Episode #21

Beyond Change Management: Requirements to Lead Transformational Change

with Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

Most organizational change efforts rely on the tried-and-true approaches of Project Management and Change Management. However, when a project is transformational, it requires an expanded approach, beyond these two. Transformational change has a unique set of requirements that need attention before—and after—these standard approaches come in to play.

This episode outlines the distinctions of transformational change and how you can lead and consult to it so it is launched, designed, implemented, and adopted for sustained results. This requires Conscious Change Leadership. Building off the value of traditional approaches, Conscious Change Leadership executes the start-to-completion strategies for transformational success. How can you expand your role to take on Conscious Change Leadership?

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Video of Episode


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.

Welcome to today’s episode. Today, we have a very special opportunity to hear from a living, breathing, experienced change process. Leader Kate McDonald, who was the change process leader for the transformation of York Regional Police. The transformation at YRP. has been taking place since 2019 with Kate and her partner, Al Alameda, also a senior ranking member of the police force in the change process leader role.

Today, you’ll hear a lot about what they did, how they did it, what successes they had, and what limitations once they had. So you get a real view into what it really takes to be a change process leader. I’d like to begin by giving you a bit of background about Kate reading her bio. Kate McDonald, Executive Director of Professionalism, Leadership, and Inclusion at York Regional Police, YRP has been practicing law for 20 years. She spent the first half of her career as a criminal prosecutor in Toronto before joining y. R.P. full-time in 2014. Kate provides legal and strategic advice, coaching, and training on a wide variety of issues in policing to law enforcement organizations across Ontario from 2019 to 2022.

Kate co-led Air Peace, organizational culture transformation using being first philosophy and methods. She is the creator of the Mastery Academy, an innovative career, spanning personal growth leadership program tailored to the unique needs of the policing industry. Kate is also a trauma informed yoga teacher with a practice focused on the prevention and management of PTSD. We are honored to have Kate share with us her real experience, a change process leader at way R.P. today.

So, Kate, let’s begin by you giving us an overview of this transformation of y. R.P.. thinks. First of all, thank you so much for having me, Linda.

I’m always thrilled to get to work with you. Back in 2018, I was working as in-house counsel for York Regional Police, and the MeToo movement was making headlines all across North America and in Canada. Our military was the subject of a civil action, as well as some other police services based on allegations of sexual harassment and systemic barriers for female members. Our executive command team at the time, at the emergence of our Women in Leadership Support Network, thought that it would be a good idea for us to look proactively at ourselves rather than sit back and wait to see what was going to happen.

So we did. Over the course of a year, I was tasked, along with a sergeant, to interview over 300 of our female members and several of our male members. And as a result of that research, we concluded that there was opportunity for us to up level our culture to remove some unintentional systemic barriers that existed and to really be innovative and proactive in this area. So we started a project called Vanguard and retained being first to help us with that small portion.

This was initially a risk management exercise from my perspective as a lawyer. But what we recognized very quickly was that the issue was actually bigger and the opportunity was actually bigger. So we retained being first to give us a hand. And one of the first pieces of advice Dean gave us at the time was to look at what other cultural projects were happening inside the organization.

So at the time, another team, our professionalism through Ethics Committee was working on our core values and code of conduct. Obviously, that has a heavy impact on the organization’s culture. Our lead psychologist had several initiatives he wanted to get up and running our Palm Center, so our 911 and dispatchers were looking at modernizing and a new project was about to get started that would redo how our frontline officers delivered their service. So all of these projects had a human theme to them.

And what Dean had suggested is to bring them all under one umbrella. On that advice, we did that and I was assigned as a change process leader, along with now Deputy Chief Paul Almeida, to co-lead. But I’ll confess that I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew that I was I was passionate about my workplace.

I work with a wonderful group of people and then the and passionate about the opportunity and passion of a culture work. But as a lawyer and as a cop alone, I didn’t have any experience in this area. So initially I think we thought we would just be doing almost like project management, just sort of coordinating a couple of things and making sure that tasks were met on time. Really task focused and project focused.

And it wasn’t until Al and I actually came to 4Sight in Colorado with you and Dean that we really started to understand that this role was going to be very different than we had anticipated when we got started. At first, Al and I would sometimes say to each other, I don’t feel like I did anything today. I feel like all I did was put out fires and hand-hold and give advice and do some strategic areas like did anything. And then after a little bit, we realized that’s actually the job.

You’re part cheerleader, part coach, psychologist, part Sherpa. So a little bit of that all together. And, you know, when we recognize that that’s actually what this is going to be about, that, you know, as Skene puts it, we were going to be symphony conductors for this big undertaking. And, you know, rather than having people in their silos banging and making noise and we were going to help them work together to collaborate and avoid collisions and look for opportunities to share resources.

And that our job really was to keep that high level view and make sure all of these things were stick handled perfectly Know Yeah, so we did set up the alternative reporting structure First, I should say we did use the change of Goals roadmap. We made sure that all the project teams were singing from the same song. There are many different ways to do these types of projects, but it doesn’t make sense if the project teams and project leads aren’t speaking the same language. So we brought 70 or more of our members who were working on the project team through Leading Transformation, which gave them the song sheet to sing from.

It gave those of them who hadn’t done any project work an idea of what this should look like. But most importantly from our perspective, it emphasized the importance of collaborating across the organization and across those projects to break down the silos, working toward a common vision of getting the transformation done. So that was important. A parallel reporting structure was established, which in a paramilitary organization was a novel concept.

It required our very senior leaders to wear two hats, so they were wearing their change leader hat, but they also had to keep operations going. At the same time. And sometimes those two roles came into conflict, particularly where resources were at stake. So trying to assist our senior leaders in understanding what the bigger picture was and why we were asking for certain things was important and giving Al and I direct access to the chief.

So as a lawyer, I did have direct access to the chief in that aspect. But normally when projects are going on inside a police service, the chief isn’t necessarily involved in the daily operations of that. It just doesn’t make sense for their role here. Having that direct access to the chief and having a smaller navigation team built up of our executive sponsors who happened to be our deputy chiefs, having that core group to try to be a little more agile and and speed up the decision making process was really important.

In addition, we had a change leadership team that was Al, myself, the chief and the executive sponsors, as well as the leaders of each of the projects who met regularly to keep each other informed of the major events that were happening, looking for those collisions, those opportunities for collaboration, and as resources were always an issue, looking where we could help each other out. So in a nutshell, that’s it. Yes. So Al and I have very different skill sets.

So I approached things from a legal perspective, a risk perspective, very analytical, linear perspective. And Al, as a seasoned investigator with 30 years of experience as a police officer, has the most incredible ability to look at things from a high level, as well as in the minutia looking for those opportunities. So we recognized that we had very different skill sets. What we did is we divided the projects in name only because there were seven actually eight at one point, which is a lot between the two of us.

But what we did most importantly was we met almost daily to talk about what was going on and to support each other. From a paramilitary perspective, it was helpful for us to have a female member and a male member, squadron member and a civilian member, so that we each brought those perspectives to the table as well. Obviously, there are cultural implications on the civilian side of the house that an officer might not anticipate and vice versa. Al was there to recognize how things would land with our squadron members, particularly when we were rolling out the initial transformation.

So he and I worked very closely together and I can say he is one of my best friends as a result of the work we did on this and we supported each other. When, you know, when one of us was really, really tired, the other could pick up the slack. When one of us was feeling frustrated, the other was there to support and re reinflate the wings if it stuck. So from a permanent perspective, a couple of really important things happened for our organization.

So first was the establishment of an office of Continuous improvement. This is an area of our strategic services that operates under an enterprise change agenda. For the first time ever in our Histories organization, we were large. We used to have several projects running simultaneously where no one really knew what anyone else was doing until maybe it came time for there to be some sort of conflict in scheduling or in mandate.

So for the first time ever, this office focuses on prioritizing projects that impact the organization more than one unit. It provides project support to those areas as they’re doing their project. It makes sure things are adequately resourced and it makes sure that our executive leadership team is aware of what’s happening at all times. So that office was new.

We’ve also had the office that I’m in charge of now, which is the professionalism, Leadership and Inclusion Office to carry on the cultural aspect of the work we were doing under the transformation. So my office is responsible for leadership training of our members and I could talk a little bit more about that later on. Inclusion and professionalism. So our our values and our ethics.

So that’s new. We now have a team of 14 working in that office. We had an organizational culture champion network that came as a result of the transformation. So this was a group of people following, again, the change leader’s roadmap, whose responsibility was to flood the grapevine with positive gossip and more importantly, refer information back up.

So in in a paramilitary organization, information tends to flow down, and there isn’t a lot of opportunity for that information to come back up. So our Ravens, as we call them, we are Game of Thrones fans are out there gathering information for us about how things are landing with our membership, what topics are out there, what concerns people are having. They’re also there to clarify any misconceptions about any of the culture work that’s being done, any changes in policy or procedure there? They’re having those one on one conversations on the ground and at the same time, each and every one of them is also on a personal growth journey, which is a huge part of the work we embarked upon with our culture transformation.

So they spend time meeting monthly, doing self-mastery practices and spreading what messages about self-care and about meditation, sleeping properly in alignment with our organizations. Wellness Strategy developed by Dr. Kyle Handley, Bio Psycho Social Spiritual. So the Ravens are out there helping with that.

They are now a permanent fixture of the organization, and I’m happy to say we are still 100 strong, which is great. You’re hanging new applicants every day. So yeah. And then two new leadership programs also flowed out of the work we did as a result of the transformation.

One is a personal growth program tailor toward individuals so that each and every one of us is showing up at work trying to be the best version of ourselves. The culture can’t help but improve if everyone’s doing that. And the second is a formal leadership program based on our core values and the leadership principles we’ve developed. Sure.

One of our staff sergeants, Craig James, worked very hard in collaboration with members of my team to come up with a leadership roadmap, and it’s really looking at how we can make the organization more humanistic and encouraging early on in the transformation we did in organizational culture inventory, where we got a snapshot of where our culture was. And what we learned is not like most paramilitary organizations, we were heavy on competition and conformity and that our members actually wanted to be more humanistic and encouraging, more innovative. And so we spent most of the transformation adjusting things to try to get there.

And one of the key steps to that is to identify those characteristics and who we recruit. All of our promotional processes. Eventually our performance appraisals will be geared toward that. But in our leaders specifically to gear all the teaching, we’re doing informal leadership roles toward those key things.

We’re looking on the humanistic side. Operational skills are crucially important in a policing atmosphere. What we’ve done is shift the mindset to being that those are an expectation. We expect that you will have operational excellence.

What else do you bring to the table from a humanistic side when it comes time to being in formal positions of leadership, but marrying that to the personal growth work? I mentioned those qualities regardless of your position within the organization, you know, an organization’s a bunch of people, so each person’s doing their part to make things better. The rest flow. Seeing people becoming more engaged early on, I think policing tends to be a little bit of a skeptical, skeptical industry due to the nature of the work.

And so when you say you’re going to do culture work, the tendency is for people to want to sit back and wait to see what’s going to happen before they commit to participating or to doing anything. When we take away the idea that the organization is its own person, it’s this entity out there and recognize that the organization is actually us and we each have a role to play. You know, Allan, I used to say over and over again, this is not a spectator sport. If you’re not going to contribute, the changes aren’t going to happen.

You’re looking at a wall that you want to paint and you’re sitting there with the brush in your hand saying, why isn’t it changing color? You know, you have to actually do something about it. So yeah, so what we noticed is as these little incremental improvements started to happen and, you know, changes were evident in our own things our chief was doing and saying right at the very top of the organization, things are deputies our senior leaders were doing and saying we’re starting to be different. Members started to get interested in seeing what they could do.

Now we still have a lot of work to do. It waxes and wanes in the pandemic certainly didn’t help in our efforts, but that that sense of ownership and that sense of engage is crucial. So capacity, I would say, was the number one challenge. We are obviously a government organization.

We don’t have endless supplies to funds like private entities might. So we were trying to do something massive on a shoestring, very conservative budget. So that remained an issue. Al and I were seconded full time into our roles, which is an expensive thing for the organization to do.

And then many of the people working on our projects were doing so off the sides of their desks just because they had operational positions and obligations as well. So that tension, that capacity was constantly there and trying to decide where our resources should be allocated was was difficult. The paramilitary community can control control structure of our organization, which is natural and normal for a policing organization. Establishing a parallel reporting structure was something that was a little for in asking people to talk about how they were feeling about things or to relate to each other in a different way was new.

We were grateful that so many people embraced it, but at the outset it was a challenge. And one of the things we overlooked and didn’t anticipate is that our discussions about wanting to shift our culture to some people who’d been here for a very long time and who had worked really hard to contribute to the sex of the organization, To them, that was seen as a slight, and we weren’t careful enough about that to say, listen, we’re wonderful. We just want to be even more wonderful. And so that was a challenge to making sure that the people who’ve been here a very long time were feeling included and recognized and appreciated and interested in doing what we were doing.

So that was tricky communication, very difficult. As I said, we’re a large organization as far as policing goes, but we have four generations in the workplace. So knowing that, you know, A Gen Z wants everything on their phone with a QR code where my generation, we’re fine with email trying to figure out how to actually get our hands on our members to give them information, but also understanding that your corporate comms are different than change communications. So working with our very talented corporate communications department and asking them to try things a little differently or to let us run with some things that traditionally we wouldn’t have done in a police organization.

That was difficult. And then understanding the difference between communication and engagement. So getting beyond telling, you know, again, at a paramilitary organization, we figure we send an email, an order is issued. Well, now everyone knows, and that may be true, but as as you all taught us, you know something or you can know something and really getting, you know, in your head versus your heart, we can tell people things are changing, but until they’re actually engage, until they’re there skin in the game for them to see what’s in it for them and they see things actually happening, that engagement doesn’t happen.

So we really struggled with with that and then aligning our leaders at the very outset. So, you know, on the advice of being first, which was the thing that attracted us to your firm in the first place, was starting at the very top of a paramilitary organization, you know, having our chief and deputies and our superintendents and our highest ranking people sworn in civilian engaged in what we were doing under a common vision, working together toward doing something different. That was an onerous task just because of the number of them and what it took to get everyone through the training process on that.

So it wasn’t a matter of of the challenge being in the willingness, it was in the how are we actually going to do this and how are we going to have the place with the lights on, keep doing what we do, and at the same time undertake this massive task that a few of the challenges, well, we couldn’t have done it without your support. You know, the guidance and consultation we had with you and Dean and ENDA Andrew was absolutely crucial to the success of this and having the ability to do that, to touch base with you regularly, to have your input in your guidance really, and recognizing when we needed that was was important as well.

You know, it’s important to invest in your own people in an organization, but recognizing there are experts out there and those experts have information and skills that can get you that much for further accelerate your sense and the first and foremost was the buy in by our chief. Our chief from day one was committed, publicly committed to the change that we were trying to make. He was the face of the transformation. I say that for our current chief now who carries on this work, and our past chief who was here at the inception of the transformation, both of those individuals were very strong and passionate and authentic about the willingness to do things differently and to try new things for the benefit of all the members of our organization.

So having Chief McQueen still be the face of this in front of that was really crucial to my now success in this role and him making it clear that when Al and I were doing things, it was on his behalf. So this wasn’t just a project that Al and I had decided to do. We were acting on the chief’s behalf for the betterment of the organization. That was important.

And having the two of us seconded full time to this role, we could not have done this part time. You know, there were two of us, and I know we’re lucky some organizations only have one, but having two of us doing this full time allowed us the capacity to really dive in without worrying about other operational concerns. Although Al at one point was doing the two full time jobs running our command at the same time, but that’s just the kind of individual he is having. That access, that direct access to the chief was crucial.

It allowed us to speed up the decision making process. It allowed him to hear information firsthand. There was no broken telephone about how things were doing. The updates were firsthand from Al and I directly, and then including our executive sponsors in that circle of information and in that ability to make decisions quickly on the navigation team really helped Al and I just get things done.

Army of volunteers. We had an army of volunteers at one point during the transformation. We had nearly 400 members working on the project team as part of the Ravens in various capacities, and most of them, the vast majority of them were doing it while still doing their full time operational jobs. Out of the goodness of their heart.

They took on this extra work. We wouldn’t have been able to do most of what we did without those dedicated people who were just interested in doing some really cool stuff. For the benefit of your organization. So having a common vision was really important.

Something to to true up to or to keep coming back to as a touchstone. Why are we why are we here? Why are we doing these things? What is it we’re actually trying to accomplish?

Where are we trying to go and keep returning to that point to guide us? When things would go a little sideways, which of course happens. So understanding the difference between a transformation and regular project management or regular change management, you know, expecting the unexpected and having that be okay and rolling with curveballs and boy, did we have some, you know, at our executive command team as we then called them, changed entirely over the first couple of years with some retirements and with one of our our members going to be the commissioner of BP. Very proud of him.

But he was a huge loss for our organization. So having new members come on and take the reins and keeping them up to speed and engage in everything we were doing was really helpful. And I would say strategy as well. Having that assistance from being first, having those tools in the changes roadmap and being able to follow those instructions when things became uncertain or to remind us what are where are we going next, Why?

And prioritizing using that strategy was very helpful. He there hearing different things. So some are wanting to embark on a full blown transformation like we did. And the question I get most often is how did you get started?

And so I’ll explain in the context that I did at the outset of our discussion today. But some are also coming with just wanting pieces of what we were doing. And I’ll explain to them, Well, you can’t just have a culture champion network if they’re not working as part of something bigger. You can’t just have that one thing in isolation or you you can’t just have one project working in isolation over here when the rest of your organization is pulling in a different direction.

So I’ve really focused on trying to get them to understand the magnitude of the undertaking and to make sure that they’re able to allocate sufficient resources. Don’t underestimate the capacity needed for something like this. Invest in your people, invest in good consulting, invest in the future of this thing. Work places with healthy cultures.

If you want to look at it from a cold, hard perspective, save money whether you’re private or public. Happy people coming to work, you are less likely to become ill or less likely to become disgruntled, are less likely to leave the organization for somewhere else. So this kind of proactive work in this investment in members is a a no brainer from a financial perspective. And so I encourage them to point that out.

If they’re looking for funding from their boards, from four police service boards, you know, hours, we were very close grade positive working relationship with the Police Services Board here. They recognize that this is now for prevention, that spending this time, this energy and these resources on our people was a valuable investment. It was a wise investment to organizations embarking on this type of endeavor. I would say you must have a change process leader, too, if you can separate to not put someone or a couple of people into this role will slow down your progress.

If there isn’t somebody keeping an eye on what’s happening and helping to conduct that symphony, you may just make noise for a lot longer than than necessary for individuals taking on the change process leader role. My advice would be don’t forget why you volunteered to do it or why you were assigned to it. Remember that passion, that vision, that feeling of wanting to make your organization the best possible place it can be for your fellow colleagues? You know, there will be days where you’re going to want to quit, and that’s okay.

And just coming back to why did I want to do this in the first place, why they grit? What’s the bigger thing than me? What’s out there that’s bigger than me that I’m actually working just to keep is it’s a lot of work, but it’s wonderful work. So it’s a labor of love.

Yeah. So Mastery is a career spanning program that’s premised on what we talked about earlier that organized nations are made up of individuals. And if each individual is on a personal growth journey, working on themselves and coming to work with an effort to be the best version of themselves, workplace conflict will be reduced, collaboration will be increased, and harmony will exist in the policing industry. In particular.

There’s an extra layer to that. We deal with occupational and operational stress injuries. So if we can early on encourage our members to take care of themselves, to guide them to our wonderful wellness programs, we have a very robust, talented staff of psychologists who’ve put together this great program, get them interested in those self care practices early, working on communication with each other. So we pepper that through the first few years that they’re here and then there’s a retreat that we take them on.

The forties are similar to your walk. The Talk of Change program for executives structured the same way. However, this program is geared toward newer employees to get them interested early in that personal growth work, and some of it is premised on Dr. Gabor Mattie’s I’m seven E’s of Healing.

There’s a little bit of Bernie Brown in there and some Simon Sinek in there. There is some Dean Anderson and some Dr. Linda Ackerman. Anderson in their little nuggets of wisdom.

And really the idea is just you don’t have to be in a formal leadership role to be a leader. And so we want to invest in all of our members, not just those who assume supervisory positions. And then that’s the basic premise of it. It goes back to Robert Peel’s principle.

You know, the people are the police and the police are the people. And in order to relate to the community and to serve the community, which all of our members do, they need to be in a good headspace. They need to be well taken care of by their employer and and and if people are feeling good at work, they will naturally do better out in the field. So what I’m noticing as a trend across our province, our chief is now the president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, and he is really promoting this humanistic side, this people first leadership aspect, and that’s catching on across the province here.

So we’re noticing that as a trend we do in York region have a really good relationship with their community. We’re very proud of that. But there’s always room to do better always. So the fact that other police services are doing the same work with the same philosophy, I think we’ll just be a fantastic service to the public.

No other than just my gratitude to you all without foresight. And I swear I’m not being paid to say any of this. I sound like a commercial for you all, but doing the personal growth work that came from foresight and doing the transformation has really changed my life for the better. I take care of myself.

I feel that I am a better lawyer, a better mother, a better daughter, a better sister as a result of the personal growth aspect of this work. And I think so often that’s overlooked. I think we focus so much on system and process and we forget that there are people behind all of that and that that’s where the real work starts. So thank you.

Thanks. Thanks, Linda. 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.

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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