  Had several interesting discussions with each.  The curious take away I came up with was a feeling of Déjà vu.  Like other enterprises I’ve designed and installed processes in, the real challenge is not design and development.  Though considering the aspects that improve adoption early in the design process is necessary but not sufficient, the hard part is adoption management.  That set of planning and execution activities that help organizations move from current state to transition state to new status quo.  There are many models and books on the market about change management.  Some of my favorites are those by Harvard Professor Kotter.  Other authors such as Hiatt (ADKAR), Association of National Advertisers (DAGMAR), Cialdini (Influence: Science and Practice) ,and Bosworth & Eades (Solution Selling) are divided into the marketing or behavior sciences realm.  The unfortunate aspect of most of these books is the practical application of these theories is left to the reader.

I can understand why this is; people are not machines that work in a repeatable and predictable manner.  While they may have tendencies to act a specific way there are no guarantees, if there were a magic formula Crossing the Chasm or finding the Tipping Point would be easier to do.  Given that people and organizations are a complex interaction of entities with conditions and events finding the right formula of activities to allocate funds to oft times becomes a quest for the holy grail resulting in analysis paralysis.

Those organizations that try the shotgun approach (throw everything at it and see what sticks) are on the other side of the spectrum.  Both approaches are less successful, typically achieving success due to chance rather than design.  Examples being those enterprises that spent so much time analyzing the Internet, they missed the bubble then later claim brilliance and insight for not investing rather than painfully slow processes. Or those ventures that charged ahead and as luck would have it had some measure of success then collapsed as the items that stuck did not constitute a sustainable business.

Change and adoption is similar in that either end of the spectrum may have some success by chance during a specific set of conditions and events.  However, when the conditions change or a new event occurs, snapback to the old way of doing things happens and one finds out that the organization really did not change how it was operating it just put a new veneer on over what it really was doing.  I call this the Jell-O Pyramid model.  Often leaders and change agents think they are being successful as they view the change from the top where they are applying pressure.  This bends the point of the pyramid in the direction they would like to go.  However, once the pressure is removed unless sufficient pressure was exerted long enough to move the base, the  pyramid snaps back to its original shape and position.  This suggests the need for a measurement and monitoring system similar to those pointed out in Stafford Beer’s research.  However, I’ll leave that for another blog post.

For the pragmatics of adoption I found a model in the small business arena of business development.  A book by C.J. Hayden, Get Clients Now!.  The book does not claim to be a master’s thesis in change management or sales.  What is does do that other books do not with its system, is move one from formula and theory or strategy to tactics.  In other words she’s created a system of strategic execution if I throw a Harvard label on it.  The book does not profess to tell you do A, then B, the C and get result D.  What it does do is show you tactics that have some strong correlation to success for various aspects of moving from one stage of business development to another.  She does not tell you specifically do A, but provides a list of potential “A”s, “B”s, and “C”s  that have had success for others.  These are tactics you can look at and quickly execute and measure results.  She continues with here system by having you measure both executing these tactics and the results.  This becomes the feedback system so important to ensuring you are actually doing something planned verses just doing everything.

I bring up this book as an example as I see this as the model to be used for change and adoption management, then after considering this I saw a similar pattern of execution management –without the list of tactics– in using Hoshin Planning.  I expect that the change and adoption planning section of the book with merge these two concepts.

Managing the change and adoption process suggests one measures current state, activities and reactions and sentiment


About briankseitz
I live in PacNW in a small town and work for Microsoft as a Enterprise strategy and architecture SME. I enjoy solving big complex problems, cooking and eating, woodworking and reading. I typically read between 4-8 business and technology books a month.

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