Tag Archives: resistance

3 Main Mistakes in Change Management

In my last blog, my engineer self admitted that the root causes for why core systems replacement projects don’t hit the mark in the business case are more likely related to people, not the technology. I stated that the business only changes when individual contributors each do their jobs differently.

Now let’s take a more detailed look.

There are many models out there that provide a framework for understanding change. One that we use frequently at Wipfli is the Prosci model, which is focused on understanding change at the individual level. Boiling it down to its simplest form, this model says the change must progress for each individual from awareness to desire to knowledge to ability to reinforcement.

Understanding that, Mistake #1 to avoid is measuring the need for change management based on executives’ paths, not their people’s. The executives responsible for the program and ultimately for the change management strategy, approach and investment are by definition the leaders furthest down their own change paths. That is, they are, in all probability, way beyond the awareness and desire stages. (Hint, hint: That’s why this core systems project is underway). And, not uncommonly, because of where they are, they may not understand the need to make a significant investment in change management.

Once you embrace the need for change management, there are an array of tools and techniques at your disposal. These include communications, sponsorship, coaching, training and resistance management. Mistake #2 to avoid is loading everything into communications as a one-and-done approach. In fact, I would guess that when most of us hear the term change management, we immediately think of communication. That’s good because change starts with awareness. But did you know that it takes something like five to seven communications for a message to be truly heard and understood by all? Remember that perfect project kickoff email you sent last week that summarized everything perfectly? Yeah – maybe 20% of your audience remembers it today. So communication must be multiple messages using multiple channels coming from multiple stakeholders.

Multiple studies over the years have reaffirmed the significant correlation between a project’s success and change management’s impact and, more specifically, the importance of the project sponsor’s role in both. Succinctly, the earlier the project sponsor is engaged in the project and the earlier the project sponsor embraces change management, the better the chance for success.

Mistake #3 concerns the project sponsor and her change management role. Just because you have a smart and engaged leader as your sponsor, don’t assume she knows what’s supposed to be done every week in a transformational core systems project if she hasn’t played that role before. For example, does the project sponsor know to build a coalition among the key managers and supervisors whom the affected employees will most want to hear from? At the end of the day, the employee will turn to his immediate boss and not the project sponsor to really get the WIIFM (what’s-in-it-for-me).

You get the idea. As much as agile project management and delivery approaches and methodologies have been embraced, used and hardened over the past 10 years, we need to do the same for change management.

Healthy Disrespect for the Impossible

When people are extraordinarily successful, examining their characteristics, values and attitudes can be instructive. The rest of us can learn from them and possibly adopt some of them to advance our own goals. Larry Page, co-founder of Google is an example of one who has achieved exceptional heights. Peering into his thought process can be enlightening.

Page says, “Have a healthy disrespect for the impossible.”

To conceive and develop the Google concept and then the massive company, its young founders had to have a very healthy disrespect for the impossible. Others besmirched the idea of collecting all the information in the world and then making it available to everyone in the world. Not only was it a bold idea, it was thought by most to be ridiculous and impossible. But Larry Page and Sergey Brin had a very healthy disrespect for the impossible. They made it happen.

The concept of disrespecting the impossible could be entertained by those of us in the workers’ compensation industry. True, few of us are likely to reach the pinnacle level of Larry and Sergey, but we can borrow some of their bold thinking to get past the assumptions and barriers that keep us from achieving more.

Everyone agrees workers’ compensation as an industry needs a healthy nudge to try new things. The industry is known for its resistance to change. Maybe the way to change the industry, to be an industry disruptor, is to begin with an attitude of disrespecting the impossible.

Many people, including those in the workers’ compensation industry, focus on why something cannot be done. Reasons for this notion are many, but probably cultural tradition plays a role. Inventiveness is not expected or appreciated. Too often, the best way to keep a job in corporations is to keep your head down and avoid being noticed. Spearheading a new ideas is risky.

Stonewalling new ideas or doing things differently or adopting new technology in an organization thwarts creative thought and certainly diverts progress. I was once told that to incorporate a very good product would mean doing things differently in the organization. So the answer was automatically no!

We all know the old saying about the word “ass-u-me.” It actually packs some truth. To avoid the trap, check assumptions for veracity. Incorrect assumptions can be highly self-limiting.

Begin the process of problem-solving with new thinking — disrespect the impossible. What could be done if the perceived barriers did not exist? What could be accomplished if new methods were implemented.

Probably the most important ingredient for achievement in any context is tenacity. It’s easy to quit when the barriers seem daunting. Tenacity combined with a disrespect for the impossible might be unbeatable.

The Consultants Are Here to See You…

If you are running an insurance claims operation, and your boss or the board brings in outside consulting experts to evaluate it, chances are you have a problem. Not just the problem the consultants are being called in to examine but a pricklier, more personal problem–a perception problem. Someone with some clout in your organization apparently doesn’t believe you are capable of doing whatever it is the consultants are going to be doing.

That puts you in a tricky situation, one that demands thoughtful action.

First off, don’t try to convince your boss or the board that you are an expert and that you don’t need outside assistance. Don’t waste time arguing that your training and years of experience managing claims qualify you for the challenge. Do understand that the decision has already gone the other way, and any attempt you make to reverse it looks like resistance, concealment, perhaps even cluelessness.

Think about it. If you argue that there is no problem, or the problem is outside of claims, or that every claims operation has the same problem, you risk being classified as stubborn and averse to change. Don’t protest that you have already diagnosed the problem and designed a solution; others don’t see things that way.

They want another opinion, another perspective. Maybe they don’t like your plan, or perhaps it conflicts with some other course of action they want to pursue. It could be they don’t quite know what the problem is, but there’s something troublesome in the loss numbers, and they want to understand why it is happening and what to do about it. Or, worst case for you, they might just be looking for evidence and justification for overhauling your organization and escorting you out the door.

The reason really doesn’t matter, but your response does. As activist and author Jerry Rubin once said: “The power to define the situation is the ultimate power.” You have the power to assist in framing the inquiry and shaping the outcome by being visible and playing an active, cooperative role with the experts during the engagement. Take advantage of that power.

First, welcome the consultants and make arrangements to provide them with whatever help and information they need. Brief them fully on your organization, your strategy and your operating procedures. Impress them with the dashboards and controls you use to manage risks and results. Talk to them about process efficiency, effectiveness and loss-cost management techniques. Show them how you establish and monitor key performance indicators and how you interact and communicate with your stakeholders. Demonstrate how you identify and incorporate best practices in your claims handling processes. If some of the consultants lack industry knowledge and have no background in claims–don’t be dismayed. Instead, patiently take the time to make sure they fully grasp how your company functions and how your operation contributes to results.

In other words, do whatever you can to provide the experts with plenty of evidence supporting the proposition that when it comes to running an insurance claims operation: 1) you know what to do, 2) you know how to do it and 3) you are doing it, quite well.

The consultants’ job is to identify performance gaps and root causes and propose actions to close those gaps. Your objective should be to provide them with the information, the insights and the support they need to do that job well. People who hire consultants usually believe the consultants will bring very high levels of knowledge, objectivity, credibility and perceptiveness to the engagement. While that belief might not always be accurate, the reality is that consultants’ findings are accepted as authoritative in most cases. That means their recommendations will affect you and your organization, so it makes sense for you to invest your time and effort into framing the inquiry and shaping the outcome. Give it your best shot–you might even learn something in the process.

The downside is that in tricky, prickly situations like this there is no guarantee things will turn out well even if you do everything right. Sometimes there are hidden operating agendas, foregone conclusions and predetermined outcomes underlying the consulting engagement, and unless you know about those factors going in, there’s not much you can do to manage their impact.