Tag Archives: Change Acceleration Process CAP Welch

Managing Transitions: Real-Life Examples – Part 2

This is another true life personal experience straight from the Org Change trenches.  I’ll bet many readers of this have either had a similar experience or know others who have.   Part one of this story is about an experience in my personal life.  Click here to go back and read Managing Transitions:  Real-Life Examples – Part 1.   It may also be useful to read a previous post: Why do we need Organizational Change Management?

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Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Transition

Virtually every large organization is using technology to manage their HR processes.  The recruiting function in most large organizations utilizes an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to post job openings, manage applications, and manage the interview/selection process.  This story has been edited to reflect only the issues surrounding one set of functionality; campus recruiting.  Obviously there was much more involved in this project.

A recent client did a significant amount of college recruiting.  The campus recruiters would collect resumes at college career fairs.  They would then go back to their office and manually create a candidate record in their home-brew ATS, then scan and attach the pdf of the resume to the new candidate record.  This was a labor-intensive process that was prone to errors.   Many recruiters opted to not use the ATS at all, preferring to keep a spreadsheet and paper records.   Leadership was frustrated because essential business metrics were difficult or impossible to gather.  Needless to say, this process was painful for everyone involved.  It had to change.  Even so, the recruiters were not enthusiastic about changing the way they did things and were reluctant to provide support for the project.

When the project team talked to the college recruiters about their requirements for a new system, they said, “We need the ability to scan resumes and get them into the ATS faster.”  This is typical of what Business Analysts (BA) hear on IT projects; I want the new system to do what I do now – just better.  A good BA can translate that into real requirements, and that is what was done on this project.  Most ATS’ these days don’t have any capability to manage paper documents at all; they rely on the applicant to submit a resume electronically, so finding an ATS that could “scan faster” was not going to happen.  However, many state-of-the-art ATS’ have other capabilities designed to address this specific need.

A group was selected to pilot the new system, based on their expressed willingness to be “guinea pigs” and the support of their leadership.  When the recruiters got there first overview of the new system they were flabbergasted, “Are you kidding me?  There is no way interface to the scanner?  I hate this!  It will never work for us.”  Fortunately the team had done its homework and anticipated this reaction, and had planned to walk them through the solution.

For each new campus recruiting event, the recruiter creates an event in the ATS.  This in turn, creates an on-line” Event Portal” linked to the ATS, with a form to capture candidate information.  It also generates a unique QR code for the event.  The recruiter then embeds the QR code in all the collateral that they create for the campus event.   At the event, the candidate scans the QR code with their smart phone and is then directed to the Event Portal.  Here they fill out a simple form that creates their record in the ATS, emails the recruiter their contact info, and emails them a link to upload their resume.

Once the recruiter pilot group understood how this system worked, how easy it was, and how much effort it saved them, they became raging advocates – they would’ve harmed us if we tried to switch them back to the old system.  Together we developed very effective, efficient training for the larger deployment.  Best of all, positive buzz about the new system spread fast, ahead of our formal communication plan, and soon campus recruiters across the enterprise were clamoring for the new system.

This story is typical of corporate IT application deployment projects.  The technical aspects of the deployment are relatively straightforward, but the impact on the end-user is transformational – it fundamentally changes the way they do their jobs. (See: Types of Org Change)

Four Phases of Change

It starts with denial; “We don’t need to change.  We know this process is bad but we know how to do it.”  The initial emotional /gut reaction is resistance; “This doesn’t work the way our old system did, it will never work.”  In a scenario like this, the key to achieving the desired business impact is by getting the adoption rate to 100%.  If the impacted population doesn’t experience success and feel the benefit of the new system quickly, their frustration can drive them back to their manual processes or to work-arounds.

A good Org Change consultant does their homework; anticipates the resistance, understands the source of it, and has an executable plan to address it.  This is where we earn our pay!  Identify a pilot group of early adopters and lead them by the hand into the Exploration phase.  Their real-life experience is then used to develop and/or refine the training materials that will be used to roll-out the system to the balance of the organization.  Their success stories become the core of your communications.

It is worth noting, that it is critical that someone knowledgable of orgnaizational behavior and change management is involved early in a project to identify transformational changes.  Too frequently I see teams assume that the technical deployment is simple so the impact on the end-user must be minimal.


Managing Transitions: Real-Life Examples – Part 1

This is a true life personal experience.  I’ll bet many readers of this have either had a similar experience or knows others who have.   While this story is about an experience in my personal life, it is absolutely representative of what people go through during organizational change.  I’ll follow-up this story with another real-life story from a corporate setting.  For reference, it may be useful to read a previous post: Why do we need Organizational Change Management?

The Blackberry to Android Transition

BB to Android flat

I had a Blackberry for a long time.  It was a corporate issue standard Blackberry with the hard QWERTY keyboard and the small screen.  Over the years I had become intimately familiar with all its capabilities and its quirks.  I knew that my phone functionality was hopelessly outdated, and that RIM, the maker of Blackberry, was in trouble and that they are probably going to be extinct soon.  I didn’t care.  I was going to use my Blackberry till the bitter end.  I was solidly in my comfort zone and solidly in denial – afraid to “let go” as long as I didn’t have to.

Have-to arrived sooner than I anticipated.  The USB connector that is used to charge the battery became intermittent and the phone had to be replaced or I risked losing everything.  I opted to go with a state-of-the-art Android-based phone.

One of the features I utilized on the Blackberry was the speed dial function.  My wife’s name is Wendy.  I setup the W key as a speed dial to call her cell phone.  I could do this by touch without looking – absolutely safely – anytime, anywhere, and did it often while driving.

Not long after the transition to the Android phone, I needed to call my wife from the road.  I instinctively reached for the W key but only got glass.  I pulled off the road.  I had to get my reading glasses out and scroll through menus to place a call to my wife.  This was clearly going to be a problem, but I wanted this new phone to work.  That night I tried to create a speed dial key with no success.   I eventually resorted to asking my 18 yr. old daughter to make a speed dial key for me.  To my astonishment she had no success either.  I was extremely frustrated at this point.  I hated the new phone it – I was sure it would never work.  I wanted to go back to the old way. I was ready to go to the phone store and exchange this modern marvel for a tried-and-true Blackberry and ride RIM into the sunset.

A few days later I was complaining about my new phone experience to a colleague.  She asked if I had a headset for the phone and that I should get it and plug it in.  Once attached, she directed me to “press the button.”  I had no idea what she was talking about.  I turns out that a small bump on the headphone wire that I thought was the microphone, was actually a button.  So I pressed the button.   I heard a computer generated voice ask me to, “Say a command.”  After a few moments of confusion and discussion with my colleague I finally commanded, “Call Wendy.”  Within a few second my wife’s cell phone was ringing.  After explaining to Wendy that I really didn’t need to talk to her about anything, I thanked my colleague.  …And I started thinking completely differently about my new phone.  Cut to the end – I now love my phone and wonder how I could have ever considered going back to a Blackberry.

I went through the four classic phases of personal change.

Four Phases of Change

I started off in Denial.  Despite compelling logic and clear technological advantages, I was not going to change.  I only changed when forced to by an external cause beyond my control.

Once I had made the superficial technical change, the real changes began.  I was stuck in Bridges’ Neutral Zone, vacillating between Resistance and Exploration in the Four Phase model.  I was futilely trying to make the new phone work the way my old phone did.  It wasn’t until a “change agent” held my hand and showed me a solution to my personal source of frustration that I moved permanently from Resistance to Exploration.

Once I began exploring all the other features of the new phone I was hooked – I was committed to the new way of doing things.  I have no desire to return to the old way and have become a vocal advocate for the new way.

This was a major “a-ha” moment for me.  I saw that there were many important lessons here for every organizational change practitioner.  To paraphrase Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline, “Although we are all interested in large scale change, we have to change one mind at a time.”

  1. The technical change itself is frequently simple, and seems trivial.  If you don’t drill down to the “how will you actually use this device” level – you can never understand the sources of frustration and the opportunities from the end-user’s perspective.
  2. It is impossible to anticipate all the ways that technology or process changes will impact end-users in the “future state.”  Pilot implementations are essential to understand how they will actually do things, and to develop meaningful training that will hit the mark
  3. A knowledgeable change agent, ready and able to address the needs of the impacted population is essential.

Credibility as a Consultant – Expertise and Execution

This is the first of what I plan to be a series of posts on “A Foot Soldier’s Guide Leading Change.”  See “I am not Jack Welch” for additional background.

Recently I was asked how to go about establishing credibility as a consultant during the early phases of an engagement with a new client.  I immediately responded, “Expertise and execution.”  To make a long story short, this question eventually led to a more in-depth discussion about why I feel that way – what experiences formed that belief.  It took some reminiscing and some reflection, but three experiences eventually came to stand out in mind.  I thought they were worth sharing.

The First Time I Taught a Class

The first was shortly after the first time I ever taught a class.  In 1990, I had recently finished a graduate degree in instructional technology and I changed jobs to get an opportunity to teach classes.   I’ll never forget the debrief after my first attempt at teaching and the feedback I got from my boss, “If you said ‘um” one more time I was going to kill myself.”  But as many of you understand, I had been bitten by the bug.  I loved it and was determined to be good at it.  I wondered one day to my boss, “Wouldn’t it help if I were an expert in these subjects?”  He responded, “You only have to be one chapter ahead of the class.  That appears to be expertise to them.  They come into the room assuming that you are an expert.  As long as you don’t tell them you’re not, they will continue to think you are.”  He continued, “Expertise will give you more confidence, so by all means learn more.”  This has turned out to be true.  Listen to Brene Brown’s talk on TED (Start at 11:20 if you can’t watch both her talks).  Dare greatly!  Don’t be afraid of failure.  You just have to be “good enough” and then you must try!  Of course expertise is helpful – it’s always good to “have more in your pocket than what you show.”  But if you wait until you are “expert enough” to jump in, you may never jump at all.

Welcome to GE

The second experience was when I was hired as an instructional designer by GE in 1997 for a high-profile project run out of corporate headquarters.  I was brought in because of my experience with technology-enabled learning to work on the Six Sigma Quality Coach (SSQC) – GE’s first enterprise-wide intranet-based e-learning application (see: Slater, R., 1999. The GE Way Fieldbook. New York: McGraw-Hill; p139-144).   I had no idea what I was in for.  My first day on the job I flew to Schenectady, NY and jumped right in.  What honeymoon period?   By 1:00PM that day I’m in a working team meeting, literally surrounded by Harvard Business School, Boston Consulting / McKinsey alumni.  This was a very smart, very intense crowd.  It was pretty intimidating.  I kept a low profile while I got my feet on the ground.  That evening, I confided in my new boss that I felt like youngster who had just been thrown into the deep end of the pool.  She gave me some sage advice, “You were hired for your expertise.  Don’t worry about what they know.  Answer questions and offer insight about stuff you know.  If you don’t know the answer to a question, say ‘I don’t know’ – tell them when you’ll get back to them with the answer and then be sure to do it.”  She went on, “Ask questions when you don’t understand something, and don’t offer too many opinions about stuff that you don’t understand, and you’ll be fine.”  This advice got me through that project, and it has served me well throughout my career as a consultant.  Be realistic about what you do have expertise in, and what you do not!  Good as your intentions may be, straying into areas where someone else in the room is the expert might do you more harm than good.  Secondly, say confidently what you will do and then be sure to deliver.


The third was more recent.  I did some work for a company through Patina Solutions (This is a great organization, for more information – see their web page).  Their specialty is matching their client’s needs with a consultant who has deep expertise in that area.  There niche is “50-25” i.e., consultants over fifty years old with more than twenty-five years experience – hence “Patina.’    During the on-boarding for a project, a Patina account exec asked a probing question that has stuck with me, and has permanently shifted my mindset.  She asked, “How will you add value by Friday?”   I’ve been to many career workshops etc. over the years and been to many “What is your elevator speech?  – What is your sweet spot?” sessions.  However, this question focused me like never before.  With every project I begin now, I ask myself that question, and I continue to ask myself that question every Monday morning as I plan out the week ahead.  How will I add value by Friday?  This question makes you think hard about what technical expertise you bring to bear, what expertise you have regarding the client’s challenges and goals, and what you understand of your stakeholders and their perspectives.

In retrospect, these three experiences were formative and profound for me.  They are at the root of my approach with my clients today.  This exercise showed me the value of examining my beliefs, and understanding why I believe what I believe.


I am not Jack Welch – A Foot Soldier’s Guide Leading Change

There is no shortage of excellent material on change management available. More than likely, anyone reading this is familiar with the books by Kotter, Bridges, etc. They are all very good. I have referenced them extensively throughout my career. The problem (for lack of a better word) with virtually every one of the “Leading Change Effectively” books out there is that they are geared toward the high-level perspective of business leaders. You know what I mean… “Establish a vision, visible authentic leadership, yada yada yada…” Unfortunately I am not Jack Welch. I suspect that you are not either. I don’t get to set the vision, or to speak to the all-employee meeting. I have to try to drive change vicariously.
How do you as a consultant, or as an individual contributor, get change to happen when you are lucky to get 30 minutes a month one-on-one with a senior leader? Or you can only get 10 minutes on a leadership team agenda? Add to the mix that many of the people you are trying to reach don’t understand anything about organizational change management, but are sure that they do, and are equally sure that they don’t need you telling them about it.
I had an epiphany recently. There’s plenty of great reference material for the generals in the change management wars, but there is little to no good reference material for the foot soldiers (of which I am proud to count myself).
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting new material from the view of the foot soldier. Some of it will be new, and some will be a revisit to some previous posts to change up the perspective.
This will be fun. Let’s see where this goes.


Great Quotes – Organizational Change and Leadership

I’ve accumulated a pretty good collection of quotes over the years.  I’ll be adding to these regularly.  Feel free to send me some of your favorites.

Organizational Change

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

“If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less.” – General Eric Shinseki (U.S. Army Chief of Staff, 1999-2003)

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” –  W. Edwards Deming

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action
rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” – Jack Welch

“We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change.  And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” – Peter Drucker


“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer

“When we do what we have to do we are compliant.  When we do what we choose to do we are committed.” – Marshall Goldsmith

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal” – Henry Ford


“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily.  To not dare is to lose oneself”  – Soren Kierkegaard

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” – Albert Einstein

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination” – Albert Einstein

“Failure is the foundation of success; success is the lurking place of failure” – Lao Tzu


Overview of GE’s Change Acceleration Process (CAP)

In 1989-90, under the direction of Jack Welch, GE launched “Work-Out” – a team based problem-solving and employee empowerment program modeled after the Japanese quality circles model that was in vogue at the time.  Work-Out was a huge success and Welch was frustrated by the rate of adoption through the business.  Welch, the visionary, realized that GE (and everyone else!) was entering an era of constant change, and that those who adapted to change the fastest would be the survivors.  He commissioned a team of consultants (including Steve Kerr, who was to become GE’s first Chief Learning Officer) to scour industry and academia to study the best practices in change management and come back to GE with a tool kit that Welch’s managers could easily implement.  The result was the Change Acceleration Process, commonly referred to within GE simply as “CAP.”[1]

The Change Effectiveness Equation

The team studied hundreds of projects and business initiatives.  One of their insights was that a high-quality technical strategy solution is insufficient to guarantee success.  An astonishingly high percentage of failed projects had excellent technical plans.  As an example of such a project, consider a business adopting Siebel Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system enterprise-wide.  Typically a great deal of effort is put into the technical strategy – to deploy the hardware and software, train the employees, etc.

The team found that it is lack of attention to the cultural factors that derail the project when there is a failure – not the technical strategy.  Failure, for our purposes, is defined as failing to achieve the anticipated benefits of the project (i.e., the benefits that justified the project in the first place).

The team created the Change Effectiveness Equation, QxA=E as a simple way to describe the phenomena.  Translated to English, it reads: the Effectiveness (E) of any initiative is equal to the product of the Quality (Q) of the technical strategy and the Acceptance (A) of that strategy.  In other words, paying attention to the people side of the equation is as important to success as the technical side .  It is interesting to note that they used a multiplicative relationship; if there is a zero for the Acceptance factor, the total effectiveness of the initiative will be zero, regardless of the strength of the technical strategy.  I’m sure we can all cite examples from our own experience when this was observed.

The Change Acceleration Process (CAP) Model

1. Leading Change

First and foremost, authentic, committed leadership throughout the duration of the initiative is essential for success.  From a project management perspective, there is a significant risk of failure if the organization perceives a lack of leadership commitment to the initiative.

2. Creating A Shared Need

The need for change must outweigh the resistance – the inertia in the organization to maintain the status quo.  There must be compelling reasons to change, that resonate not just for the leadership team, but that will appeal to all stakeholders.  To paraphrase Peter Senge in his groundbreaking book, The Fifth Discipline, “Although we are all interested in large scale change, we must change one mind at a time.”

3. Shaping a Vision

Leadership must articulate a clear and legitimate vision of the world after the change initiative.  Every journey must have a destination otherwise you are just wandering.  The vision must be widely understood and shared.  The end-state must be described in behavioral terms – i.e., observable, measurable terms.  Not business results, but individual behavior.  This might be the single most critical factor in a successful change initiative.   For a more detailed explanation of why this is so critical, see: CAP Lessons from Front Page News

4. Mobilizing Commitment

Once you have leadership support, compelling logic for change, and a clear vision of the future, you have the necessary ingredients to rollout your initiative.  You now begin to execute an influence strategy to build momentum.  You leverage the “early adopters,” to pilot the project where you face low resistance and can learn from mistakes with a forgiving partner.

5. Making change last

Steps 2-4 are primarily about accelerating adoption of your changes.  Steps 5-7 are about making the changes permanent.  You leverage early wins, taking the knowledge gained in your pilots and transfer learning’s and best practices to your broader rollout.  You plan for integrating with other existing, potentially competing, initiatives.  You assess what is helping and hindering the initiative.

6. Monitoring process

It is important to plan for measuring the progress of your change initiative.  Is it real?  How will you know?  You need to set benchmarks — realize them – and celebrate! Similarly there must be accountability for lack of progress.

7. Changing Systems and Structures

Every business has underlying systems and structures: hiring & staffing, IT systems, training & development, resource allocation, organizational design, SOPs/workflow, etc..) These systems were designed to support the current state of the business.  If they are not changed to support the desired, future state of the business they will always push you back to the old way.  That’s what they are supposed to do.  In order to make change permanent you must systematically identify how these systems influence the behavior you are trying to change, and modify them appropriately.  Failure to address these systems and structures is why so many initiatives become the proverbial “flavor of the month.”  For further discussion, see the 23 Feb 09 post; “The Results – Activities – Systems and Structures Model.”

[1] Becker, B., Huselid, M., and Ulrich, D. (2001), The HR Scorecard; Linking People, Strategy, and Performance. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.