Episode 18 Transcript

The Key Pillars of Effective Change Leadership w/ Peter Hadas

    Banoo: Hi everyone, welcome to the Professional Services Pursuit, a podcast featuring expert advice and insights on the professional services industry. I'm Banoo Behboodi and my guest today is Peter Hadas, a change leadership coach and the change management lead at Hadas Partners Management Consultants. Peter has over 20 years of experience leading change on enterprise-wide transformation. And we're thrilled to have him on the show to talk through everything change management, which is top of mind for many of our readers. Peter, thanks so much for being here.

    Peter: Well thanks Banoo, and I'm really thrilled to be here and look forward to talking all about change management.

    Banoo: Yeah, me too. I know you're very passionate about it. Before we get started, give us a little insight into your background and your role as a change leadership coach, and what that means.

    Peter: Sure. So I got my start probably 25 years ago with Ernst & Young and worked on projects to implement change management, worked my way up, and started to lead change projects. And a lot of that involved dealing with leaders in helping them lead the change, the whole coaching part came as part of that. Continued that with Capgemini on my own and with CGI as well. So that's kind of my journey. One thing I really like about it is it’s gotten me to work with some interesting companies from Canadian Tire and Enbridge Direct Energy, PWC, and being there in the midst of these major transformations, which are very exciting. And it's a really thrilling experience when you're going through something like that.

    Banoo: Yeah, it sounds like that, and it's been quite a journey. A lot of transformational programs I'm sure that you've touched on and therefore that experience is gonna be invaluable through this discussion. So thanks for that background. I think you would agree that change management is a huge topic and therefore, just for the sake of this conversation, if you can help us provide critical insights into the critical elements that you think every professional services firm needs to be considering to be successful in the context of change management? And what is it that often is overlooked? What are the things that result in issues from transformational projects and considerations that are ignored?

    Peter: Sure. There is a common process just like there is in project management steps you follow to implement it. So it usually begins with a stakeholder analysis, which informs what the change strategy is going to be. From then you develop the change plan, which includes the ones that are most visible and everybody's aware of, communications and training. But then there are other ones as well that form what's below, in terms of what's visible, just like an iceberg and you have a job design part of it. Sometimes organizational design, you have performance management, you have rewards recognition, all of that form the entire total package of what's needed. And on projects that I've been part of or have seen others conduct, they typically follow that. I think oftentimes what's sometimes missed out that I've noticed is the setting success criteria and measurable ones at the beginning of a transformation is sometimes not there, and these are business objectives. Oftentimes people say, well it's on time, on budget, and those project metrics are very important ones, but from a business perspective, and the question I usually ask is once we finish this project, once we go live a month later, we'll do lessons learned and we're going to celebrate. So what are we celebrating? So how will this organization look like a month in relative to what it looks like now?

    The other thing is there is a lot of focus on communications and training, and that's important, that's a key element, but some of the other ones may not have enough attention paid to it. And one that's common to everybody is oftentimes when people think of rewards and recognition, they immediately think there's a price tag to it. But the recognition piece is a very inexpensive one and oftentimes it's a celebration. And so having celebrations, you know, key milestones is a really good thing to have as well. And oftentimes it's not put into the plan as often as it could be, and it is very powerful. The other one, and this is particularly important to professional services firms, which tend to be very matrixed organizations, so there isn't necessarily a hierarchy that you can lean on sometimes. What's very important to have is a good change leadership network, a team of leaders that is involved in collaboratively implementing things as we go along. And so in those particular instances, something like that is very important and it's not always there.

    Banoo: Yeah, that makes total sense. So I know your focus is on leadership training and coaching around change management, why do you feel that that's a critical element of successful change management?

    Peter: Sure, and whenever you read about it, there are always things that tell you leadership is so critical when it comes to implementing a change. And it is, but oftentimes the leaders leading the change, they have to do things differently than you do when you manage an organization operationally. One of the key things, for example, is that you need to rely on influences a whole lot more than on giving people direction because oftentimes somebody in another department or area needs to do something for you to be successful at completing a task and they don't report to you. So having that influence is important. The other part too is communication. What I usually tell my clients when we're working on this, is to be prepared to repeat the same thing over and over again, multiple times, and oftentimes to the same person. I don't know how many times I've seen where we've had a town hall and emails and meetings and this and that, and somebody who's been there at all of them will come back and say, oh nobody told me this. How could you have missed it? So that's important as well. And so when we get into coaching mode, those are the things I stress.

    Banoo: What are the key things you need to focus on to make sure that the communication is relevant? Because a lot of times where we find people haven't heard you is because the messaging may not have been on point, they may have not found the messaging relevant to what they do or their lives. So your thoughts on that?

    Peter: So one thing that we always do at the start of a project, is we put together a communications package for the leadership and usually there are three components to that. One component is what are the key messages? And it's the leaders as well as their teams that help us pull this together. So what are the most important things that we need to tell people? So that's where the relevance comes in. From that, we take a subset of that and we create what we call an elevator speech. And if you're talking and communicating to people, what are the key points you always need to reiterate and repeat, and that becomes a song sheet that everybody sings off of. And then, of course, we have an FAQ or questions that you might be asked or are being asked, and what are the answers so that, again, provides a similar answer in their own way. But again, everybody stays on message, so that, from a communications perspective, is important. The other part we start off with is to have a communications schedule and that's to respect the cascade of communications in the way it has to go out. Usually you don't want somebody who is, say a department manager, announcing something that somebody higher up is unaware of and is caught off guard and surprised. So those are the kind of things from a communications perspective that we put in and are very important.

    Banoo: Yeah, I know you and I have had conversations around making sure change management is sustainable, right? It's not an event during the project phase, but you've gotta think through change management so that change is really sticking 2, 3, 4 years down the line, and you're able to achieve the outcomes. And an area that Mavenlink always tries to focus on with our clients is understanding what the desired business outcomes as you pointed out are. So what are some of the ways that we can actually plan or structure our change management through measurements, KPIs, et cetera, beyond that project lifetime to actually make sure it's sustainable?

    Peter: Yeah, that's a big one because that's your return on investment; whatever you're putting in. Because if you spend all this money implementing something, and then a year later, people are using 40, 50% of that capability. I mean your return on investment is half of what you expected. And it's very important to make sure that people continue to do what they're supposed to do, and people do like their things. So if it's a system or an application that's implemented, that usually replaces a lot of either spreadsheets or other applications, but people are loath to get rid of those. So if it can be done, if certain applications can be shut off, that's an easy way to do it because you tell people, once you go alive, you can only access the historical information here, but new information cannot be entered any longer. And when it comes to spreadsheets, that's a tricky one. I’ve been in situations where people enter the data into their spreadsheets first, and then when they have time, they put it in the system. Meaning when you get a report, that report is not accurate because the data isn’t current and that can erode over time. So something like that is one thing we have done. Sometimes there are interfaces that can be created. So you can download something into your spreadsheets, you can still use a spreadsheet, but you enter the data in the system. And there's also a behavioral component to that where usually you try to get the carrot and stick model going, but you encourage people to use it.

    Then also there's, through the performance review process, things you put into place that if they do use it, there will be consequences, and therefore it discourages people. But you know what it is, it's always good to get the habit going, and if you get the habit going early, then you don't have as much problem of people switching back. I'll give you an example. In one situation we were implementing a project and it was a professional services firm and time sheets, this involved replacing the time sheets and the process run time sheets. And at that time, the company was working really hard on putting in a work-life balance. It was a consulting firm and that's always tough in that environment, but they were trying. And the timesheets that were being used at that time, you had to fill them in on Monday at noon. Which was perfect for a consulting consultant because usually flying back, getting back on Friday, rushing out to be with your family on the weekend, you come back on Monday morning, and before you start your day, just sit down and do your timesheet for the previous week, everything's great.

    With a new system that was changing to get this, Saturday night at 6:00 PM. All of a sudden this was like, oh this is gonna be a problem, so we decided to decouple that change from the implementation, and we created a policy shift that this would be Saturday night at 6:00 PM. And what we did was the partners allowed us to have an admin assistant who tracked manually how many people entered their timesheets ahead of that. Fortunately enough, the project was called Merlot, and so what we did was from the people that entered it early, we had a draw and 10 people every week would win a bottle of Merlot. We publicized this as a big fun thing. And the end result was by the time we went live, our adoption rate of the new system and our compliance rate were higher than in the other entity. This was the US one first, it was higher than theirs a year after they'd been using it. So it was that whole thing of getting the behavior in early and associating it with something fun and positive. And also disassociated from the system because the system ended up being seen as a positive because it reinforced this policy and behavior that was now already in place. So something like that worked well.

    Banoo: That's a great story. And you know what, I think a lot of times we forget that behavioral change is not only sort of that financial incentive. A lot of people, especially the newer generation are triggered by other means, so competition, who did the most timesheets on time, which department, and things like that. So I think it's about getting creative around how you structure it. Especially if you have a tight budget for your project and you don't wanna go out with a lot of rewards, but there are many ways to motivate people to incorporate that change.

    Peter: Yeah, and you raise a good point because professional services firms, the people who are there tend to be competitive by nature, right? So using a bit of peer pressure and competition, and again, recognition is great because if you say “Hey, we wanna congratulate Bob, Cindy, and somebody else for doing this,” and you publicize that, others will look at that and go “Ah, I want that too.” And so you encourage that behavior. Recognition can be used very productively, as long as it's used authentically to generate some of that peer oppression, some of that competition to the direction that you want.

    Banoo: Yeah, and I think you bring up a good point around the authenticity of it, and I think authenticity just plays a great role generally, as you're thinking about your change management, your rollout, right? Honesty and authenticity play a big role in credibility. What do you think about that?

    Peter: Definitely. You know what, that's very important, especially in the beginning, especially when it comes to communications. In the beginning, the information that you have is far less than what people are asking for because you just don't know. You're getting into the project, you have a lot of things to sort out and figure out, but people wanna know how my will job be impacted exactly, eight months from now? Well, you really don't know, but it's still important to be authentic. And obviously, the main thing that people are concerned about is is this gonna impact my job negatively? If you use the word efficiency, which is used quite often, people are automatically translated to oh okay, how many of us are leaving? And usually that is not the case, you have to say that, you have to say that that is not the objective. Although it could happen, it could happen even if you don't do anything. But what's also important to say is look, this is all the information we can give you, being very transparent with you, and we can't tell you anything more right now, but within one month, we'll be able to tell you more. And that usually soothes a lot of anxieties because people then park and go, okay, fine, I won't bother you, but I expect something in a month's time. And then in a month, you can give a bit more information and again, do the same thing. This is what we can tell you at this point and we'll have more communications coming, but look forward in a month and a half, we will have more to share with you. And once people get used to that behavior, that you're communicating regularly, and you're trying to just be very transparent, they will start to believe, and then communication becomes a lot more effective.

    Banoo: Yeah, so believe in trust, right? As you are concluding your current communication, you set expectations for when they should look for the next communication. That way they know that for the next month, I won't hear anything and I can rely on the fact that there will be another meeting in a month and I'll know how the progress is going on the project. So that's a fantastic point Peter. So Peter, just wanted to change gears a little bit towards training and just take a look at what are some of the key elements that the listeners should consider for effective training as an element of change management? With great resignation going on currently, and our workforce is changing, remote workforce, et cetera, what are some of the considerations to make sure that training is playing the effective role it needs to drive adoption?

    Peter: So what's important is to look at all elements of what a person needs to do to do their job. So for example, a lot of times, and I see this in situations where there's a technology implementer coming in and part of the implementation they always say we're gonna provide training. Then the client believes oh, you're gonna cover all the training, and that's not really fair because as an implementer, you need to provide training on your product as well as any workflows related. But the training of this is how it's within the context of the way you do your day-to-day job. So how does it fit within the whole business process that you're involved in? Used to do things this way, now you're gonna do things that way. Only somebody within the client organization could pull something like that off. So it does require that collaboration and also sometimes there's a behavioral component involved too, such as maybe the process says this has to happen, but from a behavior perspective, this has to be completed by Tuesday at 10:00 AM. And so that needs to be also expressly put out there.

    So one of the key things that people are afraid of when a change is coming and what a training address is my competency, will my competency be impacted? Will I be able to do this less? And if somebody feels that their competency, a sense of control is going to be impacted, this is again is what increases the risk of them saying you know what, I'm not comfortable here. But addressing that, so this is through training, if you say look, we're gonna provide everything to make you feel comfortable, that you can do your job going forward with this new technology, these new processes, whatever. And including that as part of that is a great way to reassure people and say okay fine, I'll be good after Go-Live. The other part too, and sometimes I've seen this is, is whenever you're implementing something, and this is a pretty well-researched figure, usually 10 to 15% of the people do not wanna make the change. And even after you try to cajole them and threaten them and everything else, 10 to 15%, it's a remarkably consistent figure. And if you think even now with a pandemic, well at least here in Canada, we look at it as how many people are not vaccinated, it's 10 to 15%. And what's important is at that stage, if you're training, if you're doing whatever at that point, you just have to say okay, well we are gonna stop trying to encourage you, and we're gonna have a different conversation. At this point, the train has left, everybody else is on board, the caboose is leaving, and this is your last chance to jump on board and that's it. But trying to get to full consensus is a mistake, these are individuals that will not get on board, voluntarily just won't happen.

    Banoo: Yeah, that's a great point because the energy and investment behind bringing that 15% along, it's just not going to get you where you need to be so you brought up a fantastic point.

    Peter: Plus you also erode the motivation of all those that did the effort to go ahead because I'm saying well wait a second, I did everything you told me, but now you're really glad handling these others who are just a pain to work with, why? So you're really devaluing my efforts at that point. And so whenever I've been in those situations, everybody who has gone early has no empathy for those that had trouble. Although 10, 15% it's like look you know what, we're all going this way. We're friends, we'll have coffee, but honestly let's not talk about this because I don't have the patience for that, I've moved on.

    Banoo: Yeah I agree because I think the energy of the masses will bring the minority along as well to some extent, so all very good points. The other thing that you bring up that I think was very valuable is a lot of times we look at training as part of a checkbox. Yeah, we need to have training programs, and go back to the software provider. Or if we are the software provider, we basically say okay, well here's the package, we can provide you on how to use the software. But ultimately, there are so many other aspects that if you considered that training would be so much more impactful. The process, the procedure you brought up, behavioral implications, but also organizational cultural implications, right? Not every organization has the same cultural values. And I think there is an overarching element that will make training more effective if you actually consider that. I don't know what your thoughts are.

    Peter: Yeah, and oftentimes what I've seen when applications are put in that take the place of multiple homemade applications or spreadsheets, the organization’s culture does shift because it becomes more process-oriented and there's less done through relationships and just knowing what to do. And sometimes people feel that and they go oh, it's not as much kind of a relationship culture. It feels less like a family, more like this corporate thing. And oftentimes it's important to address that up front, to kind of think about what is gonna be some of the cultural changes and say you know what, once we implement this, yeah, it's gonna be a bit more rigor. It's gonna be more tracking, more oversight, and that's just part of it. And just helping people to understand that you understand what the change is gonna be, and you're gonna help them through that. And again, training is a big part of that because if you think of training less of I just wanna make sure my people can use the system and you change your mindset to I wanna make sure that my people feel comfortable and effective once the system is in place, and they feel confident in their job, we will just look at training and approach training differently.

    Banoo: Yeah, and what's your perspective? I mean, again, with the source from anywhere remote work online versus in person or combination, all of the above. Any sort of preferences or recommendations on ongoing training beyond the project point and project training delivery.

    Peter: Yeah, so one thing that we always make sure we do, and this is again from a sustainability perspective. And actually in some ways, being online has helped because the training, as we do it now, you don't need to have multiple classrooms for example, for training, for some of the education sessions or training sessions that were in person, you can have now in person on a call and then record that. And that recording is a lesson, so if somebody new comes on board, part of their onboarding is you have to watch this training. It's a live recorded training session and that saves time. And also you can do it in one shot, or if you have to do it repeatedly because it's a large number, you can do that and record one of them or record all of them and pick the best one. But I have found with this whole online, it did not have as negative of an effect as I expected it to have. And in some ways, there's been some positives that have come out of it. I can't predict which way it's going to go, but whichever way it goes, whether it goes more towards in-office or online, either way, it should not hinder how effective the training is.

    Banoo: No, I agree. Actually, just personal experience, I joined Mavenlink last year, and I can't tell you how important things like Chorus or Zoom recordings were in my onboarding, reaching out and seeing people at work versus taking a training course versus actually listening to recordings of people in action, delivering messaging, et cetera. I found it invaluable, and much more effective than taking a classroom-type training, so agree all the way.

    Peter: And also in terms of that, another project prior to all of this, I was involved in online training, we produce videos and those kinds of things. I find that people gravitate a lot more, just like you mentioned now to seeing real-life people. In a training session, it's back to that authenticity. It's not overproduced, and you recognize some of these people, they're your colleagues. So all of a sudden that relationship kind of starts getting built, even though it's only one way, but you're starting to recognize people. They ask questions, somebody flubs up, you go oh, they're human too, that's great, you know, it just kind of reduces the anxiety around that.

    Banoo: Yeah, that sounds right. If there was one key takeaway that you want our listeners out in the professional services industry to keep in mind when going through a major transformation, what would that one thing be Peter?

    Peter: There's actually a couple if I can hide a few.

    Banoo: Yeah, you can even push it to three.

    Peter: Well actually it's funny, I do have three. And this is what I usually tell both the leaders of a transformation, as well as the project teams, the project manager, and everybody I'm working with, you need to put time and effort aside to implement this. Especially leaders, there's a sense of okay, great, I've gotta change person, I've got a team, call me when it's over or call me if you need me to approve something. What I usually tell them is that you need to devote, you have to put in your mind that 10 to 20% of your working week is gonna be devoted to this project because these external people are not gonna implement the change. You're the leader, you have to implement the change. That means you have to be in certain meetings, you have to be reviewing documents, and all those things. And that will chew up between 10 and 20% of your time on average, depending on your position, how close you’re involved and so on. And that usually causes people to just stop and listen because that's not what they often expect.

    The other part too is to be comfortable with repeating the same message over and over again. And one kind of metaphor to use is to think about yourself as selling this change to everybody. And if you think about it, if you watch hockey or football or whatever beer commercial is being put on there, they don't just do it once. Seems like every break in play there's that commercial. And by the third quarter, you're conditioned to walk over to the fridge and get that beer. You're sold. It's the same thing. So get ready and get your message straight and then keep repeating. And the last thing too, is to be okay with some anger. As people go from being aware that something is changing and that you really understand, there's that “holy cow” moment, it's like what do you mean I can't use that spreadsheet anymore? That comes with anger. And to just understand that that is okay. As a matter of fact, when you see that, that's a sign of progress. Now it doesn't mean you should purposely try to get a revolution started, but it's not to shy away from it either. One of the mistakes I see is where people kind of go well if you say that then people will get upset, let's avoid it. But eventually people will figure it out, and then you're left dealing with the anger, as well as trying to get people to do something. You're better off getting the anger out of the way, dealing with it, and then when you ask people to do something, they may be grumbling, but they're just gonna do it. And the other mistake I see is sometimes people try to counter anger with anger. Leaders will come in and go, well you just have to do it, and of course that's counterproductive. So you have to absorb it, get beyond the emotion, deal with what the issues are, and then just say hey check mark, we got progress. Everybody now is at an understanding, this is good.

    Banoo: Well I'm glad we didn't limit it to one, the three were fantastic. And you know, I love your passion and enthusiasm, Peter, in all of this. If people want to connect with you, I don't know what the best way is for them to connect with you. Is it LinkedIn or how would they look you up?

    Peter: Yeah, they can look me up at LinkedIn for sure. My email is Peter@hadaspartnersinc.com and also through my website at wwwhadaspartnersinc.com as well, there's a contact section there.

    Banoo: Fantastic. I'm always looking for books to read, great reads. So this is going to be my ending question for you more on a personal note, any recommendations?

    Peter: Sure, I have a ton for you. Actually, the kind of books I generally like to read are biographies of somebody who was historically significant in some way. It's always something to learn. And right now the book I'm reading is called Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, and it's by Walter Isaacson. And I really like him, he's the one that wrote the biography on Steve Jobs. One thing I like about him is he gets beneath the veneer and presents the flawed person. And Benjamin Franklin has always been somebody I've wanted to know more about. And arguably he was one of the leaders of one of the greatest business transformations ever from an English colony to a Republic. There’s a lot of change management there. And that's currently what I'm reading and actually, it is fascinating, he was a fascinating individual, more so than I expected.

    Banoo: I've got to pick that one up. I've read Steve Jobs’ autobiography. Now I do know for a fact that you have read Untethered Souls, I know that from past and my last recording, I was actually recommending it. I was saying I'm rereading it, which I am rereading it, so did you enjoy that book?

    Peter: Very much. And I think from a leadership perspective, I highly recommend that book as well as there's another book that I recommend, I forgot the exact name, but it's also like an eight-week program. Self-Awareness is a huge part of leadership, right? When somebody says something, you react. Now being aware of how you react and why is very important to being an effective leader. And when it comes to change management, really what you're doing is you're developing new skills, you're leading in a different way. And if you're not aware, you're gonna miss that lesson. So you're absolutely right, the Untethered Soul is great to get you to think about your own reactions, your own perception, which is all self-awareness. So yeah, absolutely, books like that, I think from a leadership perspective are very important.

    Banoo: I loved it. I mean I never thought about it from that angle, but a fantastic angle. Anyways Peter, just wanna thank you for your time, it's been fantastic, I hope we can have you on again. Well, I'm sure we'll have questions and comments and people reaching out and hopefully we can regroup and continue the conversation.

    Peter: Love to, yeah, really enjoyed it. Thanks for having you on Bonnie.

    Banoo: Thanks.