Project Management

Shifting Change: Insider Tips from Project Leaders

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Today's world is influenced by change. Project managers and their organizations need to embrace and sometimes drive changes to keep up with the pace in highly competitive environments. In this blog, experienced professionals share their experiences, tips and tools to manage and exploit changes and take advantage of them. The blog is complimentary to the webinar series of the Change Management Community Team and is managed by the same individuals.

About this Blog


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Luisa Cristini
Nic Jain
Ruth Pearce
Abílio Neto
John ORourke
Steve Salisbury
Ronald Sharpe
Angela Montgomery
Vitaly Geyman
Walter Vandervelde
Joseph Pusz
Kavitha Gunasekaran
Carole Osterweil
Ross Wirth
Ryan Gottfredson
Tony Saldanha

Recent Posts

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How to drive greater value by listening

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Viewing Posts by Steve Salisbury

How to drive greater value by listening

Categories: Listening

During my years in corporate America, I sat in lots of meetings. I often marveled at how some of my peers could bloviate their opinions. They appeared confident and seemed persuasive in advocating their position.


One of my peers was particularly skilled at this. Joe (fictitious name) seemed to have the attention of senior leaders as he moved up quickly through the ranks. Employees who worked for Joe liked him. I recall more than once sitting around the lunch table where his employees talked about how great it was to work for Joe. In the end, though, Joe did not make it through multiple reorganizations and restructurings conducted to streamline the operations. What happened?


I spoke with a few of Joe’s former employees sometime later. They told me that they liked Joe because he gave them attention their previous managers hadn’t. Much of their 1-on-1 meetings consisted of Joe telling them how the organization would have to change, describing excellent leadership of change. Joe did not, however, affect any real change himself. He was a great announcer of change, but not an enabler of change. He was ineffective in bringing his employees along on the change journey.


The big lesson? Don’t confuse influential advocacy for change with making it happen. The latter requires that you listen to employees to help gauge their progress through change and offer strategies to help them along.


Here are a few things I counsel my executive clients:

  1. Stop talking. Mark Twain said, “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.”
  2. Listen to listen, not to speak. Do you listen only to wait to have your turn speaking, or do you listen to understand what the speaker is saying to you?
  3. Focus on the speaker. Don’t allow distractions. Don’t shuffle papers, look away or fiddle with your phone. Make sure that you have eye contact, and don’t be bored. If something else is preoccupying your thoughts, reschedule the meeting to a better time when you can truly listen.
  4. Empathy and Perspective. Remember that others may not see things the way you do. Listen with an open mind. When you show empathy, you are more likely to hear perspective.
  5. Tone and non-verbal Communication. Pay attention to the tone and body language of the speaker. Studies show that we communicate as much with body language as we do with words.
  6. Disagreement is okay. In fact, when you disagree without being argumentative, it goes further to develop the speaker-listener relationship. Healthy conflict is good. But be careful to connect key points and not just restate your case. The purpose of healthy disagreement is to build bridges, not advocate for a position.
  7. Connect the dots. When leading change, listen to employee’s messages and connect what you hear to the case for change. Show them how their comments or concerns are addressed and incorporated.


Leaders who follow this recipe for listening will be more successful with change, therefore increasing the value of the change project to the organization.


Posted by Steve Salisbury on: December 27, 2019 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

How to secure Buy-in for Your Next Big Change

One of my clients attempted to drive a large transformation with no consideration for the impact on front-line employees. They did not even provide training for employees to know how to operate in the new culture. I came in afterward to help them reshape the project, sought to engage the front-line, and helped them drive greater success.

Conversely, wise executives think about how employees will operate in the new environment. They find ways to engage the front-line to implement the change. These leaders consider three factors:

  1. Cultivate a spirit of cooperation to implement the greater good.
  2. View resistance as a positive and use it to rationalize the change.
  3. Make it fun.

Cooperation: In 2019, you would think that organizational culture had progressed to a point where leaders treat front-line employees with basic respect. After all, it is the front line who operates the company every day. Command and control management styles are on the way out. True leaders seek to cooperate with the front-line employees to help drive the change. They recognize they need the front-line to be successful if the company is to be successful.

Resistance: Resistors often provide some of the best input for a project. First, they provide reasons why the change won’t work. They reveal risks you might not have otherwise known. Second, if you can convert resistors into supporters, they can be some of your most ardent advocates for change.

Fun: I’ve seen leaders hold creative events to help promote the change. One used interactive games and relevant puzzles in a one-day, off-site pre-launch meeting. Another senior executive took the entire project team to a White Sox game (they won!). Another leader took her team through a cooking class the evening before an all-day off-site. These events build comradery and a sense of team – founded on a basis of interpersonal trust and commitment, which helps unite the team toward the common project goal.

Front-line engagement results in more effective change. It generates ideas, buy-in, and acceptance. People simply work harder when they are part of the process instead of having a process forced upon them. Wouldn’t you?


Posted by Steve Salisbury on: November 26, 2019 03:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Demystifying Sponsorship

Categories: Sponsorship

Quite frequently I hear project managers or change agents on a project team express concern about a lack of sponsorship for their projects.  When I ask them what they need, however, they don’t always know how to articulate their concerns into a tangible need that an executive can act upon. 

Sponsors play three important roles.

  1. Participate directly in the project.
  2. Engage other sponsors.
  3. Communicate broadly throughout the organization.

Participating directly in the project: Sponsors hold people accountable to adapt to the change. They work with their staff to ensure people are ready for the change. Sponsors allocate staff, training, or other resources as required.  They also remove barriers to change by resolving issues and helping the organization adapt to risk.

Engage other sponsors.  Great sponsors engage other leaders to buy into and support the change. They build relationships across the organization to drive success. Sponsors equip other sponsors with communications, resources or other tools to help accomplish the purpose of the change. 

Communicate broadly throughout the organization. In my experience, this is the most overlooked yet often one of the easiest actions sponsors can take to affect change. They look for opportunities to talk about the change, the value of the change, and how the organization should engage to embrace the change. They also talk about the risk of not changing and the impact this might have on the organization’s long-term viability. Effective sponsors engage others in this dialog. It’s important that they not only share information, but that they listen to how the change is impacting their teams. This feedback can be a powerful influence, giving employees a method of adjusting how the change is implemented.

If you are a project manager or play a role as a change agent on a project team, be sure your sponsor is fulfilling these responsibilities. Oftentimes, sponsors need help understanding their role in change.  Most sponsors are smart leaders, but they have a full-time job running an organization and do not always know the details regarding how to support a change. You can help identify risks and issues. You provide insight to the sponsor about where greater engagement might be needed. You can also with communications, aligning leaders, and engaging the front-line in deploying the change.

It takes a village, as they say, and between well-equipped, active sponsors, and change agents on the project team, you have a much greater chance to enjoy success.


Posted by Steve Salisbury on: October 21, 2019 04:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Driving a transformation doesn’t stop when you implement the change

Categories: Sustainability

“Just plan the project through go-live!”

I recently had a conversation with a colleague working on a major transformation for a well-known Fortune 50. She told me that she was expressly told to only plan for work up through the launch of the change. This is a big mistake; let me explain.

After I built and moved into my new home years ago, the builder presented me with a certificate explaining that the construction carried with it a five-year guarantee. They would take care of anything that went wrong with the house. Period. In the first few weeks I found a few minor issues. One door wasn’t closing correctly, and the builder promptly came out to repair it. Another time while I was away for the weekend, my son decided to enjoy an afternoon on the back porch and grilled up a juicy T-bone steak. He forgot to move the grill away from the house and voila, we had about 20 square feet of melted siding. My builder replaced the siding at no charge.

When you make an investment in a transformation, it’s likely that you will spend much more than I did building this house. Yet many project managers consider their work done when the transformation is launched. Who is going to be around to make sure the change is institutionalized? How do you ensure that people permanently adopt the change and alter the way they need to work? How will you know that you are receiving the greatest value for your investment? Depending on the nature of the transformation, there are numerous ways you can ensure the systematic adoption of the change.

  1. Change people’s measures to include metrics about the use of new behaviors, processes, or systems.
  2. Put change agents in place at various levels in the organization to answer questions and help resolve issues. Be sure they proactively reach out to their constituents.
  3. Ensure your leaders are asking questions about issues and results long after launch. Be sure they are equipped with resources to address these challenges.

Putting these features in place will help you achieve the value you had planned, and in many cases, will drive even greater value. This greater value results from you paying more attention to the change far beyond that initial launch, and your employees finding ways to implement improvements beyond those originally planned.

Posted by Steve Salisbury on: September 05, 2019 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

How transformational leadership and organizational change management work together to drive phenomenal results

Working for years with senior executives driving transformational change, I’ve observed that sometimes leaders jump directly from strategy to execution without doing necessary preparation to activate and accelerate implementation within their organization. This preparation requires transformational leadership skills to transition from strategy to execution. I have also observed that organizational change management (OCM) cannot take the place of or make up for a lack of transformational leadership.

Leaders use OCM to provide a structured approach to leading the organization through a transformation or a large-scale change. There are, however, several prerequisites necessary for OCM to be successful. These are elements of transformational leadership.

  1. There must be a clear and compelling purpose to the transformation.
  2. Outcomes must be specific, attainable and measurable.
  3. The leadership team must be aligned on these two points above.
  4. The leadership team is willing and able to put aside their own functional needs to consider what is best for the whole organization during the transformation (to eliminate cross-functional dysfunction).
  5. Organizational risks, including cultural risks, must be identified with an adaptation plan in place.
  6. The right governance structure is in place to provide day-to-day leadership for the transformation.
  7. The leader agrees to play a role in strategic communications.
  8. The leadership team agrees to engage with front-line employees and middle managers to enroll them in the change.

With these elements in place, a strong OCM plan can be established and executed. OCM leverages these elements by providing and executing:

  1. A strong communication plan that emphasizes purpose and outcomes and includes the leaders’ active participation.
  2. An education program that describes how the environment will be different after the transformation, including defining individual role changes.
  3. Organizational planning that revamps leadership and managerial roles and structure.
  4. Enrollment plans that determine how front-line employees and middle managers will be involved in the implementation.
  5. Skill training required for all impacted parties to learn how to operate in the new environment.
  6. Long term entrenchment plans to embed the transformation for the long-term.

All of this combines to create a winning formula to drive phenomenal success, often exceeding targets.

Call to action: As you consider your next transformation, think about these points. Have you done the work necessary to prepare your organization – starting with your leadership team – to drive success? Have you activated the team and set the stage to accelerate the work?



Posted by Steve Salisbury on: August 05, 2019 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I... took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

- Robert Frost