20 Change Management Lessons from Working Over 20 years in Change
Talk to almost anyone about change, and it immediately brings up feelings of stress.
We like to get comfortable in our routines. Yes, we stretch, we grow, but at a pace that feels, well, convenient because we’re in control. Thriving when we’re out of control is a much tougher prospect; it takes us out of our sweet spot on our way to discover what we hope will be a new cozy place.
The bottom line to successful change, whether personal or organizational, is it requires change management. Winging it will take you somewhere, all change does, but it may not be where you want, or intend, to go.
Out of undergrad, I was hired as a change management consultant and never looked back. Since then, I’ve not only focused on organizational change but began to research and understand what creates change for each one of us as an individual.
Poor reception for some early change management programs I supported taught me that change management is not the same as project management. Early on, most of my change management experience was related to IT change. Successfully cutover from one system to the new system and boom – change management. Um, no.Unfortunately, that thinking glossed over the magic that would make the change stick and avoid pissing of critical employees along the way. Project management is about process and at its heart, change management is about people.
20 Change Management Lessons from Working Over 20 years in Change
1. Organizational change management has three key aspects: Sponsorship (who is sponsoring the change? Make sure they are active, visible supporters.), Training (what do I need to know/do differently after the change), Communications (2-way during, before and after the change). You need to consider all of these pieces in a successful change program.
2. Identify a sponsor who has influence. If the sponsor does not have the necessary influence both up and down the chain, but instead is given the responsibility without authority, the change program is doomed from the start.
3. Conference calls can and should be a part of the communication strategy, but you need to go to where the people are too. The impact of looking eye to eye is hard to replace with a conference call. Besides, what do you do on a conference call? Check your phone, email, Candy Crush? Yeah. Most other people on the call are doing that too. Get out from behind your desk already.
4. A feedback box in the break room only works if you respond to people’s concerns. Addressing issues without telling people they’ve been addressed is not very useful.
5. Change management communication is more than just PR. It’s not a one-way deal. You need to create forums where you can listen to people’s concerns and respond. If you don’t have a firm answer, “I hear you” and “I’ll find out” or “I’ll figure it out and get back to you” works wonders.
6. You need to trust your employees. Give them opportunities to get together and talk about the changes even when you’re not in the room facilitating (i.e., controlling the situation). Make time to meet with them afterward and hear about their concerns, ideas and suggestions.
7. Don’t be afraid of implementing recommendations that come from the team to support the change. If your change management efforts consist of a bunch of senior leaders who lock themselves in a room for endless meetings and to solve every problem… it’s time for a change.
8. When your change requires the team to learn new skills, give them multiple ways to acquire the skills. A mix of job aids that can be posted in their workspace, live training events, webinars and online training are likely necessary. Change and learning are not one size fit all.
9. Remove other options. I know that this sounds harsh but if you’re asking people to change the way they live and work, but they can still do the same thing they’ve always done, and it works, do you think they’ll change? No, me neither. This applies to both organizational and personal change.
10. Be a stickler for the process. You may feel like a jerk, but new procedures, systems, processes, ways of working take time to be adopted. Training is not a magic switch; it’s only a single component of the overall change management solution.
What's an Investor to Do When History Doesn't Repeat Itself?
We’re in an era of extremes. It seems a day doesn’t go by without the word “historical” popping up in the financial news.
The equities market and consumer debt are at historical highs. Interest rates and high-yield credit spreads are at historical lows. We haven’t seen even a 5% pull-back in the market this year—for the first time since 1995—and the DJIA is exhibiting its narrowest trading range in history. These are indeed historical times. And whether this fact has you filled with extreme optimism or extreme pessimism, you have some important decisions to make going forward.
There are theories about how we landed in this particular era of extremes, and most are rooted in the significant changes that have impacted both how we live and how we invest. At the top of the list are globalization, automation, and the largest aging population in history (yet another “historical” to add to the list). It’s said that the most dangerous words in investing are, “it’s different this time,” yet one has to wonder if, in fact, it really is different this time. Not just because of the historical market highs. After all, there always has been and always will be a new market high waiting around the corner. What’s different today is the sheer number and confluence of these extreme highs and lows—and their duration. It’s a situation no investor has experienced before, which can make these waters feel pretty daunting. History repeats itself, and investment strategies are largely built on that conviction. But what do we do when it doesn’t? When history fails to repeat itself, how can investors plan for tomorrow with confidence that they are positioned to protect their assets and gain a reasonable level of yield?
The first step is to recognize that, at least in many ways, the investment landscape really is different this time around. All you have to do is look at the numbers to be sure of that fact. And the catalysts I mentioned before—globalization, automation, and the aging population—aren’t going anywhere. If anything, the impact of each will only grow as time moves on. What that means is that there’s no way to predict what’s coming next. The only thing we know for certain is that predictability is a thing of the past (if it ever really existed at all). The result: you need to approach your portfolio differently than you ever have before.
Your goal, of course, is to find return given a risk tolerance. Current yield is an important part of total return and getting it is an elusive proposition in today’s market. If, like many people, you’re less than confident that the four major sectors that currently drive the equities market—healthcare, discretionary, tech, and financial—are poised to continue to rise at even close to recent rates, it may be wise to seek out alternatives to help drive yield without adding more risk to the equation.
But if alternatives are the wise path forward, which alternatives are the best options?
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Business Development Companies (BDCs), and energy stocks, traditionally the favored “non-correlated alternatives,” defied expectations when the stock market crashed in 2008, inconveniently revealing high correlations just as the equities market began its freefall. Anyone who was invested in these alternatives at the time knows all too well the devastating impact “non-correlated investments” can have on a portfolio, especially when they fail to do their job when it matters most.
Luckily, there is one alternative that can be counted on to remain uncorrelated to the traditional financial markets and, ultimately, deliver that precious yield: life insurance-based investments. And because this asset is literally built on one of the irreversible catalysts of change, the aging Baby Boomer population, owning life insurance may in fact be the ideal alternative to help investors generate non-correlated returns, regardless of where the market turns next. Even better, these investments typically deliver those returns with very low volatility.
What makes life insurance different is that, unlike typical alternative vehicles, secondary life insurance returns aren’t based on the economy. Instead, they are inherently non-correlated because returns are based solely on the longevity of the individual insureds.
As much as we would all love for the bull market to continue on its merry way, one thing history does tell us even today is that a bear market will come. It’s only a matter of when. As you strive to hedge your portfolios and prepare for the inevitable, life insurance-based investments are one tool that can help you achieve the three things you need most: diversification, low volatility, and yield.
- 1 of 1536