Episode #04

Conditions for Success: Strategically Launching Your Change Initiative

with Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

In this episode, I answer the question, “How can we reduce the chaos we experience when launching a change initiative? How can we set it up for success from the start?”  

We all want to generate lasting results from our change initiatives, but many of us–and the leaders we serve–don’t think about how to set them up for a smooth launch beyond selecting a project manager and team. 

We’ll explore strategic steps to identify, establish and sustain the conditions and dynamics required for change efforts to succeed. By consciously creating conditions for success right from the beginning of any change effort, leaders can boldly influence how their plans and teams are set up, orchestrated and solutions adopted. This work ensures that critical factors are established for optimal execution with a project team aligned and stakeholders supportive of their new reality. 

If you want to learn about this simple and most strategic move to set up your change initiative for success, tune in now! 

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Video of Episode


05:02 – 36:19

Welcome to Ask Dr. Change. I’m Dr. Linda Ackerman. Anderson. I’m happy to have you join me today to explore how to seriously up level your leadership and consulting to transformational changes. All through conscious change, leadership. Let me introduce you to today’s question. This came in recently and I think is a powerful one to consider. How can we reduce the chaos we experience when launching a change initiative?

37:08 – 01:02:20

How can we set it up for success to start? Well, that’s relevant. I think, to all of us, because we have so many experiences where the startup of our change efforts are rather chaotic and requiring either things that are missing, that are getting in our way or requiring reboots. So I want to introduce you to the very strategic notion of conditions for success.

01:03:04 – 01:32:02

And to start off, I want to tell you the story of how this came to be. In the very early eighties, I was working with one of the largest electric utilities in the in North America, and they were undergoing a major transformation. The intent was to move from 30 different districts to six regions so they could be managed at the regional level and then altering also how they delivered service to customers.

01:32:11 – 02:06

So I was there to help guide and provide support to the transformational strategy and process. And so they identified a leader to be the change leader for the overall transformation. He actually volunteered his name was Vern, and he was had been the manager of the largest of their districts. And so he said, I’m close to retirement about three years or so.

02:06 – 02:26:08

This is a good move for me. And let me open up my position for development for someone else. So Vern volunteered to be the orchestrator of this major transformation on day one in his new office at headquarters. I walked in and all over Vern’s face was buyer’s remorse. What in the world did I get myself into? He said.

02:27:00 – 02:52:15

And I looked at him and I said, Vern, you’ve been in this organization for how many years? 50 years. You know how this organization works. You’ve lived through so many different levels and magnitudes of change. So you know the factors that you have to address and deal with here. So what would have to be in place for this to go exceedingly well?

02:52:23 – 03:17:11

What factors, what dynamics, what circumstances based upon your history, what do you think has to be in place for this to be successful? At that moment, a light went on in Vern’s eyes, and I have to tell you, it never went out. He said to me, You mean we could actually do that? We could actually put in place what we know has to be in place?

03:18:01 – 03:42:19

I said, Why wouldn’t we? Let’s figure this out. And he said, he was the kind of manager, very participative. He was just stellar. As a orchestrator of this level of transformation. And so he said, I want to get a team together who will be my change team for this effort. And let’s ask them also what they think needs to be in place.

03:43:04 – 04:04:21

And so he did that. And a couple of weeks later, they were all meeting for their first time. And we asked the question, what has to be in place for this effort to be successful? And they brainstormed a fabulous list. It was great energy. They really were invested in. Okay, what really has to be here for us to be successful?

04:05:06 – 04:26:04

And they were so excited by the list that they created that they said, let’s put it on a poster and have it on the wall every single time we meet here. And that’s exactly what they did. They made a poster of the list of their what we were now calling conditions for success. And they hung it on the wall about a month or so later.

04:26:16 – 04:51:12

Things started to fall through the cracks, and we had a little time out meeting. I check in and I said, What happened to your conditions for success? And to a person, they all looked to the wall and said, There they are hanging on the wall. And we all realized on the wall wasn’t going to do anything to alter the conditions for this transformation.

04:52:00 – 05:16:12

And again, a light bulb went on and we realized not only do we have to identify these things, we have to actually get them established. We have to get the leaders committed to them. We have to ensure that they actually work in the organization and can be maintained and sustained. And so that added to this strategy. It’s not just identification of conditions.

05:16:18 – 05:49:18

It’s actually manifesting them. And don’t you know that Vern took that strategy too hard for everything that he did in that experience over the course of three years until he ultimately retired? It was hugely successful. He used that strategy for every conversation, every event, every communication, every major aspect of that transformation. He sat in advance and said, What has to be in place for this to work successfully?

05:50:08 – 06:30:20

He was a model of this strategy. Among other things, he was really superb as a leader of this complexity. So that was so, so powerful that I automatically added it as a major protocol of practice conditions for success to change methodology. So what do we actually mean by conditions for success? The definition of conditions for success are the factors, dynamics and circumstances and ways of being that shape what needs to occur to raise the probability of achieving desired outcomes.

06:31:14 – 06:58:14

This is what has to be in place to support us being successful. So some examples for you. Obvious ones. We need adequate resources. We can’t deliver outcomes unless we can support it. We need adequate capacity. This is a huge one and shows up time and time again as a critical weak link, often in change strategies. So we need adequate capacity and time and attention.

06:58:22 – 07:32:16

These are obvious examples of conditions for success. Then in addition, consider this state of being of the leaders that support being successful, like taking a conscious approach. Since we’re all about conscious change, leadership, raising the awareness, being able to see what’s really going on, and being able to course correct it. Also having unified commitment, aligning leaders so that they are collectively pulling in the same direction.

07:33:10 – 08:06:16

Stakeholders, Trusting leaders. Leaders acting in trustworthy ways. Communicating the truth of what’s going on that generates trust for stakeholders. Those are all states of being their internal. So conditions for success can be both external like resources and internal like states of being that influence the climate for the change conditions for success might also be new behaviors, so that might be leaders telling the truth of what’s really going on.

08:07:06 – 08:44:22

Them being able to listen carefully to the needs of their stakeholders, making rapid course corrections when that’s essential to getting a transformation back on track. How about leadership follow through on decisions that are made? Those are behaviors that we know need to be in place or more powerfully leaders modeling what they’re asking of the organization. That’s a condition for success also, because it’s a way of exhibiting desired cultural attributes, hopefully, that the transformation is asking of the organization.

08:45:10 – 09:22:00

So factors, dynamics and circumstances. What’s the benefit of investing this time to create these things in the organization? Obviously, acceleration we want fast. Every leader wants their organizational change to be successful and fast and cost effective. So acceleration of progress is important. Another benefit sustained leadership alignment. We need to know that the leaders are behind this. They’re all pulling in the same direction, and a commitment to conditions for success enables that.

09:22:13 – 09:52:00

When it also enables is increased credibility in the eyes of your stakeholders. Consider when these things are in place and and people in the organization who usually may be uncomfortable or doubting what’s going on. They see that things have been lined up to be successful and it adds credibility to the change effort. How about the advantage of fewer breakdowns, fewer needs, for course correction, fewer redos?

09:52:17 – 10:22:19

I think most major change efforts are famous for how many redos are required. Conditions for success help minimize that. Another benefit It’s so much easier to monitor status against the conditions. They can be used for evaluation. How are we doing with our conditions? It’ll become pretty obvious, like in Verne’s story, when things aren’t actually happening that way. And obviously, if you’re paying attention, then you can course correct it.

10:23:21 – 10:53:19

The possibility of conditions for success to reinforce desired cultural norms is huge. And so all transformation has a cultural driver to it. And so conditions for success can also embed the desired behaviors of the new culture. All in all, conditions for success increase the probability of success and consciously, proactively from the beginning of the change effort. That’s what we want.

10:54:10 – 11:23:18

Now, how do we apply conditions for success? Clearly, the story of Verne shows that they can be applied to an overall transformation. So what do we need to have in place for the enterprise to be successful in its transformation? How about for individual projects or portfolios of projects? They too may have unique conditions for success that will help shape and drive their launch and their execution.

11:24:10 – 11:49:09

Any major communication event might have conditions for success on who’s delivering, how they’re delivering the climate. You want to set the impact, You want to have any meeting. Same thing. Are we clear about what the meeting is intended to accomplish and do we have the resources for it to be successful? Any important call? Online meetings. We’re all working so much online.

11:49:16 – 12:20:00

All of these things, if you think through in advance what are the conditions and put them in place, it helps them deliver the outcome that you want. And of course, difficult conversations. This is a good one for a challenging conversations we all need to have during transfer action. So the possibilities are endless. It’s a matter of putting this strategic idea in your thinking as you go about planning for any activity required in the transformation.

12:20:21 – 12:49:22

I want to be clear with you about two critical words and understanding what conditions for a success are about. First up is the term outcome. This is the result we are hoping to achieve through a series of action steps embedded in our change effort, our transformation. This is what we want to accomplish as a result. The other term process are the steps required to achieve that outcome.

12:50:08 – 13:18:02

These are the actions we need to take in order to deliver results. So where does conditions for success fit in all of this? Conditions for success are the strategic levers to ensure an optimal process to deliver on your outcomes. They really do help shape what has to be done, how it has to be done, who has to do it, and how to align everything to deliver our outcomes.

13:19:02 – 13:49:09

So there are three critical steps for achieving, identifying and achieving conditions for success. So they have the impact you want them to have. First up, identify them. In the story that I told about Verne. He wanted his whole change team to help identify them. So he did a collective brainstorming and identification and prioritization of the conditions they all collectively came up with to identify the ones that they want.

13:49:18 – 14:12:03

You may do this with the leadership team, so they are thinking through a conscious lens. What do we know has to be in place? And it’s important to look at your past history with change because that will reveal likely conditions that may not have been present in the past and need to be present in this particular change effort.

14:12:11 – 14:49:17

And so a historical view often surfaces reveals the kinds of conditions that are necessary. So step one, identify. Step two is establish now, prior to establishing the leaders need to commit to these conditions that they will, in fact, want to establish them. And so how do we have them appear in the organization? So they are tangible, they are real, they have an impact that’s establish now different conditions, external ones like resources, will be established differently than states of being or behaviors.

14:49:22 – 15:23:15

And so you’re looking at the uniqueness of how to establish each of the both external and internal conditions that you’ve identified as priority. So the work of putting them in place is absolutely essential. And who does this again, as in Vern’s case, change process Leader The sponsor, a project leader Those that have influence over how things are being set up and what’s required to produce a successful launch and execution.

15:23:22 – 15:49:22

So those are the folks that get involved in establishing your conditions. So and obviously they need to be communicated to be established, Right. So you’re letting the organization know what it is you’re intending to do. The third step is monitoring them over time because the world changes the reality of what you’re addressing in the organization, changes, especially in transformational change.

15:50:06 – 16:21:13

So how do you monitor them? I’m going to share some monitoring mechanism with you. How do you sustain them? Another little chapter in the Verne story is that there was a time when some of the conditions later on in the effort were not being met. And he took the issue to the senior executives and actually also the board, because they’d been engaged in committing to the conditions because it was so important to the organization.

16:21:23 – 16:47:12

And he was had the right the license to hold up the mirror to say something’s off. We fell off the tracks here. How do we get it back on? How do we reestablish this? And so course correcting, monitoring and course correcting your conditions is also a part of the process. And so you want to sustain them to the degree that you can or consciously, overtly alter them.

16:47:18 – 17:15:11

If you can’t do what you set out to do at the beginning. So identify, establish, monitor and sustain. These are the steps to doing this work. And obviously, identify as early in your change process as possible. Establish those that are relevant to launch. Maybe some are more relevant to execution over time. And then monitoring and sustaining as soon as anything is put in place.

17:15:17 – 17:47:00

Those efforts need to be also established. So monitoring mechanisms, how do we actually see if we’re living our conditions for a success in reality? One of my favorites is to put a regular agenda item to review how the leaders are doing against the conditions they committed to. And so regular change leadership team meetings are executive team meetings that there’s a reflection of, okay, are we fulfilling what we set out to fulfill with our conditions?

17:47:07 – 18:18:03

And of course, corrections are needed. They’re made. There could be a way of embedding conditions for success into your dashboard. And so whatever form that takes, you know, red, yellow, green or numbers, however you embed in a full dashboard that you’re also including a monitoring of the conditions. You can periodically do a survey or an assessment to find out are the conditions having the impact we intend them to have.

18:18:12 – 19:05:07

And so that’s another possibility for monitoring. And clearly, if you have change management practitioners, change consultants, they can observe and record and raise issues where a condition may not be happening the way it was intended or a new condition is needed and it needs to go through the process of being committed to and established. We also sometimes have conditions for success champions that are named and blessed and given permission to actually monitor what’s going on and report in periodically so that their support for the conditions, especially around resources and timing and capacity, those are critical things or leaders not walking the talk.

19:05:16 – 19:32:06

They have to be legitimized because sometimes they’re recognizing that certain leaders may not be living up to the commitment that they made. And so conditions have to be in place to have conditions for success. Champions. So I want to raise your awareness of what you’re looking for when you’re monitoring. So here are some sample indicators that a condition is not being sustained.

19:32:14 – 19:55:09

And as you think about your change efforts, consider whether or not these things are taking place, perhaps leaders or a project team members stop showing up for change meetings. I hear that a lot from my clients. So-and-so isn’t able to come again and again. Well, a condition for success is full engagement in the change effort, especially for the team.

19:55:17 – 20:22:16

So what’s happening there that needs some investigation? How about leaders not walking the talk of the desired future They’re asking of the organization. We see this a lot. I want participative decision making. But then I’m going to make all the key decisions, not you. All right. That’s not walking the talk of a condition for success. So how do we get the permission and ability to raise the issue?

20:22:19 – 20:46:00

If leaders are not walking the talk of conditions they’ve committed to? How about when rumors are out in your organization without clear information, then there doesn’t seem to be a way to correct them. A condition for success has to be in place that we’re addressing the true reality of the transformation and being able to put rumors to rest as quickly as possible.

20:46:05 – 21:10:11

If there’s punishment or threat when concerns are raised like we need a course correction and we’re not doing something right and there’s threat or fear associated with it. That’s an indication that people are not able to tell the truth. They’re not able to really give voice to what they see going on that might impair the organization ability to be successful.

21:11:16 – 21:43:16

How about political battles? We have this all of the time, political battles about what’s the best direction to go or the best process to follow, to do the work of the transformation. So when politics are raised, what kind of condition could be put in place to overtly, constructively, compassionately address those issues? If we’re taking a conscious approach, we’re also dealing with those delicate issues, political dynamics that also occur during transformation.

21:44:09 – 22:18:15

And how about decisions not acted on leaders not following through with what they said? Or needing to revisit decisions over and over and over again. That’s an indication that a condition for success has not been identified or has not been met. And projects led as silos. That’s a clear one. We’re not in this together. So what kind of a condition would be necessary to ensure that everyone’s looking out for the best for the organization, not just their own individual agenda?

22:18:23 – 22:56:11

We see so much projects being led as silos. And so how do we actually create a collective of community experience where we’re all pulling in the same direction and doing what’s best for the overall organization, larger than any particular issue? So lastly, let’s talk about timelines becoming unruly. It is so often the case that we have timelines predetermined at the beginning of a complex transformation that’s not based upon the real complex dynamics that are going to occur.

22:56:20 – 23:30:05

And so timelines can become unruly, especially if we have timelines set by external consultants that are driving for a deadline rather than doing all the work that’s really required for success. And so redoing timelines may be a condition for success or having an adequate timeline is absolutely an essential piece of conditions for success. So any of these indicators may need to be course corrected and the list can go on and on and on.

23:30:11 – 23:56:06

I’m just wanting to raise your awareness of what you might be looking for to know our conditions fully established. Are they being sustained? Are they having the impact we intend them to have? This is a very strategic and conscious approach to how you launch and lead transformation. Lastly, I want to go through how to use conditions for success throughout the change effort.

23:56:19 – 24:29:00

So clearly, one way is for status reporting. And when I gave you the example of how to monitor that status reporting, looking at how we’re doing against conditions for success in clearly in regular meetings that we’re having, we can also use them for making major course corrections. We may have gone off the rails in the process or the timing or maybe the outcome that we’re attempting to design or achieve is not what it needs to be.

24:29:11 – 24:58:14

So using conditions for success, for course, corrections is also essential. You may, if you’re able to set up this level of relationship with your sponsor or change project leaders using them for personal coaching. If a leader is actually not walking the talk and are not talking the walk of the conditions for success, perhaps some personal coaching executive coaching would be necessary and could be very useful.

24:58:17 – 25:29:18

How about conflict management over disagreeable decisions? If we can lean on the conditions for success that we originally committed to, sometimes that can help reduce or resolve conflicts over going in one direction or another. In addition, they can easily be used to add to your metrics. Measuring the change process. Measuring how well we’re doing against the conditions. Have we actually done what we said we were going to do?

25:30:00 – 26:02:11

And is any alteration required? And then cultural alignment. And so we there are so much around the internal conditions for success that drive culture. So are we doing the culture work required to achieve the desired culture we want using our conditions? And then lastly, since many transformations take a long period of time, using your conditions for success as the basis of a recommitment strategy is usually a powerful one.

26:02:18 – 26:30:23

To remind leaders, This is where we started a while ago. Now this is where we are. Are we similarly committed? Are we still committed to achieving these conditions for success? So we get the outcome for the transformation that we intend. And so using them as the basis of a recommitment strategy. Periodically, annually, every six months, you decide, is a useful strategy for your conditions.

26:32:18 – 27:02:20

So to summarize, I just want to share with you the power of conditions for success as a core strategy. I hope I’ve answered the question How do we set up for success in advance so that we have less chaos, less mess, less redo at the beginning of our transformation? This is a core strategy. You know, when you think about it, it’s actually quite simple as a thought and yet powerful in its execution.

27:03:02 – 27:39:11

It brings leaders to their conscious awareness of what truly is required for us to be successful collectively in the organized mission to produce the results we need from transformation. So that’s what I want to share with you about conditions for success in each segment. I’ve also promised you a pro tip, and so today’s Pro Tip is that I’d like you to consider the overarching strategy for the change efforts you are leading or supporting more than the change plan.

27:39:15 – 28:16:04

But the overall strategy for how you’re going about leading it into including conditions for success, what’s missing? What’s out of place? Where is the weak link? That’s an important reflection. That’s an important conversation Just to open up. Are we doing everything we need to do? Are we doing everything we can do? So as a pro tip, it’s really important, especially if you have permission to upgrade to course correct what it is that’s affecting the success of the transformation.

28:17:18 – 28:48:10

I also promise you a personal reflection. And so my offer to you today is to consider this If you could safely say anything to us selected leader in your organization or in your change effort, who would that be and what would you say? What would it feel like to be able to say that truth to another to a leader who’s in a position of influence?

28:48:18 – 29:29:22

If you could give yourself the freedom for that level of candor, which I’m assuming is something that’s highly constructive value added and something that would help the change effort be successful, imagine the possibility of being able to set up that conversation with conditions for a success and be able to tell honestly and truthfully to a leader that you’ve never been able to say that depth of information to that you could actually influence that leader’s thinking and do so in a way that actually has the impact you hope to fill in an important blank.

29:30:10 – 29:55:08

All on behalf of the leader being successful. Well, thank you for joining me today. I hope you gain some good value around conditions for success for your change efforts. Today’s subject is one of the key topics that we feature in our leading transformational change online program. It’s one of the ten strategies that we explore in depth in that program.

29:55:14 – 30:18:15

If you’d like to learn more about leading transformational change, go to BeingFirst.com/ltc. Thanks for spending some time with me today. I hope you gain some valuable insights for your work. Please send me your questions and challenges by going to AskDrChange.com.


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