Episode #11

Transformation will Never Go as Planned! How to Set It Up for Rapid Course Correction

with Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

Every change effort requires a reliable plan to make happen. However, some types of change are well led with pre-determined plans and others, like transformational efforts, are not. Why? So much is emergent in transformation that change leaders and the team need to be supported to figure things out as the project proceeds. Changes in direction or process are inevitable and cannot be seen as mistakes if they provide critical information about what is really needed to succeed. This is a specific condition for success in transformation: establishing a strategic learning and course correction system that can be publicly supported and encouraged. This is a significant paradigm shift for leaders, project managers and typical project teams. Only with timely input and response to indicators for course corrections can a transformational effort stay on its course and come to fruition. This episode explores the power and necessity for creating an agile course correction system and process for your change efforts. 

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Video of Episode


04:19 – 07:06

Welcome to Ask Dr. Change.

07:22 – 10:03

I’m Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson.

10:15 – 17:07

I’m happy to have you join me today to explore how to seriously up level your leadership and consulting

17:13 – 19:06

to transformational changes

19:17 – 22:03

all through conscious change leadership.

23:20 – 31:23

Welcome to today’s episode. We’re talking about the fact that transformation never goes as planned.

31:23 – 58:19

And so today’s topic is how it is set up for rapid learning and course correcting, which is a core strategy for leaders to succeed at transformational change. So I have a couple of questions to set this up. What’s your mindset about the plans you create for transformational change? What’s your level of attachment to the plan? Now, this isn’t about bashing the plans.

58:19 – 01:23:21

We need plans, but it’s about ensuring that plans are put in their rightful place in support of transformational changes. So leaders frequently say, we launch this change effort. Give me the plan. Once we have the plan, don’t deviate from the plan. Live and die by the plan. Or one of my favorites is people plan God Laughs. So

01:23:21 – 01:35:09

In the most complicated of change efforts, planning is an absolutely useful tool, but in transformational change, it’s only that it’s initial guidance.

01:35:11 – 02:07:08

So in a few moments I’ll talk about why that. So with transformational change now leaders have mindsets about having reliable plans logically. So they need that. They have high control needs, they want things to go well. However, that only works when variables are minimal, which is not the case in transformational change. It is the case entitled Defined projects that have a clear outcome, a clear timeline, and a clear budget.

02:07:13 – 02:37:06

But that’s not transformation. So in a moment, I’m going to talk about what the requirements are for transformation in relation to planning. But before I do that, I want to ask you, how does your organization typically deal with wrong choices or mistakes? This is an important reflection. There are a variety of reactions we know that occur in different organizations, debates based upon leadership and culture.

02:37:06  – 02:46:11

Some people will sweep their their choices, their bad choices that go off the rail under the rug so that they aren’t seen or aren’t found out.

02:46:11 –  03:01:17

Some people defend themselves, get very defensive when confronted with whatever you tried isn’t working or really is too costly or whatever. They’ll get defensive, which is not a positive strategy.

03:01:19 – 03:38:02

Others may do CIA cover your butt so potentially so that other people can take the blame. That’s a different response as well. However, then moving more productively, many organizations will do an after action review. What actually happens here and then what occurs with that. I want on this one to share a story with you. I was asked to come in by the Change management office to review what wasn’t working well in This was one of the largest retailer SAP implementations.

03:38:02 – 04:11:12

I spent a good amount of time interviewing and finding out and researching what occurred in that particular implementation. That wasn’t going well. I spent my entire summer actually on that because it was such a huge activity, such a huge engagement. Then when it was time to review the results, I surprisingly got the reaction. Well, what you’ve produced for us is demonstration that the project manager needs to be fired.

04:11:14 – 04:39:03

That was their purpose. Would thereafter action review was politically to get the project manager fired. I said to them, What do you want to do with the information we generated it and they said, No, no, it’s fine, everything’s fine. We just needed to get rid of the project manager. Well, I had spent months on this, so the question around the after action review is what are you going to do with the data?

04:39:05 – 05:09:17

Is it possible to fully inquire for learning purposes? What are people really curious about finding out what happened? Because only from that can insights and changes occur that can be applied to the upcoming change efforts and to do things differently. So organizations respond in many different ways, and the only way to actually improve and up level the results from the changes

05:09:17 – 05:13:22

that you’re leading is learning and course correction.

05:14:00 – 05:38:04

So I want to talk about learning and course correction. Instituting learning and course correction in the organization. Can only work if the mindset and the culture is open to learning and course correcting, which in many organizations is not the case. Many have cultural norms that say, kill the messenger of bad news or make a mistake and you’re dead.

05:38:06 – 06:14:16

And so how do we actually alter the mindset and create a system for learning and course correction and making it conscious and encouraged and positive constructive in the organization? Well, this frequently requires a paradigm shift for leaders, a very significant reorientation to what transfer or change requires. So I want to talk about the transformational journey and demonstrate to you why transformational change requires year learning and course correction.

06:14:18 – 06:43:14

So the shortest distance between two points between current reality and the vision or the outcome we want to create in a change effort is a straight line and frequently from a project management orientation. That’s that project plan, the transition plan to get us from where we are to where we want to go. It’s typically time bound, budget bound, predetermined, however, transformational change is emergent.

06:43:16 – 07:01:12

Transformational change cannot be set on a straight line and rigidly controlled. It’s not the nature of it. It’s messy. We’re figuring it out as we go. So we begin the transformational journey with a plan based upon the

07:01:12 – 07:16:12

latest intelligence that we have. And then ideally, we’ve leaders have set up the orientation in the organization to pursue wake up calls, pursue indicators for the need to make a change.

07:16:14 – 07:43:23

It could be an outcome. It could be in the process, it could be in timing, it could be an engagement. We’re looking for feedback, telling you to learn and course correct. And so looking for any indicator that we’re not on track, the faster we can get that information, learn from it, and then make the course correction, the faster we’ll be able to achieve the ideal outcome that we’re after.

07:44:00 – 08:01:04

So both the process and the outcome are emergent in transformational change. Therefore, learning and course correction as quickly as we possibly can is essential as an initial launch strategy. I like the

08:01:04 – 08:16:08

adjective rapid course correction because the faster we can get on these indicators and wake up calls and make intelligent, constructive adjustments to the process or the outcome, the better off will actually be.

08:16:09 – 08:53:04

Now, I want to describe for you the benefits of rapid course correction. And so here’s a whole list of them Clearly learning and course correction increases the probability of success. It increases speed, it reduces cost by avoiding so many breakdowns or reduce, which are incredibly costly. It helps leaders stay proactively engaged in navigating the complexity of transformation. As the process unfolds, because they need to accept, acknowledge and work with the indicators for a course correction.

08:53:04 – 09:37:03

It keeps them engaged. It actually when you encourage the whole organization to potentially surface needs, for course correction, it engages everyone to seek these early indicators. It encourages a co-creative engagement of your stakeholders in particular. So they’re staying alert, they’re speaking up and they have ownership of the change. Many organizations are instituting a speak up culture, and so using that to help support the course correction of a transformational change is essential when you establish the norm that you are welcoming and encouraging potential indicators for a course correction.

09:37:05 – 10:08:12

It is hugely reduces the fear in the organization, a fear of the , fear of making mistakes, the threat of not getting it right right out of the gate again, paradigm shifting, culture changing. So learning and course correction advances up levels a more conscious culture in the organization. So what process do you use to actually determine the need for a course correction?

10:08:14 – 10:12:04

A series of steps here? First of all, you have to

10:12:04 – 10:34:16

receive the wakeup call. You have to hear the wake up call. What you do inside of the wake up call is first to determine facts which neutralize emotions. Frequently wake up calls cause people to react. And so when you go after the facts of the situation, it helps to reduce the emotional reaction.

10:34:16 – 11:03:07

We want a neutral ally’s the emotion and go after what actually occurred here. So facts are different from assumptions. We also want to identify the assumptions that we’ve made, particularly about the facts or the dynamics of the circumstances. And so we’re checking our assumptions and learning to discern the difference between facts and assumptions. Then we interpret that data.

11:03:09 – 11:44:01

What occurred, why did it occur? How did it get set up this way? What are the underlying dynamics? What is the meaning we’re making of this? We interpret from that. We identify insights and potential possibilities for a new way of approaching this particular circumstance, and we determine the course correction We need to go towards A instead of B or C instead of D, And so we determine how what the change actually needs to be once we’ve done that and it’s been approved, we communicate the changes to all who are impacted by going in a different direction.

11:44:03 – 12:06:19

Now, I will share with you the very first time I instituted a course correction in a major transformation. The when I say it’s a paradigm shift for the leaders, it’s also a paradigm shift in the organization. Because when we made a couple of course corrections, some of the reaction from the workforce was you don’t know what you’re doing, you keep changing your mind.

12:06:20 – 12:38:09

Which was really interesting given that we were getting back on a better course for the outcome of the change effort. And so that work needs to be addressed early on when you’re launching and setting up your infrastructure for transformational change that the leaders clear really communicate, we are going to be making adjustments. So bear with us, contribute with us, partner with us, help us make these course corrections as quickly as possible.

12:38:11 – 13:10:04

So in order to set up a course correction, process and system, there are different elements for you to take into consideration. So first up, what types of input are you looking for? What are the kinds of wakeup calls you’re seeking? Is it about structure or systems or culture or relationships or technology? What kinds of things are relevant to the transformation you’re making that you want people to pay attention to?

13:10:09 – 13:40:04

Are we on track or off track? Then who are these people? Who are the sources of your input? Our recommendations, since we really support high engagement, is that you’re the leaders are communicating at launch. Anybody in the organization might surface an important need for wake up calls. There is no dumb indicator potentially. We just need to look at what’s showing up now.

13:40:08 – 14:06:00

If someone out there in the organization surface is an indication for of course, correction what what vehicles are in place for them to communicate that and to whom. So is it an online system? What kind of tool are you going to use or process or technology are you going to use for people to clearly know? Where do I take my information that I want to be considered?

14:06:05 – 14:33:17

And to whom? Then who are the people? Or who’s the group responsible for actually addressing the issue, addressing the potential for course correction? And so they need to be prepared to receive the information and to do something with it. Then in addition, how do they do something with it? What’s the process they’re going to use to determine a course correction?

14:33:23 – 14:59:10

Similar to what I just shared with you about checking facts, checking assumptions, making new decisions about the new direction to go in once they’ve determined a course correction, what’s the decision making and approval process for it? And so who has approval? Who has veto power? How are we going to acknowledge, yes, this is the change we want to make.

14:59:12 – 15:24:01

If resources are required for it, we ensure that we have resources not just for the course correction system, but for the course correction we want to make. And then you’re clarifying how to communicate the course correction to the organization and particularly to the people who are going to be impacted by it. So it really requires setting up a whole system.

15:24:03 – 15:55:07

Many times I’ve asked change management people or project management people, Do you have a vehicle? For course. Correction. And the most common response I get is we have an issue tracking system. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re actually talking about strategic, creative, eco course corrections, not a tactical change here or a tactical change there. These are the kinds of indicators that the leaders need to be involved in.

15:55:09 – 16:23:16

They really need to know, are they on track or off track? And so their investment in the course correction system at a strategic level is really important. And again, it’s not about issue tracking systems. Those are needed for the more tactical details of a transformation. The course correction system I’m talking about is really about strategic navigation of the process and the outcome.

16:23:18 – 16:57:17

So there’s a lot to consider here about setting up course correction and being able to get the mindset and culture climate for altering course in the organization. To realign. You can use the benefits I’ve described talking about the process, talking about what a system would require when you’re initially working with a sponsor of change or the change leaders who want to make a transformational change, that this is an absolute condition for success.

16:57:19 – 17:25:18

So use this information here. If it requires more data, perhaps you can do a change assessment for the history of major changes that have gone off the rails and the cost of them and the absence of a learning and course correction system, and so that you’re actually making the case for learning and course correcting when it’s a transformational change really important strategy.

17:25:20 – 17:54:16

So I have a personal reflection I want to share with you first, because it relates specifically about our topic today. How do you respond when you’ve made a bad choice or a mistake? What happens to you personally when you’ve gone off or something has not gone in a major way how you want it? What goes on in you emotionally, mentally, physically?

17:54:18 – 18:23:11

What kind of self-talk? I know for myself, my ego will immediately say, You idiot, that’s what I hear, you idiot. Look what happened. And so I know that I do that. I know that my ego will always do that. And so the part of the personal reflection and the skill here is to learn how to step outside of our emotional reactions or the self-talk to be able to see them.

18:23:11 – 18:52:23

Okay, there it goes again. I understand that reaction. So the challenge is to objectify what has happened so you can take a clear look at it. And so for me it’s like, okay, thank you for sharing. Now what actually happened here? Again, the process, What assumptions did I make? What information did I base this on? How could I actually get a clearer view so that I can actually stay curious and learn from it?

18:52:23 – 19:27:16

I don’t want to repeat this again, so how can I stay curious and learn from it? The pro tip I have for you today is learning to stay neutral in the face of a needed course correction. Sometimes this is really challenging. I recall one experience I had in a major technology manufacturing organization here in the U.S. and I was teaching them about change leadership, and there was an enormous amount of resistance in the room by all of these leaders.

19:27:18 – 19:51:13

And I didn’t want to keep pushing the rock uphill. So I did a stop action and I allowed myself to completely get centered and say, I want to hear from each and every one of you about what it is you’re needing and why what we’re doing or talking about is not meeting that need, and it required a lot of breathing on my part.

19:51:13 – 20:12:15

But we went around the room and each person describes what was happening for them, their frustration, their doubts, their feeling that this information wasn’t relevant to them, whatever it was. And I needed to stay neutral. It was the only way to stay maintain relationship, which is a part of

20:12:15 – 20:22:15

Pro-tip And so being able to stay neutral in the face of needing to make a major course correction, never get defensive.

20:22:17 – 20:50:08

If I had wanted to say but but, but or what I was doing would never have worked. So never get defensive. That takes in personal development. Always inquire, always stay curious, stay grounded. I put energy in my feet so that it’s like, okay, I’m on this path. Let me see what needs to happen here. Take accountability for your part.

20:50:10 – 21:22:00

That is, go so far to deepening trust and relationship. Maintain relationship at all costs, especially with others who are impacted. Explain your rationale. Explain the assumptions you made and how now you see it needs to be different. Maintaining relationship and telling the truth and being authentic in how you address needs for course correction. Absolutely essential and so personal reflection know how you respond.

21:22:02 – 21:32:14

Pro-tip learning to stay neutral, stay curious, stay in learning mind so that you can figure out how to do things differently next time.

21:32:19 – 21:43:07

I hope this has been valuable to you. I hope you’ll take it to heart. Transformational change needs rapid learning and course correction. Thanks for being here today.

21:44:02 – 21:59:21

Today’s subject is one of the key topics that we feature in our leading transformational change online program. If you’d like to learn more about leading transformation social change, go to beingfirst.com/LTC.

22:01:14 – 22:15:00

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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