Episode #19

Breakthrough! Transforming Change Leadership Roles and Project Strategy

with Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

Our most complex and transformational change projects face many predictable hurdles. Current project leader roles and processes do not prevent or mitigate these struggles. A new leadership role is needed and possible! It requires a paradigm shift in understanding transformational change and how best to lead it. Introducing the Change Process Leader, a role proven to produce radically improved results from change.

The Change Process Leader comes on board when a sponsor first realizes a major initiative is needed and together they strategize how best to set it up for success from start to results. This role guides the overall strategy, structure and process for the entire effort, providing process guidance to the project manager and change management resources from set up to completion.

Listen in to understand this role and the powerful impact it can have on how you launch and lead transformational 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 – 22:03

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.

23:21 – 58:18

Welcome. Today’s episode is to introduce you to a breakthrough role in how we lead transformational change, so altering change leadership roles and change strategy. I want to ask you, how well are your current transformational change efforts being led from inception all the way through sustained business benefits, who ensure the process is designed and followed from A to Z that it’s well crafted to produce results?

58:20 – 01:36:04

Project managers start typically with analyze, and their work is based on many assumptions that have not yet been tested because we’re not far enough into the project. Frequently, project management ends with deployment, not sustained business benefits. I want to know what information is the determination of scope schedule budget based on? Is that information enough to be realistic? Who ensures the solution will be embraced, delivers its promise and refinement, happens after the fact as needed.

01:36:06 – 01:40:00

Change management is typically added late to the party.

01:40:00 – 02:09:13

It gives some attention to sponsorship and most about stakeholder management to deal with resistance. Change management is typically set up to fit into a project plan, not necessarily to influence it, which doesn’t allow its value to be fully delivered early enough in the process. Neither project management nor change management start at the very beginning and end when results are achieved.

02:09:15 – 02:24:04

Their approaches are valuable. Don’t get me wrong, they’re valuable and important, but they’re only pieces. They’re only slices of the pie. I want to know who’s designing the process for the entire pie.

02:24:04 – 02:42:15

The reality is that the change process begins at the very beginning. The moment a project is thought about. Yes, we need to do this all the way through the design, the implementation and the refinement of sustained business benefits.

02:42:15 – 03:02:08

There are so many challenges to how we lead. Now I’m going to mention these to you. There’s a lot here I want you to reflect on. Are you having these challenges? Because the breakthrough role that I’m about to introduce you to is designed to prevent, to mitigate or reduce these challenges.

03:02:08 – 03:11:00

check off from this list the kinds of things that you are struggling with in your transformational change efforts to begin with.

03:11:04 – 03:27:19

Many times we see that the process is poorly designed. It starts late and it ends early. Again, as I mentioned, project management ending a deployment, change management coming in late. Who’s designing the overall process?

03:27:19 – 03:50:19

We often see that content is prioritized. It’s given the primacy in the whole project come up with the best solution. Well, how about it being more important than all the human dynamics, all the mindset and behavior and cultural dynamics that produce resistance to getting that future state put into place.

03:50:19 – 03:56:05

We see inadequate attention to leadership, mindset, behavior and culture.

03:56:05 – 04:06:18

It’s either not attended to at all, or a culture is seen as a bolt on at the end. Let’s see if we can adjust a few norms, which doesn’t work in transformational change.

04:06:18 – 04:16:16

Many times, communications about the project are top down. A big presentation. Lots of PowerPoints, perhaps a video is distributed.

04:16:18 – 04:36:22

A leader will ask for questions. People are kind of in reaction to what’s being introduced to them. They don’t ask questions and the communication doesn’t necessarily land where it needs to. For stakeholders to truly understand what the organization is going to go through, let alone what the impact is on them.

04:36:22 – 04:41:12

Perhaps there’s over attention to a predetermined scope schedule budget.

04:41:14 – 04:58:21

Very frequently, those are the first major decisions made by project managers early on, and they are, as I mentioned, based upon assumptions, not data. And yet they can wreak havoc if there’s no leeway in altering scope, schedule or budget.

04:58:21 – 05:39:20

Perhaps there’s an overreliance on linear models for the project. Project management models are linear. Some of the change management models are linear.

They don’t fit. Transformational change, which is not linear. It’s emerged and maybe there’s inadequate or too late attention to stakeholders needs to asking for their input so they can get in the boat with you about making the change. Stakeholders are frequently thought about as tell them what we need them to do as opposed to asking them, given the new requirements of the future, what the best ideas they have to contribute.

05:39:20 – 05:51:00

Many times there’s an overreliance on external consultants who then alienate internal subject matter experts or stakeholders inside the organization.

05:51:00 – 06:10:20

Many times we see problems created by inadequate attention to governance Change Roles are not clear decision making. Authorities are not clear, and how the change effort will interface with ongoing operations. Governance needs much more attention than a sloppy start up.

06:10:20 – 06:26:20

Perhaps there’s inadequate attention to leadership alignment and modeling. What we’re asking of the organization. Again, you may get the head nod. Leaders say, Yes, this is a good idea, let’s do this. But they don’t really understand what’s going to be required of them.

06:26:20 – 06:40:14

And very frequently the project is launched in standard ways without attending to what conditions and factors have to be in place for this change effort to truly be successful.

06:40:16 – 06:51:04

What can we learn from past changes that enable this change effort to be faster, cheaper, higher quality to produce the outcomes we need?

06:51:04 – 07:06:22

And one of the biggies that we experience is there’s no capacity in the organization for making the change. Perhaps the folks on your project team don’t have the capacity, perhaps stakeholders are overloaded with too many changes being asked of them.

07:06:22 – 07:18:20

They don’t have the capacity. Leadership doesn’t have the capacity. The lack of attention to generate adequate capacity goes oftentimes wreaking havoc.

07:18:20 – 07:32:21

How about the large scale change efforts in your portfolio that compete with one another? There are many different change efforts happening. They don’t integrate, they don’t coordinate. They don’t support each other. They don’t share resources or information.

07:32:23 – 07:38:21

How can we handle what I call multiple project integration strategically,

07:38:21 – 08:07

And lastly, I’ll mention the ability, the need, the requirement to course correct a transformational process. We frequently find in project management issue tracking forms. Those are tactical strategic navigation, for course, corrections absolutely essential in transformation. Who looks after that.

08:07 – 08:04:09

I want to introduce you to this breakthrough role.

08:04:10 – 08:40:12

Given all the challenges we typically see. This is called the change process. Leader Underscore the word process. This person, this role, this function is all about designing the process from beginning to end, consciously observing what needs to happen between people and within people. So the culture, mindset, behavior aspects are taken into account. This is very different from project management rolling out its project management model.

08:40:12 – 09:07:08

It’s conscious process design. From the very beginning, this change process leader, integrates the content requirements to come up with the best solution, with all of the human dynamics, the people dynamics into one unified change process plan. Now, frequently we find a project management plan or a project plan and a change management plan, two separate plans.

09:07:10 – 09:20:20

What we’re after here is someone to integrate those plans so we know the human dynamics well in advance of when they’re going to become factors in getting the solution implemented.

09:20:20 – 09:57:02

This role designs with the sponsor the conditions for success that are required for the transformation to be set up on a strong footing and run effectively. It also designs what we call a parallel governance structure. This is a paradigm shift for how we lead change that there is actually a change structure that runs in alignment with in partnership with the ongoing normal operational governance. That’s a critical piece in effectively leading a complex transformation. A parallel governance structure.

09:57:02 – 10:05:16

This role ensures that we focus on mindset, behavior and culture from the very beginning of the change effort.

10:05:18 – 10:18:11

This has to be integrated into how you set up and enroll and generate commitment and develop and ultimately execute the solution you want to see put into place.

10:18:11 – 10:31:07

It ensures that leaders understand transformation. They’re aligned to it and they model it. So this person has to really have influence with the change leaders.

10:31:08 – 11:03:18

They can’t be four levels down and kind of pushing the stone up the hill. They really need to have influence and respect from the leader so that they ensure as a condition for success. The leaders are modeling what they’re asking of the organization and most importantly, this person provides guidance to the project managers, to the project teams, to the change managers based upon what’s truly happening in the organization that requires their attention.

11:03:20 – 11:15:12

So they orchestrate what the project management folks and the change management folks need to be attending to throughout the life of the process. Now

11:15:12 – 11:21:03

from what I’ve just described to you, can you imagine someone in that role in your organizations?

11:21:03 – 11:32:13

I will say it’s a new role. It’s a new role in terms of how many organizations have embraced it, but it’s not new in terms of how it’s been applied in unique settings.

11:32:15 – 12:04:17

The Change process leader obviously challenges convention. It will prompt in a major way how you launch lead and governance and course correct your project. It makes change. Process Design Primary Altering the primacy of content solutions doesn’t make content solutions not important. The process to determine your content solution needs to be designed effectively in the process.

12:04:17 – 12:33:23

The change process leader makes process design primary, which reduces the primacy of your content expertise. It doesn’t mean designing the best content solution isn’t important. It sure is. But there’s a process required to come up with the best solution that takes into account all the factors to ensure it is actually the best solution that people will be able to learn about and take on successfully.

12:33:23 – 13:02:00

The change process leader balances the power dynamics among operations and change leaders because operations have to continue to function. No ifs, ands or buts about that. But the transformation has requirements of operations. And so how is that interface handled effectively? The change process leader challenges the primacy of operations so that the intervention can actually proceed.

13:02:00 – 13:30:13

Therefore, the change process leader positions project management as more tactical in terms of being responsible for the project plans details. It also alters how project teams are staffed to ensure that it’s not just content expertise, but the human dynamics communications process design expertise. Change management expertise is built into project teams from the beginning.

13:30:13 – 13:43:22

And it supports leadership modeling of the new mindsets, behaviors and ways of relating required for the transformations future to be adopted and sustained.

13:44:00 – 14:01:13

So challenging convention the change process leader really requires skills in the human dynamics in culture and in conscious process design. We are challenging. This is that’s why this is a breakthrough. We’re challenging convention.

14:01:13 – 14:13:23

So where does this person live in the organization? The sponsoring executive selects this person first before a project manager. This person first understanding the role.

14:14:02 – 14:42:02

And together they partner because the change process leader will be doing the sponsors bidding and coaching the sponsor in appropriate ways throughout the process. So the sponsor fulfills a fully transformational sponsorship role. So the Change Process leader reports directly to the sponsoring executive and runs what we call a change leadership team. Some companies call this the steering committee.

14:42:07 – 15:09:08

Name it what you will. These are the senior most leaders who are also in charge of the major initiatives within the overarching transformation or project. And so the change process leader ensures was that the leadership team is not just hearing status but is listening to the requirements for course correction and doing the strategic navigation required throughout the process.

15:09:10 – 15:42:02

The Change Leadership team orchestrates the Change initiative lead. So these might be your project managers with expanded roles, understanding their mini change process, leaders running the individual initiative within your transformation. They run their project teams or their workstreams if you’re clustering your projects now, the Change process leader calls on your change management, your project management, your organization, development.

15:42:05 – 16:12:15

Whoever are your other change resources in the organization calls on them at appropriate times in the process. And so project management and your content experts are called on when it’s time to orchestrate and design and determine the best content solution. And lastly, they also run multiple project integration as a team, as a strategy, as a process within the transformation.

16:12:20 – 16:32:11

So you get the best bang for your buck on resources and timing and sequencing. So all the projects line up like air traffic control, you know, who’s on first and what’s happening across the runway so that all of your projects get the attention that they need over time.

16:32:11 – 16:36:15

So the change process leader is a special role.

16:36:17 – 17:05:08

It requires skills and a series of conditions for success to have it be successful. So consider these criteria. Consider these requirements. Ideally, the change process leader. It comes from the line, not human resources. We want to have this person have the respect and the authority as senior most in the organization as possible. I’ve had a VP of Finance.

17:05:13 – 17:37:21

I’ve had VP of Operations all become change process leaders. And I’ll share a couple of examples with you shortly on how we’ve positioned this senior in the organization. As I said, they report directly to the sponsor who announces them and legitimizes them in their role. The very first time long before we named the change process leader, I was this role in a major utility transformation from Sun Oil organization that I worked for.

17:37:23 – 18:06:04

And I was legitimized when I crafted this role, at least what I thought it would be needed. The CEO announced me and said, Linda will be anywhere in this organization, in any meeting, in any office, at any level on my behalf. And so he legitimized me to be able to do what was necessary in between the boxes as well as in the boxes throughout the entire process.

18:06:04 – 18:34:09

That’s essential as a condition for success. Now, what’s important in terms of the name change process leader is they are focused on the process, not the content solution. They can’t be attached to option A versus option B if it’s known politically, they’re attached to one option or another. They lose their power to influence how those options are developed and whose supports them.

18:34:11 – 19:01:14

If they’re not attached, then they can have much more influence over diffusing the political battles that take place between option A and option B. Not to say that they can’t have input that would require them to do what I call change hands. I’m putting my content hat on now. I’m putting my process hat on. So they’re announcing contribution that they may want to make at any point in the design of the solution.

19:01:16 – 19:18:00

But they are not attached, nor do they have political or exercise political influence that the organization should do it. One way versus another. Otherwise they lose their credibility. So they have to be knowledgeable about the content. Absolutely.

19:18:00 – 19:29:04

They have to be a process thinker and action planner. Again, not just a content expert. So they have to know how to design activities and actions and move things along.

19:29:06 – 20:03:08

Clearly, they have to be well respected, trusted and politically savvy. That’s really important. So they’re not blindsided by folks trying to get the transformation to go a certain way. Clearly, with transformation being so complex, a change process leader has to tolerate uncertainty. They have to be adaptable. They have to pay attention and be conscious of what’s happening with both the organization operations as well as people, their stakeholders in their readiness for change.

20:03:10 – 20:14:19

So tolerating uncertainty and really being savvy about what’s occurring in the organization as the change is unfolding. Clearly, they have to be open to feedback.

20:14:19 – 20:29:07

They have to be open to rapid course correction. That’s really important. They can’t be everywhere all the time. And so setting up trusted allies to be able to support the reality of the organization.

20:29:07 – 20:30:15

Now, I mentioned allies.

20:30:15 – 21:04

There hopefully is no need for political influence in that way. But people who are observing what’s really happening in the organization inputting to them. So they can design the process accordingly, they need to have good concern for people and good interpersonal skills. So where there are emotional upsets in the organization, transformation does produce that, that they are not flipped out by that, but they know how best to listen.

21:06 – 21:15:09

Support attend. They may not take all the pain away, but they can design the process so people land as softly as possible, either in the new reality or where else they need to be. So the new reality can take place.

21:15:09 – 21:35:22

All of this requires good influence, skills. So it’s not a command and control role. It definitely is influential and needs to be able to align people and communicate what’s effective for the overall transformation success, not just any individual agenda.

21:35:23 – 22:05:05

And lastly, I’ll say they really need to be smart about applying resources. They really need to be smart about the best use of where to put this expertise or this budget or this technology, whatever your resource base is, so that it supports the overall good of the transformation. Not any independent or individual agenda. They’re always in service to the overall good of the organization.

22:05:07 – 22:35:00

Now I will be putting into the website for Ask Dr. Change an article that describes this role more fully and the skills and conditions for its success. So I encourage you to download that for more information about the change process. Leader. Now, I want to share with you three examples where we have rolled this out successfully. One is with the York Regional Police in York, Ontario.

22:35:02 – 23:02:08

We have engaged for several years with police department to support an several year transformation to their culture around diversity, equity, inclusion and well being. We appointed to change process leaders. One was chief counsel when I mean high in the organization. I mean that as well as one was assistant chief. And so again, very high in the organization.

23:02:10 – 23:21:06

Both were seconded to their role for the first year full time, and then the second, an ongoing part time. And they fully understood the role and ran this massive transformation with a whole range of initiatives to support the outcomes of the transformation.

23:21:06 – 23:29:02

They have broken new ground in a lot of the ways, creating a a culture champion network and engagement strategies.

23:29:02 – 24:04:13

They’ve been brilliant at designing the process and continue to to this day. The second example is with the Houston Police Department, our change process leader there is Assistant chief part time because she also is in charge of her assistant Chief role. So she’s been overseeing the transformation of one HPD Houston Police Department. That’s the name of their transformation, the transformation of culture, commander development and seven projects influencing operations.

24:04:15 – 24:15:08

So major activity, she’s a very busy woman, both being assistant chief as well as running this massive transformation.

24:15:08 – 24:40:19

The third example is with Toussaint Electric Power here in the States and this person change process leader has been overseeing steps largest transformation projects and helping to get them set up for success from the beginning and orchestrate many of the cultural organizational issues that show up over their major change efforts.

24:40:19 – 25:09:04

There’s a lot to be said about the change process leader. Again, it is a breakthrough and thinking it challenges convention and it truly alters the way in which you launch and lead projects. Every organization that has undertaken it has to be ready to alter the tried and true, I will say. But oftentimes rigid attachment to traditional ways of leading projects because this is different.

25:09:06 – 25:11:16

So you have to be ready for that.

25:11:16 – 25:38:04

So my pro tip for you today is about thinking process. What I mean by that is you observing your projects. Where did they start? Where did they come from? What’s their current reality now? What are the dynamics at play? What needs to happen next? How about in the future? Coming up, what happens going forward?

25:38:06 – 26:09:06

That process, thinking about the actions required for the transformation to occur, but also the human dynamics and the cultural dynamics? What’s the current state? What’s being attended to and what’s needed? This is very different than applying tools that we typically get in project management and change management. It’s very different than merely reporting status to your change leadership team or your steering committee.

26:09:08 – 26:20:18

It really is influential in terms of resolving issues that show up in status and moving that effort forward from both a content and a people requirement.

26:20:18 – 26:39:09

It’s very different than a checklist mentality. You know, people often say, Can you give me the change process leader checklist? Well, I can give you the list of responsibilities and skills and qualities, but that doesn’t mean that running through that and checking those off is your way of being successful.

26:39:11 – 27:12:23

This is an embodiment of a whole new paradigm for how to design the process from beginning to end. For any complex transformation. How do we shape what needs to happen to produce success? That’s the essence of this role. It’s beyond politics. It’s beyond power. It’s beyond fear. Those need not get in the way. You ought not get in the way of designing the process from a very strategic standpoint and providing guidance where project planning is needed.

27:13:02 – 27:35:18

Now, my personal reflection for you is this. Some people focus on what should be give me the tools, give me the checklist. This is how it should be. Other people focus on what could be what’s possible here. So I ask, which are you? Are you are what should be person Are you or what could be person?

27:35:20 – 27:52:07

Because the change process leader role is clearly a breakthrough possibility of what could be. And it’s been proven time and again. The power, the leverage, the enormous impact that this breakthrough role can have.

27:52:07 – 28:03:19

The seeds of it began with a what could be orientation. And so I ask you to reflect on that for yourself. How do you step outside the bounds?

28:03:21 – 28:25:22

How do you get outside the box and actually see what’s going on and what would be necessary? So again, all the challenges that we mentioned today this role is designed to mitigate or prevent them because we saw the need for it. Thanks for your time today. I hope you’ll carry this effort forward.

28:26:17 – 28:42:12

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.

28:44:23 – 28:57:13

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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