Change Management competencies

“The Opposite of Resistance is Assistance”. Steven Fieldman

The first time I heard about Change Management at work, it was from one  of my colleagues saying that organizational change processes are similar to upgrading a plane while it’s still flying. Unfortunately, we cannot stop all that we’re doing, change and then resume our activities.

Frequently, organizations engage in a change process without any help or only with the support of a Project Manager, forgetting that when there are people involved, additional support needs to be provided. Although Project Managers could be aware of the resistance from the people involved, their skills are not necessarily the right ones to create the engagement needed to facilitate and sustain the change.

Change Management specialists have a different skill set than PMs, as CMs will evaluate organization readiness and work through the resistance to change, while PMs are more concerned about resources and following the plan, in order to deliver on time and budget.

From my experience,  these are the most important competencies that are needed:

Behavioral Competencies

  • Analysis, decision making, strategically savvy
  • Persuasion and influencing
  • Emotional intelligence to deal with pressure, setbacks, etc, (including self-awareness and and a genuine interest for understanding other people’s behavior)
  • Systems Thinking
  • Negotiation/persuasion
  • Communication
  • Patience and Optimism
  • Flexibility

Functional Competencies

  • Keen business sense
  • Project Management
  • Organizational change
  • Process facilitation
  • Group Dynamics


What do you think? Please, share it in the comments section.


How to cultivate a Learning Network

After you finish school your learning opportunities come from three sources: events, reading material, and people. The events that happen to you are pretty much related to the kind of job you have and activities you do. If you work in a company and follow the same routine, it will take a lot of luck to move out of your “comfort zone”, which incidentally is your “learning zone”. If you go out, your learning will follow a pattern that will limit you, as you won’t be exposed to radically new ideas.

Let me explain: if you work, as I did, as a manager of a team, your reading material and experiences will be related to your field and the few topics that interest you. But also, if you are the “expert” in a topic, you might disregard information that you don’t agree with, as we tend to consider ourselves too good to learn from them.   If you still read the newspaper, it will bring you perhaps a little bit more of information, although probably outdated (as we know that with social media we have access to more and more information every second).

I’ll give you an example: ten years ago most of my reading material was on Organizational development, personal development and literature. The chances of reading a good book on, let’s say medicine, were really slim. However, one day I went to a conference where the speaker was Juan Enriquez, and this event opened the door to a whole new world: genomics, technology, science, innovation, etc. During this conference, Enriquez talked about the BRCA test and how this small piece of information should be more important for women than any other thing related to her breasts. Angelina Jolie just brought it to the attention of the general public 10 years later.

The type of books/articles you read, will likely come from the people that you talk to or the events that influence you. So, when we hear Humberto Maturana saying that “the quality of our conversations  determines the quality of our relationships, and the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our work”  all this makes sense. Your learning and your work depends on the reflections you have on the events and conversations that you have.

In 2008 I read that my colleague Abiel Guerra had attended a seminar in Cape Cod with Edgar Schein.  Although I was closer to Cape Cod than him (he’s in Mexico), I hadn’t heard of this institute before.  Attending Schein’s seminar next year changed the way I perceived several things and introduced me to more awesome people, such as my friend Ralf Lippold in Germany. This event had a strong influence too, in the type of projects I designed during my master’s degree, such as a virtual stammtisch on Change, with people from all over the world, as Ralf introduced me to an Austrian guy who is in Brazil, and I invited a couple of friends from Colombia, Chile and Mexico that I met through a World Cafe workshop in Brazil. That broadened my network and their networks, too. changing conversations logo

So, if you want to increase the quality of the conversations you have, you need to be exposed to different experiences, different people, different ways of thinking. The best way to do it is to have a diverse network.  To increase the diversity of your network you can start changing your patterns in the following ways:

-Meet new people: don’t be shy, talk to people, ask questions. You have to show up, engage in situations where you can meet new people who can introduce you to different ways of thinking. Be open to discuss and learn about other people too, and to answer questions about your own ideas.

-Attend professional gatherings from industries that are not related to your field: this will give you the great opportunity of meeting new amazing people, and listen to great ideas.  Also, people love to talk to someone who is genuinely interested.

-Get out of your comfort zone: that’s a given. If you don’t speak the same industry language, you’ll likely ask more questions, be more interested and learn more (as you won’t judge and discard easily a topic).

-Follow people on Twitter: search for keywords that are interesting, check users’ bios and followers. Then, follow more people!

-Suscribe to TED: a lot of my inspiration for my work I got it from a TED talk, if you find other similar resources, let me know. I’ll be happy to share more information.

-Join Goodreads and search for trending books: check out what are your friends and some other people reading, you may find interesting stuff.

-Connect the dots between fields or topics: my friend Ralf is passionate about opera and ballet and loves to see how arts connect with management and productivity, for example. Find the common elements, the things that work in a field and how they can be applied into another field.  There is no limit!

So, in a nutshell, opening up to new opportunities and new people will help you generate new ideas. Some days ago, for example, I went to an HR breakfast, a Sustainability 5@7 and a Growing Community event at the Planetarium, all these events in less than 48 hours.  I cannot begin to say how I feel now, excited and recharged, and now my mind is exploding with new ideas, leads and articles to follow up with, and the best, all of this for free!

Please, share your ideas and let’s see what we can build together.

Evolutionary leadership

This year, I’m taking a course on Evolutionary Leadership for Sustainability. I believe we cannot continue living in the way we have done it until now, without consequences. Scientist Stephen Hawking believes humans will not survive another 1000 years on planet Earth, and he may know a couple of things about the topic.

According to Alex Lightman, we are getting 88% of our energy from carbon when we have more than 4,000 times as much energy available from the sun. Yes, we have all heard about the financial doom that will happen if we decide to do things in another way, but perhaps we should be a little bit more concerned about burning the planet and all humankind if we don’t change radically. It’s clear to me that the question is not: should we change? but how do we change? Here is where Evolutionary Leadership for Sustainability comes in.

Leaders are a reflection of the society, but in return, they change it by changing the status quo. Nowadays, the relationship between leaders and follower is more fluid than 15 years ago. The access to new technology and the influence of social media has radically changed the way that we interact with each other and has decreased the (almost) blind confidence that followers had in their leaders. The concept of leadership has to evolve, too. It has to integrate Sustainability into the core, to remind us that we actually LIVE here and that we are part of a living system.

The major problems that we’re suffering are systemic: poverty, hunger, violence, ecological disasters, just to name a few. Therefore, we need to act globally if we want to solve them. We also need to see the impact in the long term, understanding that these problems are permanent unless we decide to act. Short-sighted leaders are only concerned about power, their groups (followers) and their local and immediate needs. We need leaders that serve the humankind, concerned about the global issues and that understand the long-term implications of any actions. boat

Followers that are ready to change the way they perceive, react and act to our reality are quickly becoming leaders. This is the transformation of systems thinking, to systems feeling, to systems being. We all have the potential and more important, the moral obligation to become leaders and create a sustainable paradigm if we want our children to continue living on this planet. The first steps we need to take are:

-Get informed, know your facts. Share them with your friends.

-Demand greener products, greener companies.

-Act greener. Find your ecological footprint and reduce it.

We  need to understand that this crisis didn’t happen overnight and it certainly won’t be fixed in the short term, but as Peter Diamandis says:  A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

Charlie and Edie Seashore and the Use of Self

seashoreIn 2009 I had the opportunity to attend Edgar Schein’s seminar at Cape Cod Institute. Charlie and Edie Seashore were also giving a seminar on the Intentional Use of Self, if I’m not mistaken. I couldn’t attend to their seminar, but I made a mental note to do it as soon as I could, as I heard great things about them and learn about their contribution to the OD/HSI field. This year, Charlie passed away and I look forward to attending this summer to the seminar that Edie and Robert Marshak would give. However, I just learned that this Saturday, Edie passed away, too, which is very sad news for all OD practitioners, who learned with them about the use of Self as an instrument for change,  the importance of feedback and reframing in our own change processes, and so on.

Using our Self to facilitate change is not an easy process. It implies being aware of our own internal processes, background, ideas, feelings, emotions, and a lot of other factors that may be conscious or unconscious. It also changes ourselves, and that’s not an easy task to endure.  Using our Self requires also an understanding of the systems paradigm, and embracing emergence; something that not everyone is at ease with, given the need for highly structured plans and prediction in the current markets.

There are different models used to understand one’s Self as an instrument for organizational diagnosis. They help us to triangulate the data and understand ourselves and the world we live in. Using one’s Self requires a lot of training, awareness, and reflection.  We need to uncover ourselves, in the same way we peel an onion, understanding that every layer is the onion itself, but the onion is more than a layer.

Seashore uses a model a little bit more complex, that includes:

  • Choices
  • Unconscious and out of awareness factors
  • Systems thinking and the issue of undesirable outcomes
  • Working with colleagues
  • Long term self development
  • Support systems
  • Frameworks and theories
  •  Projection and transference
  •  Reflexive processing
  • Appreciation of Diversity

with the purpose of understanding and using one’s Self to help individuals, groups and organizations  achieve their own potential and become sustainable and strong. And as Charlie Seashore said: “It is not the simplest way to go about our business, but it may be one of the most intriguing, rewarding and powerful of the tools available to us”.