In this interview, Parry talks about the myths of change management and the complexities of change management processes, identifying where people are on their change journeys, and the necessity of customizing one’s efforts when managing change.
Why did you venture out in the field of change management at a time when the word VUCA wasn’t even prevalent?
I ran leadership training programs all over Europe for a number of years, and it was at that moment I realized that there were two ways of building a consulting practice – either hire a lot of people and assign different projects to them or deliver intellectual property. And I chose the latter. I started ChangeTrack Research, we registered 16 patents, developed a unique IP that nobody else had, and spent 25 percent of our turnover on research and development.
Tell us about the patented intellectual property
If one really wants to understand change, one needs to identify as many people as possible who are on those change journeys. That’s what we did. We asked questions from thousands of people, scoring change tracking questionnaire and collected data. Once we had the data, the challenge then was to visualize it. That is what we did in the patents — we developed a way to take large amounts of data about people on change journeys, and visualized them in a simple way, which we call the change map.
Tell us more about the change map. How does it work in a practical scenario?
This multi-dimensional change map was built for comparing data across teams, organizations and change programs and represents the various patterns we identified through an extensive analysis of the data received. In the map, groups undergoing different change initiatives fall under in different clusters – represented by different regions on the map viz. ‘off-track’, ‘unsustainable’, ‘on-track’, ‘high performance’. Within these segments, there are multiple regions which exist and different efforts are needed to reach high-performance for every region. Unlike linear, one-dimensional tools, the change map encompasses 44 different dimensions. So, when we do change tracking, we ask people to fill out a questionnaire and we take that data and we analyze it. When people answer the questionnaire, we turn it into positions on the map, which is codified knowledge. We build an understanding of all the good, bad and ugly that can happen. So, we give that insight to line managers in the form of a visual map and then we talk about the actions that can be taken.
You have spoken at length about the myths of change management. How can one overcome them using the change map?
A common myth that organizations have is that if people are engaged, then it’s enough for them to go through the change process. But engagement cannot be measured in a linear manner. Change management is not a linear process in which we can identify things that are causing dissatisfaction and then take blanket measures to remove them.
Consider this example: you have very engaged employees, but all of them are engaged at different levels; so what you need is the same level of engagement among all employees. Let’s say I take 5-6 different groups, and all of them are at 50-60 percent engagement levels but they are positioned in different areas of the change map. For instance, one group is in the “in the dark” position, which means that the team is very engaged, the leadership is good, the team members are passionate, well-resourced, but the problem is that they don’t understand the mission. So for this group to move to high performance, all you have to do is help make them understand the mission better. You are free to use whichever tools you would want to, be it communication, one-on-one discussions and so on, but the map helps you decipher which area you need to work on for which team. Another group may fall in the “yes-but” category, which is an area where everyone is passionate and everyone is highly engaged, everyone wants to understand the vision, but they are currently constrained by resources. So the intervention to take them to high performance will be different. Now juxtapose this to your own organization, where your HR department might be in “In the dark” region and your sales team might be in the “yes-but” category – and you might be using the same linear approach to take them to high performance.
If one really wants to understand change, one needs to identify as many people as possible who are on those change journeys
Suppose someone’s position in the change map is identified. But then how does that team/individual move from that position to a “high performance”?
There are clear recommendations to enable movement from one position on the map to another, and these recommendations are very specific to the organization. What the map also enables is tracking the movement from one position to another real-time. Whenever the current position is to be determined, all the stakeholders can be surveyed and the current position can then be plotted. So, one can check the progress of adapting to the change.
We are also working on places where organizations can predict that if they do these things, where they will end up in the map. There is a lot of predictive analytics that is being factored into the tool as it is being upgraded. So for a change leader, this will become available soon real time like Google Maps.
Your book is titled ‘Big Change, Best Path’. What exactly is the best path?
In short, it is the “high performance” region, right at the top of the map. The path to “high performance” varies depending on where you are, to begin with. A roadmap from “in the dark” to “high performance” is different than the roadmap from “downward spiral” to “high performance”. Sometimes, it is also a conscious choice the organization has to make – what is the best path for the company. For some companies, it is about high performance, while others want to make just enough profit to stay in business and be comfortable.
(With additional inputs from Jayesh Pandey, Managing Director ñ Accenture Strategy, Talent & Organization)