Imaginist35’s Weblog

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Knowing where you are, before starting down the path to where you want to be can only be common sense.

Knowing where you are, before starting down the path to where you want to be, can only be common sense. That applies to any journey, and no more so than for transforming an organisation’s culture.

An underlying principle of the Imaginist’s Change Equation methodology is that the connection between people and process never gets out of alignment during a change initiative. (I am including customers as ‘people’ – organisational change must be designed from the outside in, not the other ways around, or it will fail.)

So just mapping the organisation’s processes will never give you the route map for change. You also have to focus on the organisation’s culture – ‘the way we do things here’. The OCAI-online toolkit provides a very useful and intuitive way to develop an ‘As-Is’ > ‘To-Be’ culture change route map. Developed by Marcel Lamers and Marcella Bremer, and based on the Quinn Cameron ‘Competing Values Framework’, it takes only a few minutes to complete the self-assessment exercise.

I was once asked to come and talk about my Change Equation methodology to a Global company’s transformation team. The plan was to start with an ‘As-Is’ > ‘To-Be’ culture map created by their programme manager (15 minutes), introduce my methodology and discuss how it might be applied to get them from A to B (1 hour) and wrap up with some action planning (15 mins).

It made sense to start with the ‘As-Is’ picture. But you have probably guessed what happened. The team comprised 8 quite senior people from across the company and none of them accepted that the ‘As-Is’ picture represented where they thought they were. The team thought they knew where they were – they had identified the systems, processes and data repositories, but their lack of clarity about the company’s current culture was a stumbling block they could not get over.  An hour into the meeting, and still no closer to agreement, I suggested that we postpone the discussion about the A to B journey until they had a clearer understanding of their starting point. The last I heard, the programme manager left the company, the initiative was abandoned and they never did achieve the ‘To-Be’ objectives.

Please note, I am not advocating spending ages doing a detailed As-Is > To-Be analysis. Rather the exercise should be undertaken quickly and with as wide a participation as possible, to give people on the ground the opportunity to get involved and discover what we consultants know already – that the gap between what is being done around the company and what is supposed to happen can be as great as 80% apart.

So knowing were you are before you start, makes perfect sense. In fact you can’t really move forward with a culture change programme unless you have a shared understanding of the starting point as well as agreement on where you want to end up.


March 23, 2013 Posted by | business change management | , | Leave a comment

SAQs: SHOULD ASK questions

We are used to seeing FAQs, Frequently Asked Questions, on websites. Last week I heard about an interesting variation: SAQs, SHOULD ASK questions.

FAQs are the questions asked over and over again by customers. But are these the questions customers SHOULD be asking?  Typically, FAQs deal with the basic, practical information customers might need, but what they DON’T do is trigger a higher level dialogue with you about the added value your product or service provides them.

So, unlike an FAQ, an SAQ is a question you WANTyour potential customer to be asking, but they might not know they need to be asking.

In the area of business change, one of these Should Ask questions might be:

  • Is my project too complex for our people to cope with the changes?

Another might be:

  • Is there sufficient commitment to making the change on the part of the people involved?

Both key to the success of your project, I’m sure you’ll agree. But the reason you haven’t asked them, is that you probably didn’t know that there are useful answers available.

We can offer an approach which provides quantified, practical answers to these questions – questions you should be asking before investing in a project.

  • Is my project too complex for our people to cope with the changes? This means measuring the complexity of the project and the capability of your organization to handle the changes. Once these are known, a gap analysis will answer the question.
  • Is there sufficient commitment to making the change on the part of the people affected by the project? This requires three measured inputs:

a)    the amount and effectiveness of preparatory consultation and engagement

b)    a measure of the level of trust between people in your organisation

c)    the degree to which local managers are accountable for the improvement expected as a result of the project.

Combined, these will tell you whether your project will be pulled through or hindered by your people.

To arrive at objective and useful answers to all these questions, we use our Change Readiness Assessment tool. Based on Peter Duschinsky’s Change Equation methodology, published in 2009, this tool is used to measure the complexity of a project, and identify and quantify the cultural and process barriers to change in your organization.

It only takes a couple of days to carry out this assessment.

Can you really afford to invest in change without knowing the answers to these Should Ask Questions?

Contact us!

November 10, 2012 Posted by | business change management, change capability, complexity, mergers and acquisitions, Project Readiness Healthcheck | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What makes an organisation good at managing change?

In a recent McKinsey’s article, management consultants Scott Keller and Colin Price summarise their forthcoming book: ‘Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage’. The message is clear: organisational health is the “ultimate competitive advantage” and organisations need to build the capacity to learn and keep changing over time, if they want to achieve and sustain high levels of performance.

This confirms what we’ve been telling anyone who will listen for the past year: it’s what we call the organisation’s Capability for Change and it’s a crucial core value, if you want to survive in the face of the accelerating pace of change and rising levels of business complexity.

I took my definition of Capability for Change from Rebecca Henderson (Harvard Business School): “Attention and resources focused on people and processes, developing the organisation’s stock of capability and resilience”.

I also like this one:

Resilience: “The attitudes, skills and strengths, that enable individuals, and teams to thrive within organisational change” (The Taylor Clarke Partnership)

But like all aspects of an organisation’s culture and values, its resilience and capability for change requires continual investment and maintenance, or it will erode through natural entropy. In our opinion, any transformation programme needs these core values at the heart of its core deliverables, but in our experience, most don’t go there.

So, how do you know if your organisation has resilience and capability for change? How do you know whether it is good at managing change as a normal part of ‘how we do things around here’?

Try our ‘starter for ten’ list. Does your organisation have these characteristics?
  1. Strong, visible, empowering, leadership
  2. Clearly articulated and shared vision
  3. Attention paid to supporting core values
  4. High level of trust between managers and staff – decision-making devolved wherever possible
  5. People allowed to stop doing stuff when taking on new initiatives – overload issue managed well
  6. Innovation encouraged and well managed
  7. Good communication between departments
  8. Good communication/collaboration with customers and suppliers
  9. Adherence to standard ways of doing things
  10. HR benefits and rewards aligned to business objectives.

Yes? Then you are likely to have a good capability for managing change, i.e:

  • High level of involvement and commitment
  • Low resistance to change
  • Resilience in the face of challenges
  • Able to bring in changes rapidly and effectively in response to need.

No? Then you, like most organisations are probably on a ‘downward spiral to disaster’:

  • Senior management is taking a short-term view and focusing on cutting costs and hitting revenue or output targets
  • This may be succeeding in the short run, but it has diverted resources away from supporting your people and processes – your capability to manage change
  • As a result, it is actually becoming more difficult for the organisation to sustain its revenue performance – everyone is under so much pressure that even normal routine stuff doesn’t get done any more

Only reinvesting in your core capability will correct this downward trend and give the organisation a fighting chance to successfully manage the accelerating pace of change and rising levels of business complexity.

July 27, 2011 Posted by | analysis, business change management, change capability | , , , , | Leave a comment

How to measure the impact of distrust on your project

Trust is the ‘oil’ that helps people to accept change in an organisation. It empowers them to remove the barriers that block change, with a minimum of friction. (That’s why having a highly visible senior manager at change project meetings is so important – they don’t even have to say anything!)

An absence of trust between managers and staff and between parts of an organisation will slow down and even stop a project. The higher the levels of distrust, the more time and effort the project will require and the higher the cost. So if you could measure trust in the group that is to be affected by a change project, you could develop a useful predictor of the additional time and cost involved in implementing that change project.

I looked for in vain for an approach that would allow me to measure trust. Stephen Covey Jr wrote a useful book about “The Speed of Trust – The One Thing that Changes Everything” but one thing he failed to do in that book was to suggest ways to measure trust – and other authorities on the subject shed no more light.

So I dreamt up my own approach. How does one measure trust? By asking a few key questions…

There are essentially 3 key relationships anyone has in an organisation:

1. Relationship with my manager

2. Relationship with my staff

3. Relationship with my peers

That gives a 3-dimensional model. For each dimension, I used a four-point scale to score the relationship, where 0 is the lowest and 3 is the highest:

3 =  excellent relationship – high levels of trust and respect

2 =  quite good relationship, reasonable levels of trust and respect

1 =  poor relationship, low levels of trust and respect

0 = non-existent relationship, no trust or respect.

Then using a simple questionnaire, I solicited the responses from a sample of the people involved in the change project. Adding up the scores gives me a figure with a maximum score of 9. I turned this into a percentage and inverted it  (deduct from 100%) to obtain the % of distrust – because it is the shortfall in trust that acts as an drag on the time and cost of change. And I found that applying the distrust % directly yo the planned time and cost of a project gave me a pretty good idea of the potential impact of distrust on the ROI of the project.

So, if the trust score is low, say 3, that gives me a trust % of 33%. Deducting that from 100 gives a measure of distrust factor of 67%. Applying this measure to a project with a planned roll-out of 1 year and an implementation cost of £40,000 would add 8 months and around £27,000 to the cost.

In my experience, this seems to correlate well with what happens in practice – the lower the level of trust, the longer it takes to implement the projects and gain the benefits.

Let me know if you find this useful.

A fuller account of this approach is contained in my book: The Change Equation.

April 28, 2011 Posted by | business change management, project and programme management, trust | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter Duschinsky, Imaginist – he can help you ensure a successful change project outcome

I have been a management consultant focusing on best practice for more years than I care to think about, and for the past 8 of these, I have operated as the Imaginist – someone who can analyse, think logically and laterally, diagnose underlying causes of problems and facilitate change.

There are 3 stages to this:
1. Imagine it
2. Structure it
3. Make it happen.

The first stage is about understanding what is going on and uncovering the risks and barriers to change. Too often, change projects are planned and implemented with little real insight into the organisation’s underlying culture and process capability weaknesses. These will slow down or even stop a project delivering the desired benefits.

– Does your organisation suffer from internal politics, silo working and distrust across departments?
– Do people like to ‘do their own thing’ and find work-arounds whenever they can?
– Are you overloaded with initiatives?

The more ambitious the project, the more people are affected, the more these weaknesses will block buy-in, undermine take-up and sabotage compliance to new ways of working.

It’s not sufficient that you recognise these barriers – you have to be able to convince the Board, project sponsors, budget-holders etc of the time and resources that need to be allocated to deal with them.

An Imaginist works by talking to stakeholders, developing an understanding of the underlying culture and process capability issues and putting this into a structured diagnostic framework which enables him to quantify their impact on the ROI of the project. Spreadsheets – that’s the language a senior manager understands!

So at the second stage, ‘Structure it’, the emphasis is on developing the route-map and action plan that the project team need to tackle the risks and barriers and to ensure the project goes smoothly and to plan.

Then, ‘Make it happen’ is a matter of supporting the in-house team with the skills and tools they need. Because the first two stages have identified exactly where the barriers to change lie,
it won’t cost a fortune to apply these precisely where they are needed to achieve a successful outcome.

The Imaginist can help you ensure a successful project outcome.

For more details, contact Peter Duschinsky on
or visit his website:

September 8, 2010 Posted by | business change management, project and programme management | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to de-risk your project – for free!

If you are planning to introduce big changes into the way your organisation works, then you will not be happy to learn that 70% of such projects fall short of realising their objectives – indeed 24% are written off completely!

If it is critical that your project delivers, wouldn’t it be good if you could  find out whether your project is going to succeed or fail? Well, you can.

We have developed a methodology to predict whether your project will succeed or fail. And we are offering a FREE Project Readiness Healthcheck so that you can see for yourself how it works.

The Imaginist Company is an independent Change Management Consultancy, established in 2002 
to help clients realise the benefits from modernisation and transformation projects. In 2006 we began development of a project readiness assessment methodology and we now work with a small group of expert, hands-on consultants to help clients achieve the full planned benefits from their projects. Between us, our group has helped over 100 satisfied clients in the UK and around the world.

Our Change Equation assessment methodology helps clients deliver successful projects by identifying organisational culture and process capability barriers that could block change and quantifying the potential impact of these barriers on the project’s ROI.

If you are interested in obtaining your FREE healthcheck, all you have to do is send us a copy of some project documentation – for example an ITT – which sets out the scope and objectives of the project. We will obviously treat this in complete commercial confidence. Within 24 hours you will receive an Executive Summary report on your project and a link to a full web-based report, available only to you.

The report will be based on the data contained in your documentation, combined with our knowledge of industry standards and norms. It is possible that you have already recognised and planned to address the risks we identify. However it is our experience that the issues that our approach focuses on are often not fully covered by standard risk analysis methods.

For more information or to take up our FREE offer, email: or visit our website:

We look forward to hearing from you!

July 23, 2010 Posted by | business change management, Project Readiness Healthcheck | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Change Equation – an excellent tool to help make change happen

At a software quality workshop a few years back, I asked a group of 25 software project managers:
“When a new system is implemented to improve efficiency, who is responsible for actually achieving the benefits?”
“I am” said one project manager.
“Really?” I said.
“Oh, I see – it’s the software supplier” came the response.
“Really?” I said, again.
After a pause for thought: “You mean it’s the client”
“Okay – but who?”
Tentatively: “The department manager?”
Silence, from me… “The system users?”

No doubt you are way ahead of me… But this is a serious point. Unless the people actually using the new system or improved process are involved in planning and implementing the changes to the way they work, the project will not realise the anticipated benefits. As the comedian George Carlin famously put it: “I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed.”

It’s people, not systems and processes that are the drivers for change. We all know this, so why is it so hard for us to put this understanding into practice? Sometimes it is the culture of the organisation that works against gaining involvement and commitment at the local level. Often the ‘technology push’ mentality still prevails – it’s the IT department’s responsibility to manage IT projects. Maybe the management board or the politicians have set the deadlines and they are unrealistic, so they haven’t allocated enough budget, time and skilled resources to ensuring that people are fully bought in. But unless people are fully bought in, of course, nothing will get done.

One of the best ways to articulate this – and a useful tool when trying to get change to happen – is the Change Equation:

 V * F * D > C

Originally developed by David Gleicher in the ‘60s , this has been adopted and adapted by consultants under many names and in many guises over the years. My version has evolved in use and differs in emphasis slightly from the original. Here’s a quick run-through of the way this equation works.

C = Cost of Change
Change is difficult and scary. It’s expensive and distracting. It takes us out of our comfort zone and demands that we confront our fears (‘Do I have the skills?’ ‘Will I screw up?’ Will I have a job afterwards?’). This fear creates inertia, or worse – it can push people in the opposite direction, fleeing and hiding from the need to change. If the cost of change is so great, what do we need to do to create the momentum to overcome it? Well, the first element is Vision.

V = Vision
Any project needs a shared vision to ensure everyone is moving in the same, new, direction. This vision will have emerged from the analysis of the problem being tackled. In most transformation projects, that analysis will have included carrying out a top-down diagnosis, followed by consultation and brainstorming to arrive at something tangible and coherent – the basis on which people can move forward together.

Is having a Vision sufficient to overcome the fear and inertia of change? Maybe not… How often have you been carried away with enthusiasm by a good presenter, setting out their vision, then found the enthusiasm dissipates little by little as you get back to your day-to-day problems? So having a Vision on its own is not enough to drive change. One of the reasons for this – and a primary cause for change projects to deliver poor results – is that the vision (the project’s objectives) is often not sufficiently clearly understood by all the stakeholders – it is not really SHARED. The degree to which stakeholder perceptions differ, provides a good predictor of the problems that will occur when implementing the changes.

Even where the vision has been successfully communicated, it seems that it is not enough on its own to drive change. Why? Because it does not place sufficient focus on the practical steps that need to be taken to implement the change. Which leads me to the next element in the Change Equation:

F = First steps
To drive change, we need to have the first steps clearly set out. These might be in the form of a route-map or project plan that people can understand and use to develop their own plans for the action they need to take. Only at this level of practicality can we engage people and gain some degree of commitment. Is having a Vision and clear First steps enough to overcome the fear and inertia of change? The research carried out when the model was first developed suggested that even when the first steps were clearly set out and everyone knew what they had to do, change still didn’t happen.

What’s missing? It’s the energy and momentum for change. And where does this have to come from? The project champion? The project manager? No… it has to come from the people who need to make the changes – the system and process users. It’s only when people have convinced themselves that things are NOT okay and that there is a need to do something about it NOW, that new ways of thinking can be introduced. Then you can tap into the energy that’s needed to overcome the resistance and inertia. John Kotter, in his book Heart of Change , calls this ‘Raising the sense of urgency’. In the Change Equation its:

D = Dissatisfaction
Unless people can tell you why things have to change, they won’t. A good approach to focus people on this issue and get them to think about it, is the use of the ‘Incisive Questions’ technique.

Here’s an example of a recent conversation:
“Do your projects come in on time and achieve their objectives in full?”
“Most of them”
“What percentage don’t?”
“Oh, probably 10-20%”
“How much does this mean you are losing in cost benefits every year?”
“I don’t know – maybe £xxxk”

“Really?” (showing your surprise should make your victim a bit less complacent about this loss) “Are you happy about that?”
“Well no, I suppose not…”

Notice how each question asks for more detail, driving the respondent to think deeper about his own statement. When they have expressed dissatisfaction with the situation they are in, you can come in with the new idea:
“Would it be useful if we worked out you how you can cut this waste in half so you could use the resources to deliver more projects and increase profit?”
“Er, yes – how do we do that?”

Notice that the idea was phrased so that ‘we’ would work together and ‘you’ could make the improvement. The final ‘yes, how do we do that?’ is the signal that you have triggered the necessary dissatisfaction and have their permission to start tapping into the energy for change. So now the equation looks like this:

Vision + First steps + Dissatisfaction > Cost of Change

Except that I need to do one more thing. The ‘+’ sign suggests that you could take any element out and the equation will stand. You have seen that’s not the case – all three elements on the left hand side of the equation are essential to overcome the inertia and enable change to happen. So I need to change the operands to ‘x’:

Vision x First steps x Dissatisfaction > Cost of Change

And that’s the Change Equation!

[This is an excerpt from my book: ‘The Chaange Equ>tion’, published Nov09 and available from Amazon]

June 1, 2010 Posted by | business change management, knowledge management, project and programme management | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The cost of a failed project is not just what you spent on the project

Are you expecting your next business transformation project to deliver the full planned benefits, on time and within budget?

Really? So what are you going to do differently this time? Or were you just keeping your fingers crossed and hoping for a miracle? You can’t afford to invest in a transformation programme that does not deliver the results you need – look at the cost implications:

Typical change project

You need to achieve efficiency savings of £200k pa by bringing in a new web-based system.

The software licence and web costs will be £40k and it will cost £150k to implement (including allocation of in-house project management and training resources).  The plan is to roll out the system across the organisation over 18 months

So your 3-year business case looks like this:

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Total /3
Licence, web costs pa £40,000 £40,000 £40,000 £0
Implementation costs £100,000 £50,000 £0 £0
Total Costs £140,000 £90,000 £40,000 £90,000
Savings £50,000 £175,000 £200,000 £142,000
Net £-90,000 £85,000 £160,000 £52,000

Return on investment is +57%, and you hit your full efficiency savings target levels by mid-year 2.
But what happens if the project slips by 6 months?
The 3-year ROI drops to just +2% and it takes over 2 years to reach your efficiency target – but you are also 33% over budget and your implementation resources are tied up on this project, so something else isn’t being done in time either.

What if the project fails completely?
What happens if you cancel the project after 2 years, because it is clear that it will never bring in the full benefits? You have wasted £280,000 and over £400,000 in lost efficiency savings, but that’s not all – you probably have had to take action to limit the impact of the failed project, which may cost you several times what the project cost.

HP’s project managers knew all of the things that could go wrong with their ERP centralisation programme in 2004. But they just didn’t plan for so many of them to happen at once. The project eventually cost HP $160 million in order backlogs and lost revenue — more than five times the project’s estimated cost.

So if you could avoid the second scenario, it would be worth £100,000 and if you could avoid the last scenario, you’d be at least £680,000 in pocket.

What do these figures look like for your project?

If you are interested, we do have some answers…

April 12, 2010 Posted by | business change management, project and programme management | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Change management – tapping into the sub-conscious brain of an organisation

Those of you who are familiar with NLP will like this:

The ‘external’ aspects of an organisation are: its structure, policies, processes, governance, budgets, efficiency etc… These can be seen, defined, mapped, measured, changed and improved.

The ‘internal’ aspects of an organisation are: its culture, people’s attitudes and concerns, values, informal knowledge sharing etc… These are far harder to get at and therefore more difficult to change.

Change management supposedly concerns itself with the internal aspects, with the purpose of empowering people to make change happen.  But too often it actually focuses on the external aspects, seeking to control the changes by designing and implementing a ‘change programme’: consultation, training and targeting. The more complex a project, the more this approach doesn’t work. Compliance and take-up is poor and benefits don’t get realised. 

In trying to find a way to explain this to project managers who don’t see the difference between project change control and change management (or choose not to), I stumbled upon the following analogy: 

In NLP we say ‘the conscious brain doesn’t drive behaviour – it’s the sub-conscious brain’. And if we want to effect a change in behaviour, we need to reach the sub-conscious brain. So if you say you want to give up smoking, or lose weight, or overcome your fear of snakes,  or hights, or public speaking, an NLP practitioner knows it’s no good talking to you sensibly and rationally, telling you why you should change. You have probably told yourself a thousand times already and it didn’t work. What is needed is to get your conscious brain out of the way and have a dialogue with your sub-conscious brain.  Hypnosis is often a good way to achieve this.

Well, the same goes for organisations!  It’s not the conscious organisational ‘brain’ – the external aspects, that need to be addressed. It’s the sub-conscious brain, the way people feel about working in the organisation, their confidence in their role and relationships, the levels of trust and respect and concern they have for each other and, in the end, their commitment to making things work better.

So the kind of change management I mean, needs to operate at this emotional and sometimes apparently irrational level. And while I do not advocate hypnosis – although it would be interesting! – we do need to use similar, ‘internally’-focused, techniques …such as inspiring, involving, empowering… to get the conscious brain out of the way and appeal to people’s inner selves, their instincts and their creativity.

Its a thought, isnt it!

February 8, 2010 Posted by | business change management | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The world is getting worse for programme managers

I just saw a survey which confirmed something I suspected from my own research: the world is getting more difficult for people responsible for bringing in change projects and programmes successfully, leading to more failed projects and managers spending longer at work, trying to overcome the barriers to successful change.

The Arras People 2010 Project Management Benchmark Survey confirms that:
“a whopping 74% of Programme managers work more than 40 hours per week out of which 40% put in more than 48 hours. This figure is up by 10.3% from the data collected 12 months ago.  Over the twelve month period the Project and Change Manager spreads have shown a slight increase in hours worked. The support group however have seen two interesting moves which indicate additional pressure; firstly an increase in the numbers working < 35 hours by 2% suggesting additional part time roles whilst a 12% increase has been reported in those working more than 40 hours.”

It was already clear from the Standish research that the number of successful projects is falling:  32% in 2009, down from 35% in 2006.  Unless we think there was a drop in project and programme management skills – unlikely – the world we operate in has become that much more challenging.

One of the key reasons for this, the fast-changing economic circumstances, reinforces our view that change programmes have to be phased into short projects so that the risks associated with TIME are reduced.  Time is one of the 3 risk factors we look at in our Exponential Complexity model. (The other two are No of Stakeholders and No of Processes affected.)

As the world becomes a less friendly place for project and programme managers, tools like our model become even more important in your armoury. More on our website:

Happy New Year?

January 13, 2010 Posted by | business change management, project and programme management | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment