Thursday, December 17, 2009

Getting to the heart of change!

I recently made a joint presentation with Elisabeth Kamél at the annual conference for The Swedish Project Management Association (Svenskt Projektforum). Elisabeth is one of Sweden’s leading educators for project leaders and I work with Change Management and Leadership. Together we were going to give insight into how to successfully manage change management projects. During the our preparation we decided to make an attempt at offering a tool to help project leaders and change agents with what we have seen to be one of the most common reasons most change initiatives fail.

In our experience most change initiatives fail because organizations and their leaders fail to understand and manage the “human” element of change. Change in an organization means change in behavior and yet most organizations run change with standard project management methodology. Although there has been a great deal written about the human or soft side of change most project management methods offer little or no help in understanding and addressing the real human issues of change that will in the end determine the outcome of change initiatives.

We decided to present the meeting with a practical tool that would compliment a broad range of project management methodologies. The result was the following template which we hope will help to guide insight, actions and communication.

Following the matrix there are some further explanations to guide your thinking.

Change Matrix (Getting to the heart of change!)

by Elisabeth Kamél and Kelly Odell


Effect direct/



New demands/


New knowledge/


Resources for securing new knowledge

Need for inspiration/motivation

Communication needs

Investment in time, money, consultants, training, etc

Employeee in unit X

Employee in unit Y

Mgmt Team

Business unit leaders

Dept managers




1. Stakeholders: Identify who will be impacted during and after the process (direct/indirect/later?) For example employees, customers, suppliers, etc

-Who will be impacted by this change?

-How will this change affect these individuals/groups?

-What can be done to minimize the negative effects of the change for the different stakeholders?

-How will the desired result of the change be affected if we do not get support from individuals/groups?

2. Make an honest assessment of how the change will affect the various stakeholders.

3. Describe what new demands and expectations on the stakeholders during and after the change.

4. Define which new knowledge or competences are necessary so that stakeholders can execute the new behaviors required by the change.

5. Describe what resources are available to help affected stakeholders in gaining necessary new knowledge and competence.

6. Redogör för hur de berörda kan inspireras och motiveras att bidra för att förverkliga förändringen.

7. Create a communication plan. Describe how the communication with the stakeholders will be executed. Give honest information about the change is necessary, how it will be implemented and what is expected of them as stakeholders. Remember the power of a Vision! How will the world be a better place when we have completed this change!

-Frequency – How often should we communicate? The general rule is that you cannot communicate too often! Even when you don’t have anything new to say you can gather the stakeholders and say that!

-Media – Which communication channels are available to you and which will we use when?

-Focus on target groups – Communication should be adapted to each group of stakeholders or even sub-groups of stakeholders since they can be impacted differently and will perceive the change differently.

8. Create a budget

Define what resources are necessary. (Time, Money, Consultants, Training, etc)

Include this budget in the decision material before you execute the change. If you can’t afford to the soft side of change you can’t afford the hard side either!

Does god choose sides when his children fight?

Truth is often not black or white, but shades of gray. Not because there aren't real truths but because life, politics, love and business can be very complicated. It is so easy, and so dangerous, to decide what to do on an issue or a problem and then look for facts to substantiate our points of view. This behavior seems to come naturally to us and might very well have been an asset when we were cavemen. If you heard a strange noise you might have been safer to assume that it is a hungry tiger than to open-mindedly collect and analyze the facts. Unfortunately, these primitive behaviors make it harder for us to live in a complex society.

Should we have gone to Afghanistan? Hard question.

Should we leave Afghanistan now that we are there? Another hard question.

Should we have gone into Iraq? Not as hard a question but still difficult?

Should we pull out now that we are there regardless if the reason we went was justifiable or not? Very hard question!

Many of us decide who we will listen to, (our political party, our religion or a business gurus) based on a combination of intellectual and emotional affinity as well as some variation of “peer pressure”. Then it is and easy step to assume that what my party and its leaders do is more “right” than what the others do. We then subconsciously look for confirmation for our beliefs.

-SAP is a great system but does anyone really think that all the companies that have installed SAP really needed SAP? Or is it the a function of “Social Proof” as Cialdini described it. Everyone else is getting SAP maybe we should too!

-Was everything Bush did wrong and everything Obama does is right, or vice versa depending on your political preference?

-Are Christians always right and Muslims always wrong or vice versa depending on your religious preference?

-Does god choose sides when his children fight?

Once again I long for the death of ideologies. Ideologies dictate for us not only how we should think but what we should think. Values are good to have but often get confused with ideological dictates and doctrines. When we find ourselves feeling right and wondering why so many other people could be so wrong it could be a warning that we have fallen prey to or ideologies. In order to really understand your own position on an issue whether it be political, religous or business we must strive to truly understand different and even opposing points of view. It is first when we understand why someone else thinks and acts so completely differently that we can begin to understand ourselves.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Gospel of Change Management

Getting to the Heart of Change

Early in life I spent four years at college studying theology and religion because I thought I wanted to enter the ministry. I changed my mind and didn't attend seminary and have never worked in the ministry. When I moved to Sweden I did an MBA at the Stockholm School of Economics. I have now spent more than 25 years in various management positions and the last 12 years as a public speaker, workshop leader and teacher in the subjects of leadership and change management. Since some of my speaking agents have played up the "preacher" angle when selling me I thought it would be fun to play with some of the "religious" lingo to package my message. The following are not really meant to be comprehensive and may not be quite clear without all the stories and examples I usually give to explain them. But if you find any value in them feel free!

The Golden Rule of Organizational Change:

If you feel the need to make major changes in your organization, don’t do it!

Ten Commandments of Change

If you feel compelled to make major changes in your organization despite the Golden Rule, then make sure to follow the Ten Commandments of Organizational Change.

1. Remember that change is inevitable. In any given situation we have only three alternatives:

i. Accept the situation

ii. Change the situation

iii. Change situations

2. Be open-minded! Change is in itself neither good nor bad! Some changes affect us positively, some negatively and some not at all.

3. Remember, that there are primarily three types of change: Influence what you can and adapt to the rest!

-Those changes we initiate ourselves

-Those changes we did not initiate but over which we have great influence

-Those changes we did not initiate and over which we have little or no control

4. Focus on the human side of change!

Change requires “real” new behavior not just new actions. “It is easier not to smoke a cigarette than it is not to want to smoke a cigarette.”

5. Control your destiny!

Although we cannot always directly influence change we can influence on how the change affects our lives through our attitudes and actions.

6. Never initiate change simply for the sake of change!

Change should only be initiated when absolutely necessary with a real desire to make things better!

7. Be inquisitive! The three fundamental questions driving change:

Where am I now? It is ok to be happy where you are!

Where do I want to be? You don’t necessarily have to change anything!

How do I get there? Go back and re-think the first two points before developing your plan of action!

8. Base you decisions on facts. Intuition is better than no information at all but facts are always better.

9. Be courageous! Don’t worry if you don’t succeed the first time. Change is difficult but it is never too late to try again!

10. Be persistent! Those who succeed are not those who never fail, they are the ones who never give up!

The Paradox of Change

The outcome of change is difficult to foresee. Sometimes those changes that appear to be most negative in the short-term bring the most long-term benefit and those changes that seem most desirable in the short-term are not necessarily best for us in the long-term.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Ten Commandements of Cross Group Collaboration

Today I held a workshop with a group from Microsoft Sweden on the topic Cross Group Collaboration. It was a very good group of people and I was impressed with their involvement and inight into issues of cross group collaboration as well as diversity. In preparation for this workshop I created Ten Commandments for Cross Group Collaboration that might be of interest to others. Some of these may need some explaination and I will try to get around to developing them more later.

The Ten Commandments of Cross Group Collaboration

1. Remember that rules are made to help us. When they don’t help us we are allowed to break them.

2. Break down the communication hierarchy.

3. Remember that good ideas can come from anywhere, and often do!

4. Show respect but don’t avoid conflict.

5. Adapt your processes to your customers needs, not the other way around.

6. Adapt you decisions to each new situation

7. Avoid compromise

8. Celebrate Failure

9. Be resillient

10. Keep an open mind!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Substance vs. Structure

Someone asked me an interesting question. "How do our cognitive abilities get any structure without adhering to some sort of ideology?" My answer: Structure and substance are too different things. A book can give you a structure, we read from left to right, from top to bottom etc. What I am concerned with is what we write on the pages not how we read. The common structure of a book can hold the ideologies Marx, Christianity, Islam or Communism and Capitalism. Anyone can write anything on a page, the reader must read with discernment.

Beware of Ideologies!

Ideologies scare me. Good people can kill or be killed for ideologies. Ideologies put power in the hands of the few to steer the minds of the many. Life can be complicated and confusing at times and ideologies make things easier. Too easy!

It is better to struggle with life’s choices and fail occasionally than to swallow easy answers and comfortable truths served up by political parties, religions or Dr. Phil. We have to learn to adapt our decisions and actions to each new situation. If you find yourself trusting rules of thumb on important issues think again! If people around you state opinions as if they were universal truths be wary.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


When the democrats try to create a healthcare system that provides quality even for the poor it is deemed (at best) as a liberal experiment by republicans. I guess an example of a conservative experiment would be when our previous president took us to war to prevent the use of nuclear weapons by a nation that had no nuclear weapons. Risk is implicit when experimenting. I think I would rather stick with liberal experimentation that conservative.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


Airports are interesting, so full of expectations and potential. Everyone here is on their way. I don't know where but somewhere. By the looks of it some of them don't want to go where ever they are going and others can't wait to get there.

There may be no other place where we are so closely reminded of the frailty of our society. We tolerantly stand in line as our belongings and our bodies are electronically searched to prevent someone we don't know from killing us. It is sobering to think that that there may be people out there who are so angry at somebody about something that they are willing to kill anybody to make their point.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Management's Universal Problem

We don't know where we are, we can't agree on where we ought to be going, so we don't know if the actions we are taking will get us there.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Turn your brain back on! Good Advice for you, me and Jan Guillou!

Jan Guillou, a famous Swedish journalist and author, said the other day in an interview that he starts each day by reading several newspapers including a leading business newspaper (Dagens Industri = Daily Industry). Being a staunch socialist Jan felt compelled to explain that he wants to keep an eye on the opposition.

I like to read and I read lots of books, but I am generally selective about what I read. There is just not enough time to read everything so you have to choose. My selection process is not very sophisticated. There is a big risk that I choose to read things that just strengthen what I already believe. If I ever do read something that opposes my firmly held beliefs it is more likely than not that I won’t read it with an open mind. I will probably just look for weaknesses and counter-arguments. Sometimes I wonder what value people like Jan Guillou and I add to society when we stop thinking critically and just propagate the same old ideologies, religions or pet peeves we always have.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

DN Debatt translation "Many corporate leaders just aren't good enough in the crisis"

There were quite a few of you that wrote to me and ask me to translate my debate article in Dagens Nyheter (Daily News) one of Swedens largest daily newspapers. Obviously, the article is written of a Swedish public but I am afraid the problems I highlight are equally challenging in many other countries. The article came out today and has already generated quite a bit of attention. If you would like to view the original Swedish article go to:

Following is my own fast and more or less direct translation of the article:

”Many corporate leaders just aren't good enough in the crisis”

Experienced businessman criticizes corporate leaders: The crises cannot be solved by reducing head-count. Desperate cost-cutting does not improve a company’s long-term profitability. Head-count reductions almost always lead to reduced customer benefit and therefore to weaker competitive advantage. Far too many companies spend money on firing employees and then in a couple years they spend even more money recruiting new ones. Those companies that invest in developing their employee’s competence now will be much stronger when the current economic cycle turns up again, writes Kelly Odell who recently resigned as sales director for Volvo Cars.

I can keep quite any longer. After many years in leading positions in Swedish companies, I can only come to the conclusion that many of the leaders of our important companies just aren’t good enough. I recently read in ”Dagens Industri” (Sweden’s leading daily business newspaper) that ”Swedish companies are the most pessimistic in Europe” and ”Over half of Swedish managers expect more head-count reductions in their own organizations this year”. In my opinion many corporate leaders lack vision and in often even backbone.

The answer to weaker profitability is not necessarily head-count reductions. The answer may not even be saving money. These actions are typically only necessary if you have to maximize your results in the nearest quarter. If, on the other hand, you goal is to maximize profitability over a longer time frame the best thing to do may be to spend more money and invest in developing the competence of those employees who may not be needed in the operations at the moment.

No matter how dark things look at the moment, the long-term trend is that there will be a shortage of employees (not jobs). Many companies spend money on firing employees and then in a couple years they spend even more money recruiting new ones.

Those of us that have been around for a while know that at the end of each economic down-turn there are companies that emerge stronger and better prepared for the future because they invested themselves out of the crises. The same thing will happen after this economic crisis.
Some companies will disappear, some will survive and a few will bloom. The ones that manage best will be those that have a clear vision of what they want to achieve that will create real value for their customers. They are companies who stand by their core values even in times of crisis.
Some companies seem willing to do whatever it takes to survive, but the best companies and the best leaders would rather let their businesses go bankrupt than be forced to give up their core values. Take a look at many companies’ homepages and you will read high-flying visions and value statements declaring that our employees are our most important resource and expressions of customer centricity. But what happens when things get tough? The most important resource (the employees) at many companies is divested at the lowest possible cost and the ones who remain get no training or education. This leads, almost without exception to reduced value for the customer. For example, there are few large Swedish companies that don’t have longer waiting times for phone calls to their customer service as a result of the current economic crisis.

Some will think my views are naïve. Some will say that companies are bleeding and radical actions must be taken for the best of the company and for society. This may be true for some of our companies, but maybe we should ask ourselves how these companies ended up in a crisis in the first place. Where are their reserves? Were corporate leaders not aware that strong economic cycles are followed by weak cycles?

Even if I don’t expect anyone to know exactly when an economic cycle will change or how deep they will be, everyone knows these cycles exist. Some of our companies were in difficult situations even before the current financial crisis arose. For these companies the events of last fall were just an additional burden to carry. Many other companies on the other hand have made a great deal of money during many years for their owners during a long and strong economic high. Where is that money now? Didn’t anyone put away something for the winter?

Firemen, the polis and the military all know that you should plan and train for crisis when there isn’t a crisis. Have our companies done their scenario planning? What will we do if/when the economy declines? Do we have the resources to get buy? How will we manage our employees? I know from my own experience that many have not prepared at all.

Now more than ever we should focus on becoming more effective in our businesses not just on lowering costs. Reduced profitability is a normal symptom of economic downturns.
Possibly the most common reaction is cost-cutting. Cost-cutting is relatively simple to do and can solve short-term cash- flow needs, but in itself, cost-cutting does not improve the company’s situation for the future. The question we need to focus on is how to improve return on investment.

There is a direct correlation between the perceived customer benefit you create and the customer’s willingness to pay for it. Therefore we should think about how to create the greatest possible customer benefit with the least possible resources. What is really important for the customer? How well do we meet and exceed our customers’ expectations? How can we change our offer, processes or behavior to increase customer value with fewer resources? Hunting costs is easy but creating extremely cost-effective companies is difficult, very difficult. That is why far too many companies focus on saving money in a crisis without reflecting on what impact the cost savings will have on the organization. I have seen at close range repeated examples where we send 10% of the workforce home but we don’t send 10% of the work home. We have also not defined new ways of working that make it possible to get everything done with fewer resources. The truth is that you often don’t have time or competence to address those challenges.
It is also interesting to note that HR-managers in the USA are almost as pessimistic as their Swedish colleagues. My homeland, the USA, is also the home of (what Swedes call) “quarterly capitalism” and Sweden is often quick to jump on the latest management trends from the USA. Is it possible that we have adopted this American practice even stronger than they have? I have worked all over Europe and seen that central and southern European companies have a more long-term perspective especially with regard to financial planning in contrast to the Anglo-Saxon countries and Sweden.

Sweden’s corporate leaders have not created the current global economic crises on their own, but together we have unconsciously, and in cooperation with other business leaders and owners around the world, contributed to making the crisis worse.

Kelly Odell

Many of our corporate leaders just aren't good enough!

The following link goes to a debate article I had in DN Debatt. The debate page in one of Sweden's largest daily papers. Unfortunately, for those who don't speak Swedish you wont understand it. Maybe I will get around to translating it for you.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Looking for a Good Benchmark? Try QlikTech

I just spent an afternoon leading a workshop with one of the most interesting companies I have been involved with in a very long time. The company is called QlikTech ( and if you haven´t heard of them yet , you will and the sooner the better for your own sake. QlikTech impressed me for two main reasons: The Product and The People.

The Product
QlikTech has a software product called QlikView that is as powerful as it is simple. As far as I am concerned QlikView is the premier business intelligence software on the market today. Those of you who have followed me or my blog know that I have been around and I have seen some good BI software solutions and lots of bad ones. Oddly, most of the good ones I have seen have been “homemade” . Whether or not these BI applications are “homemade” or purchased from a software supplier most of them are either not flexible or very expensive or often both.

QlikView puts information (and analysis tools) in the hands of the people in a way that is easy to comprehend so that your employees brain cells can work on analyzing data and solving problems instead of trying to compile and understand the data. In a time when most of us are used to application roll-outs that take weeks, months or even years QlikView takes days. Many companies still spend more man-hours creating reports than actually using them but not with QlikView. In fact, it will probably take less time for a manager to create their own report with QlikView than it would take them to ask someone else to do it.

The People
The second thing that impressed me about QlikTech was the quality of the organization. In my working life I have had the opportunity to peek behind the curtains of many different companies and organizations. It is not often I run into a company that is truly and consistently striving to walk the talk in the way that QlikTech is doing. Don’t get me wrong, with the kind of radical growth they have had, going from a start-up to a major player in the global Business Intelligence software arena they have had their growing pains. The difference is that they are seriously addressing the difficult cultural issues and not just paying them lip-service.

The group I met was what QlikTech call their Veterans. In their terminology that means they have been employed about 5 years or more. Veterans they may be but hardly old-timers by most company standards. Nonetheless, these Veterans were part of the company at a time when the whole company could sit around a table and drink coffee together. Today they have employees spread all around the world and you would need a coffee table the size of a football field to get everyone around it. QlikTech is working consciously (and successfully) with managing their corporate culture instead of just letting the culture happen. They are listening closely to and acting on employee concerns and ideas. They are striving to keep in touch with their entrepreneurial roots while embracing the benefits of growth and profitability.

In short, keep your eye on QlikTech and if and when they get listed on a stock-market somewhere I am going to be first in line to buy some shares. This is a company that is going places.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ten Commandments of Change

I. Remember that change is inevitable.

II. Change is in itself neither good nor bad! Some changes affect us positively, some negatively and some not at all.

III. There are primarily three types of change:
a. Those changes we initiate ourselves
b. Those changes we did not initiate but over which we have great influence
c. Those changes we did not initiate and over which we have little or no control

IV. You control your destiny! Although we cannot always directly influence change we can influence on how the change affects our lives through our attitudes and actions.

V. The Paradox of Change: The outcome of change is difficult to foresee. Sometimes those changes that appear to be most negative in the short-term bring the most long-term benefit and those changes that seem most desirable in the short-term are not necessarily best for us in the long-term.

VI. Therefore, never initiate change simply for the sake of change! Change should only be initiated when absolutely necessary with a real desire to make things better!

VII. The three fundamental questions driving change:
a. Where am I now? (It is ok to be happy where you are!)
b. Where do I want to be? (You don’t necessarily have to change anything!)
c. How do I get there? (Go back and re-think the first two points before developing your plan of action!)

VIII. Base you decisions on facts. Intuition is better than no information at all but facts are always better.

IX. Don’t worry if you don’t succeed the first time. Change is difficult but it is never too late to try again!

X. Be persistent! Those who succeed are not those who never fail, they are the ones who never give up!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Means is the End of Machiavelli

Machiavelli argued that the end justifies the means, but what if there is no end and in the end the means is all there is? Then the means would have to justify the means and that would put an end to Machiavelli.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Be wary of truth-sayers

Be wary of truth-sayers (even the one writing this). Although we are constantly in search of truth, the truth is that any real deep meaningful truth that may exist is likely beyond our capacity of comprehension. Anything we may believe to be true is highly subjective. Therefore we must be vigilant. We should never fall prey to comfortable “truths”. Truth is not revealed by the majority. Truth is not revealed through the beliefs of our ancestors or the values of the society around us. We must constantly question and re-evaluate that which we believe to be true and be humble enough to admit that although we may hold a truth to be true that truth is at best a victim of our perceptions.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rules are made to help us, when they don't help us we can ignore them!

Behaviour in all organisations is steered by a system of formal and/or informal rules and values. In the event that a conflict arises between a rule and a value we should always opt in favor of the value. Rules are made to help us, when they don't help us we can ignore them!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fantasies, Dreams and Reality

The differnce between fantasies and dreams is desire. the difference between dreams and reality is effort!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Make the Most of This Crisis, They don't come along too often

I am not going to add to the mass of amature analysis about the current financial crisis facing the worlds economy. There are journalists, bloggers, politicians and gurus to cause enough confusion without my help. I would like to comment on a side effect of the current situation. It is really interesting to see how different people react under pressure (including myself). It seems that extreme circumstances tend to bring out the best and the worst in us. I have witnessed some people excerise great creativity in solving the challenges posed by the current financial situation but I have also seen extreme cases of tunnel vision, lack of focus and even apathy. Why is it that some people can meet these challenges with energy and resolve while others seem to fall apart?

I wouldn't be surprised if DNA plays a certain role in this. Some are born with better genes to handle a crisis. It is not unlikely that our socialization has a significant effect. Still I can't help thinking that there must be things we can learn, things we can practice that will make us better prepared for tough situations. Police and firemen train themselves to be able to handle situations that would be difficult for the untrained to handle. They learn how to handle their fear, how to protect themselves and how close to a fire you can stand without getting hurt. When it comes to the business world we are not talking about life-threatening risks. No one gets physically injured because profits are down. Surely if we can train ourselves to face raging fires and armed criminals while remaining calm and thinking rationally, we ought to be able to face a global financial crises.

Analyze your ghosts!

The ghosts you see and understand are not nearly as scary as the ones you don't. Often we are frightened of things without really understanding what it is we are really scared of. Potential risks become much easier to deal with if we identify them and analyze the impact these risks pose for us (as well as the probability that they will happen). May dad always says that 90% of the things we worry about never happen. Suppose you are worried about losing your job. The first question is how likely is it that it might happen? What would be the impact on you if it did happen? How hard would it be to get a new job? Would you have to take a pay cut or move to another town? What sacrifices would you have to make if you had to take a lower paying job or move to another town? By working through all the consequences you can develope an understanding of how you would handle the problem if it happened.

What's the worst that could happen?

Another trick is to ask yourself what is the worst that could happen? What is the worst that could happen at work? What would you do if the worst happened? Could you live with that? Could you handle the situation? If so, then you can get back to living your life and stop worrying! No one wants to lose their job or lose money on the stockmarket. When it happens it can be extremely challenging. Our emotions can swing from apathy to rage and back again. But being mentally prepared for the challenge, understanding the consequences and having at least a vague strategy for handling the situation can be a big help in meeting a crises. If you are feeling very brave you might even ask yourself what's the best that could happen? (A new, more interesting job with a better salary?) A crisis can be the catalyst you need to create positive change. Change in your life or in your organization!