Change Is Good: F Is for Focus

Change Is Good is a blog series in which Roger Kastner highlights the simplicity in the art of Organizational Change Management and strives to encourage readers to maximize Pareto’s Law when navigating through the complexity of human behavior.

Slalom Consulting Roger Kastner

A Consultant Manager with Slalom Consulting, Roger works with clients and other consultants in the delivery of Organizational Effectiveness and Project Leadership services and helps practitioners achieve greater success than previously possible.

A few years ago, some friends and I took a golfing trip to Palm Springs to take lessons in the morning and then play 18 holes in the afternoon (where we seemingly forgot almost everything our golf pro taught us). The golf pro was a good friend of a good friend, so it was not completely out of the blue on the second day when I received a text message from our mutual friend reading “Ask Bobbi about playing with a heavy bottom.” Of course, with such a provocative prompt, I obliged.

Bobbi, a salt of the earth, lovely South Carolinian gal, cracked a smile and without skipping a beat, expanded the lesson.

Bobbi asked us if we’ve ever heard of the golf advice to “keep your head down” during the swing. The reason for this (for those of you non-golfers out there) is because most amateur players focus on the impact between ball and club face, and by focusing on the impact, they automatically stiffen their bodies, often causing the body to pull away from the ball and resulting in a poor shot. Not to mention 5-10 minutes of looking for the ball afterwards.

Bobbi then explained that most pro golfers will focus on swinging through the ball, about a foot past impact, eliminating the pulling away motion, and resulting in those beautiful shots you see on TV on Sundays.

To teach this, Bobbi does not use the old saw about “keeping your head down” because she finds a lot of people can keep their heads down and still pull their bodies away from the ball at impact. So instead, she coaches her students to “play with a heavy bottom,” enabling the golfer to swing through the ball, and focus on the club position past impact.

When we, as coaches for change, focus on the moment of impact for the change, we are doing the same thing as the amateur golfer. While the moment of impact, when the target audience is expected to perform the change for the first time, is absolutely critical to a successful change initiative, ultimately the goal is the sustained change in performance and behaviors one month, three months, and on after the impact.

Therefore, the focus of the change initiative should not only be on the moment of change, but the reinforcing and sustaining of desired performance and behaviors. It is the destination, not the journey.

It’s just that simple.

Swinging through Impact/Change with a Heavy Bottom

Most change initiatives do a good job at identifying the change in performance expectations for post implementation. Many will also break the desired performance into expected behaviors per role, which supports the setting of context for change with individuals and helps guide the development of training. All are important and critical for success, however, I’d suggest a series of questions that focuses on ensuring these behaviors are performed post impact.

1) What are the desired, key behaviors for post implementation?
The first set of questions I’d ask would be to ensure we have the right behaviors to achieve our objectives:

  • How were these behaviors identified?
  • How were they validated?
  • What was done to ensure we’re only focusing on a few, key behaviors that are vital for achieving success?

The responses to these questions will validate that we’re focusing on the right behaviors and are ready to talk about reinforcement and sustainment of the new behaviors after the moment of impact.

2) How will these key behaviors be reinforced post implementation?
In an earlier blog, C is for Context, I wrote about having managers set the context for change through dialogue with the individuals well in advance of the moment of change. That conversation would be structured as follows:

  • Set the expectations for changes in their role (including the expected behaviors and performance)
  • Highlight the support that will be available to the individual during the transition
  • Outline how performance and results will be measured
  • Discuss rewards for achieving performance goals (include consequences as appropriate)
  • Ask the individual what they think about the change, the impact to the organization and to themselves, and what concerns they have

Hopefully, in most cases a strong manager-employee dialogue existed prior to the start of the change effort, as this will make these conversations more efficient and productive. But if not, no time like the present to start strengthening the relationship and communication channels between managers and employees.

While the above dialogue happens before the moment of impact, the key here is that similar conversations continue after the change has been implemented. In most cases, it will be the manager who is measuring the new behaviors, conducting performance reviews with the individual, and where necessary, the manager will be engaged in coaching and correcting those behaviors that are not in alignment.

As it was prior to the moment of impact, so shall it be after; it is the manager who will be the first, last, and most impactful person in leadership who will build and reinforce the desired behavior and performance change for the individual.

3) How does one validate these behaviors are being performed?
Identifying new behaviors is fine, and its similar to me driving to the golf course with visions of perfect swings and birdie putts in my mind – the desired results come after the moment of impact and the proof is in the pudding (and the score card).

Jack Walsh, former CEO of GE, is known for saying “you get the behaviors you measure and reward,” so the second set of questions I’d ask would be around the plans to measure and reward behaviors post moment of impact.

  • What are the metrics and the mechanisms for collection?
  • Who will be doing the measuring and reporting, and how frequently will these be done?
  • How will the metrics be shared with the individual?

And then after the implementation, I’d ask another set of questions:

  • Is the organization achieving the performance metrics defined by the project?
  • What is the feedback and areas of resistance we’re hearing from the managers who are continuing to have the conversation with the impacted individuals?
  • Are the identified rewards and consequences being delivered as planned?

Clearly, these questions ensure the new behaviors are being measured appropriately and the metrics are being used to validate and, when necessary, correct performance. And for the reward and consequence mechanism, if we dangle a carrot on a stick to motivate, we need to follow through with the carrot or stick, or we’ll be in a water hazard without a mulligan.

Wrap it Up

So, on your change initiative, are you swinging through the ball and playing with a heavy bottom by focusing beyond the moment of impact?

If not, you are likely focusing on the wrong thing, and that will show up negatively on your scorecard.

It’s just that simple.

About Roger Kastner
As a member of the Organizational Effectiveness practice at Slalom Consulting, I'm excited to share my perspectives and experiences with Change and Project Management to help clients and practitioners achieve their goals and objectives.

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