The first full day of the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) conference (#acmp2012) kicked off with a spectacular keynote address by Chip Heath, co-author of Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard. Heath summarized the results of his book and the key elements of an individual's Elephant and the Rider and how they enable (or prevent) a change. Simply put, the Elephant refers to the emotional side of an individual and the Rider is the thinker; in order to make sustainable change, both the Elephant and the Rider need to be engaged.

Throughout the tracks I attended, I heard many change management practices, tools and theories with which I am familiar, but there were also many golden nuggets in each of the sessions, including some reminders of how to stand firm when change is truly complex and challenging. An intrinsic value in attending conferences with professional peers is to re-energize one's efforts in their given field. I have summarized some of these key takeaways below:

1. In order to manage IT Projects as Change Projects:

  • Focus on users not technology. This shift enables teams to more effectively implement technology because you start with the end in mind which is often behavior driven and technology enabled.
  • Deliver technology that is fast, easy, usable, and useful. These factors are addressed through a comprehensive adoption strategy. Technologies are rapidly changing but behaviors can be sustained throughout changing technology if the technology implemented is fast, easy, usable and useful. This is where the efficiency is truly gained.
  • Purposely create highly adoptable solutions which are long lasting. The adoptable behavior change will last longer than highly complex, cool IT solutions that can be obsolete in short order.

2. Learn from those who have been there: IBM's Transformation Journey

IBM found that challenges with adoption and sustaining change primarily due to:

  • Resources and capability being pulled prematurely
  • Changes not being plumbed into the business to make it stick
  • Required behavior changes not being addressed (too squishy)
  • Too much change impacting the same population

IBM addressed these challenges in their internal transformation by:

  • Creating a Center of Excellence for Change Management
  • Deploying a consistent framework with tools and toolkits for change management
  • Building a learning curriculum for teams to build OCM capabilities and methodology (i.e. 10 minute smart phone apps to 6 hour ILT)
  • Building a community for collaboration on how to do change better
  • Working with leaders to support critical initiatives (consulted on those efforts internally)
  • Using digital and social computing to improve collaboration

These tactics have enabled IBM to transition over the years through changing business environments.

Additionally, IBM redefined itself as a social business which is a business that embraces networks of people to create business value. Social businesses focus on people and their expertise/energy rather than on documents. Tactics they used for this redefinition included: video blogs, meeting minutes via Lotus Live, instant messages, collaborating IBM connections, unique virtual communities and sharing of files/downloads.

3. Know the potential impact of internal change to reach business objectives:

Marriott International shared their experience of redefining one of their brands by focusing on their talent and culture. Steps to this successful transition included:

  • Recognizing the intersection of Brand, Culture and Talent: Your outward self is dependent on your inward self and this is no different for companies.
  • Beginning with behavior: Leaders decided to recreate from within the Renaissance hotel brand. They changed their internal delivery model to associates to enable a culture change that would change the brand to customers.
  • Leveraging existing strengths: General Managers (GMs) execute flawlessly in operations. However they needed to connect emotionally to the lifestyle brand in order to lead associates through the change.
  • Communicating repeatedly and consistently: Communicating with GMs continually to shepherd them to the lifestyle brand (GMs needed to look and act the part).
  • Using the power of peer pressure: Peer pressure ensures that each associate is living the brand. No one wants to be the weak link in a successful team.