Getting Personal about Change [Keller & Schaninger]

Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

Every once in a while, I come across some good content from the folks at McKinsey. Last year it was Untangling Your Organization’s Decision-Making which informed “deciding how to decide”. This year, The Helix Organization almost made the cut, but eventually, I decided that while it refines and extends a typical matrix organization in a few important ways, the contribution is still mostly incremental. 

And then I came across Scott Keller and Bill Schaninger’s 

Getting personal about change

An adaptation from their new book Beyond Performance 2.0: A Proven Approach to Leading Large-Scale Change and a piece that was well worth my time. And hopefully yours.

I’ve been thinking about mindsets a lot in recent weeks, as last week’s post about culture may suggest. In the process, I re-read my Pfeffer piece about changing mental models, which rings true today as it did when I wrote it 2.5 years ago and most likely as when the original was written 14 years ago. 

Pfeffer wraps up with the following quote (emphasis mine): 

In addition to being concerned with the company culture, human resources must be concerned with the mental models and mind-sets of the people in the company, particularly its leaders. Because what we do comes from what and how we think, intervening to uncover and affect mental models may be the most important and high-leverage activity HR can perform.

But Pfeffer left a big question unanswered: how? 

Keller & Schaninger, first make a similar case in their own words: mindset is the root cause which causes smart, hard-working, and well-intentioned employees to continue to behave as before, despite the effort and intention to change their behavior. The only way to drive effective behavior change is by reframing the root cause: changing the underlying mindset. From “hoarding information is the best way to magnify power” to “sharing information is the best way to magnify power”, for example. 

Then, they pick up where Pfeffer left off, offering a 2-part approach: 

Changing mindsets using a U-process offsite

Keller & Schaninger argue that the most effective intervention to get leaders and employees to commit to changing themselves is a 2-day offsite for a small group of 20–30 employees at a time, facilitating a workshop-based learning journey for each of the participants. 

The methodology is based on Scharmer’s U-process consisting of three phases:

Sensing. This typically involves a senior leader who has already been through the workshop and shares the company’s change story, describes her or his own personal change journey, and answers questions from participants.

Presencing. This involves participants exploring their personal “iceberg” of behavior. It includes working through modular, discussion-based content and questions that equip leaders to achieve new levels of self-awareness and self-control. “Where and why do I act out of fear rather than hope? Scarcity rather than abundance? Victimhood rather than mastery? And what would be the result if I made different choices?”

Realizing. In this phase, participants make explicit, public choices about personal mind-sets and behavioral shifts; identify “sustaining practices” that will help them act on their insights; and reflect on how they will engage their personal networks for the challenges and support they will need during the rest of their personal change journey.

The offsite is followed-up by small team gatherings aimed at offering peer accountability and advice. And a facilitated session a few weeks out to take stock changes in behavior and determine next-actions. 

Reshaping the work environment using the “influence model” 

Keller & Schaninger observe a similar phenomenon to the one I outlined last week in which behavior is mutually shaped by both our internal mindsets and the external work environment. They offer McKinsey’s “Influence Model” as a roadmap for reshaping the work environment in a way that’s conducive to the desired behavior change: 

Changes in thinking and behaving will be significant and sustained if leaders and employees see clear communications and rituals (the understanding and conviction lever); if supporting incentives, structures, processes, and systems are in place (the formal-mechanisms lever); if training and development opportunities are combined with sound talent decisions (the confidence and skills lever); and if senior leaders and influence leaders allow others to take their cues from the leaders’ own behavior (the role-modeling lever)

Source: McKinsey

Super cool. And kind of looking forward to trying it out in real-life. 

Getting Personal about Change [Keller & Schaninger]

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