Galen Low is joined by Tim Creasey, CIO of Procsi, to explore ways that project managers and leadership teams can collaborate to give micro-innovations a seat at the table for more macro-level changes and how that can help a business thrive.
- Tim Creasey is the Chief Innovation Officer of Prosci and the person who literally wrote the book on “Change Management: The People Side of Change“. [1:27]
- Prosci’s mission is to help individuals and organizations build the capabilities they need to be more successful at change. Early on they found out that building adoption and usage of solutions was the biggest derailer to change success. They have done several decades of research to build methodology, role-based, tool suite – holistic solutions for change success. [2:04]
- Jeff Hiatt, the founder of Prosci, really wanted a product company. He wanted to do research and turn it into books and binders. That was the origins of the company. [2:58]
- Tim shares a little bit of a story about what keeps him from coming back when it comes to change management. They were an in-person training business. In March 2020 they lost in-person as a way to do training, so they had to pivot everything virtual. To keep the ‘wow’ experience in a virtual setting, Tim started doing his “thank you” cameo drop-ins on each of the programs. [4:32]
The right way to treat our people when we ask them to change is to set them up for success.Tim Creasey
- Tim has a soft spot for diva pop music and he shares his love for the Avett Brothers, an Americana band out in North Carolina. [9:16]
- Tim mentioned Arnold van Gennep, a cultural anthropologist who went around the globe studying all different cultures and the rights of passage that people went through. And he identified change as three big buckets: stepping out of how things are today, moving through some liminal moment, and then reincorporated into whatever that next phase. [13:26]
- Change is hard for reasons of all, in the current, the transition, and the future. The future is unknown and it’s scary and it might be worse than things are today. The transition state is messy and mucky, so it brings challenges for change. [14:32]
People managers are probably the most critical ally and often overlooked ally in times of change.Tim Creasey
- When we talk about the role of the people manager in change, we talk about macro-changes that they support, which are those big projects. They have a code, a title, and a budget. [17:21]
- Tim explains the difference between surprise and accident. A lot of the outcomes of this innovative work, like staggering the schedule, the outcome might have been surprisingly beneficial, but it wasn’t an accident. [23:40]
- At Prosci, they use something they call scar storytelling. SCAR: Situation, Challenge, Approach, Results. [25:07]
- To capture some of the experiments that are happening at the project level, it is important to rigorously document the outcomes that were different than what we had expected. [26:59]
Innovation is about seeing challenges and problems as opportunities and possibilities.Tim Creasey
- At Prosci, they have six core values that the executive team rolled out in 2021. Impact, people, integrity, inclusion, experience, and excellence. [32:59]
- At Prosci, they strive to continuously improve themselves in their work, which is an important definition of excellence. [33:22]
- Tim shared a phrase that he heard on a podcast recently. The phrase was ‘lend me your eyes’. Lend me your ears means listen to me. Lend me your eyes means help me see this issue or opportunity in the way that you see it. [34:57]
- Tim talks about changes having two sides. There’s a technical side — where we design, develop, and deliver a technical solution. And there’s a people side — where we engage our people so that they can adopt and use the solution effectively. If we don’t tend to both sides of the coin, the change is not going to create the value the organization needs. [36:15]
Change is hard. Change is continuous. Change success is accessible with and through your people.Tim Creasey
Meet Our Guest
Tim Creasey is an author, researcher, and change expert who focuses on the people’s side of change with process, wit, and vigor. Tim’s work forms the foundation of the world’s largest body of knowledge on change management. His role as Chief Innovation Officer at Prosci gives him unparalleled insight into change management challenges, trends, and futures. Tim’s background in economics gives him a data-rich, analytic perspective. Having spoken to hundreds of thousands of people around the globe, Tim is authentic, knowledgeable, and unassumingly funny. He enables audiences with valuable data and actionable insights.
It’s not that we deliver perfection, it’s that we strive to continuously improve ourselves and our work.Tim Creasey
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Read the Transcript:
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Galen Low: It's a great day: you've been handed a new project chock full of unique challenges and exciting goals. It's a beast that sits well outside the usual bread-and-butter projects, but you've built a team of A players who are eager to innovate and make sure the project is a success.
So you sit down and agree to new ways of working, stronger communication tactics, strategies for deeper collaboration between SMEs and business stakeholders. Frankly, it's a masterpiece.
Fast forward eight months, and your project has wrapped. It was a huge win. It achieved all of its objectives and then some. Everyone celebrated, but your next project is back to the same hdr way of working, fraught with all of those challenges that you just overcame in your last project.
Why can't anyone see that the innovations from your project could benefit the whole organization? Does everyone think it was just a happy accident?
If you've experienced innovation at the project level but aren't sure how to leverage those innovations into broader organizational change, keep listening. We're gonna be exploring ways that project managers and leadership teams can collaborate to give micro-innovations a seat at the table for more macro-level changes and how that can help a business thrive.
Hey folks, thanks for tuning in. My name is Galen Low with the Digital Project Manager. We are a community of digital professionals on a mission to help each other get skilled, get confident, and get connected so that we can elevate the value of project management in a digital world. If you want to hear more about that, head over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
All right. Today, we are talking about innovation at the project level and how that innovation can be harnessed to influence broader organizational change. With me here is the Chief Innovation Officer of Prosci and the person who literally wrote the book on the people side of change management, Mr. Tim Creasey.
Tim Creasey: Hey, Galen. How are you doing today?
Galen Low: Oh, I'm well, I'm well, how are you?
Tim Creasey: , doing great. Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.
Galen Low: Yeah. Great to have you on the show.
Listen, you've been with Prosci for like over 20 years now. Could you tell our listeners just a little bit about Prosci and how it helps people in organizations just understand and undergo change?
Tim Creasey: Yeah, absolutely. So at Prosci, our mission is to really help individuals and organizations build the capabilities they need to be more successful at change. We are founded by an insatiably curious engineer who started to dig into why some changes succeed and why other projects don't. And the biggest derailer he discovered was helping our people to adopt and use the change and bring it to life in the way that they show up.
So we've done a couple of decades of research and have a whole set of role-based training programs, methodology, online tools, really holistic solutions that help organizations achieve change success.
Galen Low: That's awesome. And I hear your, at least one of your product offerings is actually like a load of fun. It's like a bootcamp. Get together, talk about change, have fun team building, like it's not just a read a book, use a framework. It's actually like a, let's get together and let's figure this out.
Tim Creasey: Absolutely. So actually, I mean that engineer, Jeff Hyat, the founder, he really wanted to be a product company.
He want to do research and turn it into books and binders. That was the origins of the company. So back in 2003, when we stepped into training, he said, here's the thing, Tim. We're not gonna deliver training, we're gonna deliver transformational experiences that help people see change as unlockable. And if you can design to that, then we'll step into "training".
And so, yeah, the Prosci, especially those in person programs, which we're about to start stepping back into, really had a lot of that engaging, interaction. It's about the experience, right? The 'ahas!' and the '-ohs' that we spot with one another that will help us be better the next change we decide to tackle.
So there's, I mean, karaoke was always part of, those Prosci programs. So...
Galen Low: Change management karaoke. I love it.
Tim Creasey: Johnny Cash was my go-to. That's a bit more, where I go swinging when we do karaoke. , once I did a print song and it was the worst thing you've ever heard in your life that's not in my vocal registry at all.
Galen Low: I always make the mistake of doing like American, like either American Pie or like Bohemian Rhapsody or something that's like 12 or 14 minutes. And then I go, wait a minute. Oh no, it goes on.
Tim Creasey: There's a five minute turn and you're like, oh, you, here we go. Yeah. Yeah.
Galen Low: Awesome.
Listen, 20 years at Prosci, I can tell just looking at your face and in our conversations, you're really passionate about this.
What do you love most about your job? What's that rewarding thing that just keeps you coming back for more when it comes to change management?
Tim Creasey: Yeah. And I'll tell you a little bit of a story to get here about what keeps me coming back. So we were an in-person training program, training business. So, March of 2020, all of a sudden we lost in-person as a way to do training, so we had to pivot everything virtual.
We decided, how do you keep that transformational, that 'wow' experience in a virtual settings? So I started doing cameo drop-ins on each of the programs, and I would drop in for 15 minutes, answer some questions. I mean, it was fascinating because time and place both got squishy.
So in one day I dropped in on 11 programs across the globe just to tell practitioners, and here's what I told them. I dropped in and said, Thank you for stepping into this discipline of change management. your projects are gonna be more successful because you do. We have tons of research data that shows a sixfold increase in likelihood of achieving outcomes when we do excellent change management over poor. And we get a threefold bp when we go from poor to fair, because there's so much poorly managed change going on. So thank you on behalf of your projects, they're more likely to meet objectives on time and on budget.
My second thank you I offered was on behalf of your organizations, because the muscle to out change is the most important muscle any organization can grow right now. And even if you're in the public sector, you're working to out change a global pandemic, technological revolutions, social justice. All organizations are working to out change all of these shifting conditions in front of us. And change management is a skillset that helps an organization out change what it's up against. So that was my second thank you.
But I always told them my third thank you was my most important. And it was from Andy, Becky, Charlie, Debbie, Eddie, Franny, Jerry, Harry, Izzy, the individual han beings who come to work and bring so much of themselves every single day to work.
And when we ask them to take on a change, the right way to treat them is to set them up for success, to position them to succeed when we're asking them to use a new CRM system, maybe. Or to adopt a new set of values or to lean into embracing inclusivity as a core value in the organization.
The right way to treat our people when we ask them to change is to set them up for success. And so that's what keeps me coming back, is that change management in the end is the right way to treat our people.
And so I, I discovered this phrase. , Jim Collins attributes it to Peter Drucker as kind of his big question, although I've never found it in the literature that way.
But the question is, how do we become more hane and more productive at the same time? As society, as organizations, as projects, because I can achieve one at the expense of the other all day long. I can get more hane and less productive, easy. More productive, less hane, easy. But how do I do both?
And so this discipline of change management, it's preparing, equipping, supporting our people through the changes we asked them to make so that they, the project, and the organization are more successful. That's more hane and more productive, and so that's what keeps me coming back to, , to the discipline. For sure.
Galen Low: I love that. And we're gonna dive deep into that today, the individuals behind change, it doesn't happen without them. And we've got to craft a path to make change happen with them.
Tim Creasey: Yeah. Galen, you told me you have, I mean, you have, y'all have about to life a bunch of changes here recently, right? As your organization's growing, right? And you've, I mean, you feel those, both as a leader of a change and as a part of the organization.
How individual each of those journeys are, and that if we can, you know, Vince Lombardi, he was the, , football coach, legendary Green Bay Packers here in the United States.
Whatever your sport is in your country, wherever you are, think about the best coach ever of that sport. That's who Vince Lombardi is for American football. And he said, the achievements of the organization are the combined effort of each individual. And so he's speaking about a sporting team, But that's the same way it works in projects or at your organization, as you went through this big transformation. It's one person at a time that we can achieve success in our organizations. And so that's yeah, that's what we do in change management.
Galen Low: Love that, love that.
, I'm gonna take a left turn here, because one of the things, when we were prepping, one thing that you and I connected on was music, actually.
And you introduced me to a band that it's kind of outside my regular genre if I were to be honest. But you did a full change management on my musical tape. So, talk to me about the Avett Brothers and just what bluegrass means to you?
Tim Creasey: Nice. What's your normal, , music tastes?
Galen Low: Oh, it goes everything from loud, screamy, electro, metal stuff, to just pop.
Tim Creasey: Nice. Nice. I do have a soft spot in my heart for diva pop, so I have my whole diva pop playlist, but, the Avett Brothers, it's an Americana band out in North Carolina. But the thing about the Avett Brothers, the music's great. They're wonderful songwriters, you know, the charisma is there, but a live Avett show is an experience.
, and I've seen them 14 times live now, plus, you know, three streaming live shows during the course of the pandemic. I won't even tell you how many tickets I had to shows last year that I had to sell, 'cause we can't go to see 'em. Brings a tear to my eye, but when you go experience a live show, you realize the intent that they play to the emotional auditory, cerebral journey that they're bringing you on, during that 90 or hopefully 120 minutes, you know, if they decide to go long.
And so, and the amazing thing is if you can see 'em on multiple nights, I actually got to see 'em three nights in a row at Wolf Trap, right, as I was about to turn one of those big birthdays. When you see 'em three nights in a row, you get this entire multi-day experience.
You get very few replays and you just, you can see that they're paying attention to how they string songs together. And so what I realized, what I love about them is that experience, that journey of a live show with the Avett Brothers. And so I really started to bring a lot of that notion of the, how do you pay attention to the journey you're bringing somebody on? Not just that song you're playing, then that song you're playing, then that song you're playing, so. At the end of the show, they all crple up their set lists and throw 'em out into the, audience and that show of my big birthday.
I've got one of Bob's set lists, but that notion of set list presenting, set list storytelling, where it's not just the pieces, but the journey you take somebody on. It's a life changing moment. So, yeah. It's about the experience.
Galen Low: I love that. It's , well, I love that I'm gonna tie it into this conversation cuz that's like, that's micro-change. That's micro-innovation. They're like, Okay, this worked well. Let's change it up next time. Let's experiment with some different ways of doing something, so we're not doing the same thing every time. We're doing something that is appropriate for this unique show that we're putting on.
And guess what? Projects are like that too, right? They're this unique start and stop things that we probably shouldn't approach the same way every time. We should be looking at ways to switch things up, get better results, create a better experience for the customer or the sponsor or the audience or the users that we're creating these products for. So...
Tim Creasey: And it's that arc, right? It's that arc that you go through and experience. And I know people are listening to this on the audio, but I'm making like this little wavy motion with my hand, like I'm doing the worm. It's taking, even within a project, right? Where are the ebbs and the flows? You know, when is it gonna get stormy?
When are we gonna be cheering together? And like, how do we architect and think through that entire experience that we're bringing people with us through? So...
Galen Low: Love that. All right, let's get into it.
So today, we are talking about the way that teams innovate at the project level and how that innovation can be harnessed to drive sustainable organizational change. So, let me just tee it up here. There's a lot of organizations who are right now going through a digital transformation of some sort. And for some organizations, this is like the big change.
This is like innovation with a capital 'I', they're gonna change everything. It's that necessary catch up across the board so that everything stays in sync as the organization takes a step forward. But Tim, something you and I have been talking about lately is that change is continuous. In order for organizations to stay relevant, change needs to be a sustained, incremental effort.
In other words, organizations need to innovate every day. So, my goal today is to give our listeners a perspective on innovation and change at the project level from a true expert, which is why I'm thrilled to have you here to chat this through, because you've seen organizations struggle with change for decades, literally. You know all the ins and outs and all the scenarios.
So, let me start by asking you this — why is change so hard?
Tim Creasey: Yeah, great question. And you know, I think what we can do is take a step back and start to pull change apart and understand the moving parts. And we actually traced this all the way back to the early 20th century, cultural anthropologist named Arnold van Gennep.
He went around the globe studying all different cultures and the rights of passage that people went through, whether it was, you know, stepping into adolescence or stepping into marriage or whatever those phases are stepping into parenthood. And he identified change as kind of three big buckets. Stepping out of how things are today, moving through some sort of liminal moment, and then reincorporated into whatever that next phase.
And again, so he's talking about a 13-year-old going out on a, you know, some sort of adventure and then coming back, stepping into manhood. And, but that notion that changed and at Prosci, we describe it as the current state, how things are happening today. The transition state, the movement, and then that future state that we're trying to re-arrive at.
And change is hard for reasons of all, you know, in the current, the transition, and the future, right? The future is unknown and it's scary and it might be worse than things are today. And so there's aspects of the future state that create challenges around change.
The transition state is messy and mucky and I have certain solutions I think are the right way and it might not go that way and we have to work through the muck. So the transition state, brings challenges for change. And the current state is where we are today. And even if it's painful, it's known and it's comfortable.
Even if it's uncomfortable, it's known. And so I got, there's challenges of stepping out of how things are today, navigating that change and then sticking with something when we get to that future state. So, I think each of the three phases bring challenges for change. And then I think you laid on this amazing backdrop, right?
That we're living in a time where the pace of change is like nothing we've ever experienced where, , evolving out of the involuntary digital transformation that every organization just went through. Right?
We're reimagining the future of workplace and what hybrid workplaces can mean. And so we're in this continuous state of simultaneous interconnected changes, but if we can break it down into the moving parts, that's how we help people try to, step into it and move through it.
Galen Low: I love what you said there that that transition phase is mucky. I think you said it, right?
Tim Creasey: Yeah.
Galen Low: And I'm like, okay. So, for the change management folks listening, yes.
They know that transition is, you know, that's the challenge. For the project managers listening, yes, that is our job is to kind of drive through this mucky transition phase. It is complex and we need to do the figuring out. It's an adventure, like you said, right?
And I think it's interesting that you tied it back to anthropology where we've got these big moments. Rights of passage is what you had said, in terms of getting to that future state. And I think that's how a lot of people think about change, especially with this involuntary digital transformation for a lot of organizations. But then, tying it back, right? Avett Brothers, tying it back to some of the other things we're talking about where, yeah, change is continuous.
I'm just wondering, as someone who's in change management who deals with a lot of that big sweeping change, like what is the relationship between big sweeping change, the transition phase, and just like these small incremental changes that might not feel like a rite of passage, might not feel like an adventure, but are actually moving towards the future, nonetheless?
Tim Creasey: Yeah, we often talk about, I'll give you a couple of parallels that I think land in here. When we talk about one of the most important roles in change, we talk about the middle manager, right? People managers are probably the most critical ally and often overlooked ally in times of change.
And so when we talk about the role of the people manager in change, we talk about macro-changes that they support, which are those big projects, they have a code and a title and a budget. And micro-change that's happening every single day. How do we respond to the situation that just emerged in front of us?
How do we respond to the client demand that just came in? And so, we often talk about how do you equip managers to support micro and macro change. And I think in that same way, Galen, there are those big macro-innovations, transformations that are going on. And then we also are watching a lot of those micro-changes.
Fascinating thing about the global pandemic, I'm doing some writing right now about the conditions of the future of work and change, that we're all gonna have to step into. And one of 'em is this notion of iterative and adaptive by necessity. As we began, especially early on, right? It was day by day we were working to get by.
, and then we started to expand out and figure out how to work and get together and get work done. And so that horizon expanded, but, we're gonna be dealing with lots of iterative, adaptive, small cycle change. And so I think, it's gonna be an interesting place to step into as organizations, you know. We have to talk about change capability.
It can be something we do. So on a project, I do good change management to help my people through that transition, or it can be something we are, where we grow the muscle of tenacity, resilience, durability. And I think there's a bit of that, both end, when we talk about innovation and outsource to come to life in organizations. You do a little time traveling real quick?
Galen Low: Yeah?
Tim Creasey: Cause this current transition is interesting and I have to talk about the role of the change practitioner as a time traveler. Project leaders have to play the same role. So if we think about current transition and future states, which state do your senior leaders live in? Where do your executives live? Which of those three states?
Galen Low: Future, I would hope?
Tim Creasey: Future, right? We pay 'em to live in the future, like that's what we ask them to do is to envision who we are gonna be as an organization. Where do our project teams and change teams live? And you just, you just identify this...
Galen Low: Mucky transition phase.
Tim Creasey: The mucky transition, right?
That's what we pay them to do, is identify the opportunities, figure out the problems, understand the trade offs. Where does the rest of the organization spend their day?
Galen Low: Current states.
Tim Creasey: Today. They're keeping the organization running. And so part of our job, and I've said this to change practitioners for a lot long time. Part of our job is to be those time travelers. Help the senior leaders in the project teams, reconnect that back into the business and help them step out of the current state, because you, senior leaders, spent two years stepping out of this current state already. You project teams spent the last year stepping out of this current state.
Everybody else is about to step out of it. What I realized, just now I just thought of this, as I was thinking about your prep questions is this idea of making lower case eye innovation part of who we are, is really about 'can we help the organization start to live in the mucky transition a bit more?'
And that might have been the last couple of years since this global pandemic, right? We've all have just been living in the mucky transition, whether we knew it or not.
Galen Low: Certainly felt mucky, didn't it?
Tim Creasey: Right, which is fascinating. We're engaging clients around this notion of understanding the future of the workplace.
Like, what does your hybrid workplace of the future look like? Hybrid by schedule, hybrid bespoke, who's making the decisions. We've got some really cool frames, but I realized I started to ask them, 'Is the current state today, like how your hybrid at your organization is architected today or is the current state you're anchoring off of February 2020?'
And there's some folks that are still anchoring off of February 2020 as the current state, because they kind of put everything on pause, like, Oh, we'll just pause during this whole pandemic, which I think is so fascinating, you know. What are we considering our current transition state as we step into this constant state of muck? So...
Galen Low: I like that. And I think it comes back to that adaptability thing you said, right? Like organizations need to be ready to be adaptable, for exactly that reason, right? Like continuous transition phase. We need to be built for that, because the future's uncertain, everything can change on a dime.
If you're stuck in February 2020, then you're not reading what's going on and you might be in a bit of a, like a temporary shelter when you should be building a new house.
Tim Creasey: Absolutely. Now you want to know one risk that I think we can fall into here?
Galen Low: Yeah.
Tim Creasey: Is, we start to live in the mucky transition and we use it as a defense to defining future and what we're setting out to achieve.
And I think that's this tension, the innovators are gonna have to strike because we don't get the claim we're learning and experimenting as a reason not to declare what we're setting out to achieve. We need to set out what we're trying to achieve, learn real fast, say, Whoa, we missed, or whoa, we overshot. And then incorporate that into the next cycle of learning. I think it's a perfect segue into, I'm wondering if you and I can do some more time traveling here, because I want to just zero and you said macro and micro change and in some ways, a project in that mucky transition phase is also in the middle of micro and macro-change.
Galen Low: In some ways it's part of a macro-change. In some ways there's a lot of micro-change happening day over day. And I'll sort of give an example, but whenever I see sort of like these everyday innovations at the project level when I see them inform broader organizational change, it's like, it's almost always like this happy accident, right?
Like rather than a deliberate experiment, so for example, back in the day, you know, IT digital teams, they do something like, Okay, well we need to stagger our Agile sprints across interdependent teams. Like, you know, design is running at a different pace than engineering, for example. Maybe the sprints are a different length and they do that and they try it, and it works.
And then somebody higher up takes notice and decides, Yeah, that should be part of the way we work. That should just be our standard operating procedure. But is there anything like a team or an organization can do to just be a little bit more deliberate about these kinds of experiments?
Tim Creasey: Yeah, I think, I mean, navigating these happy accidents and how do we incorporate learnings? You know, I think a lot of it gets back to the difference between surprise and accident, right? Cause a lot of these outcomes of this innovative work, like staggering the schedule, like you described, the outcome might have been surprisingly beneficial, but it wasn't an accident.
We intentionally set about trying to achieve something by staggering the schedules. And so, one of my phrases that my teams hear more than any, actually wrote it up as an article a couple of months ago, is the phrase 'to what end?' What are we setting out to achieve here?
And we'll do it for a meeting. What's the 'to what end' of this meeting? We'll do it for writing an email. We'll do it for designing a program. To what end? And so I think part of it is when we step into these experiments, we set out to achieve something. So what did we set out to achieve?
You know, why did we set out to achieve it? What actually happened? Why was it different than what we expected? And can we explain why? And then can we repeat that accident? Right? Can we repeat, because again, like I said, I don't think it's often, it's not by accidents. It's surprising how well it went, but it was never accidental.
That project team was onto something that's why they tried it in the first place, right? So, have them articulate the challenge we were up against. We use something we call scar storytelling. SCAR,Situation, Challenge, Approach, Results.
What's the situation we're in? What's the challenge we faced? What's the approach we decided to take? What were the results that we yielded? Capturing even those happy accidents and the surprising outcome in a situation, challenge, approach, results is the kind of thing that could help us capture and leverage that forward.
'Cause you're not the only one that was in the same situation with that same challenge. You just came up with a surprisingly effective solution that hopefully we can replicate.
Galen Low: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think one thing that you said earlier that I found really interesting, you said managers are the strongest ally of change. And I think you hit something on the head here, which is that, Okay, scar, right? Storytelling, they're in a certain situation.
, there's a challenge. Their approach is gonna be different, maybe it has a really interesting result. But it's in this ecosystem of a project, right? Which might not get visibility. In fact, I'm sure this happens all the time in organizations where nobody at the senior level, you know, above that project took notice.
And maybe they were like, that project went really well. Okay, onto the next thing. But I think it's really interesting what you said about, you know, not using a mucky transition mindset to ignore or to not go through the process of thinking about the future state.
And I think in that regard, what would you recommend for an organization to be like, how can you capture some of these, experiments that are happening at the project level and make them a little bit, something that you can kind of just incubate, incubate into something that can be an organization-wide benefit?
How can you avoid missing some of the benefits of these experiments?
Tim Creasey: Yeah, I think a couple of things here. One is that notion of capturing, you know, what was the actual problem we uniquely solved. I've become increasingly interested in some of the jobs to be done framework around the fact that people don't hire a product.
They, you know, they don't buy the product, they hire it to solve a particular problem. You gotta understand the problem that they're trying to solve if you want to understand why they pick that product. And so I think when we have these innovations, these surprising outcomes, making sure that we were able to dial it back to the problem that we uniquely solved because of it.
I also think it's important to rigorously docent the outcomes that were different than what we had expected. We talk about this a lot in the change management space as well. And I'll do this as a bit of a quiz with you, right?
Galen Low: Sure.
Tim Creasey: If you do a horrible job managing the people side of change of a project, horrible job of helping people understand what's happening, why it's coming, any of that. What do you hear? What do you audibly hear if you walk around the office?
Galen Low: Disgruntled muttering?
Tim Creasey: Yeah. Well, yeah, you're in Canada where it's much more polite. Here in the US we would hear screaming and yelling and door slamming. Right? You hear it audibly when the people side of change is not managed well.
If all of your people feel completely prepared, equipped, and supported for that CRM system you're about to go live with, you flip the switch. What do you often hear in that case?
Again, you're in Canada so you would hear 'thank you', but in the US, you wouldn't hear anything. It would be silence, right? Like you get paid back in silence when you've done a good job of helping people move forward. You get paid back in loud when you struggle with it. Same thing on some of these happy accidents, right?
These surprising innovations that happen in that micro-level, they can go unheard because we would've heard about it had that not been such a beautiful, innovative solution. And so rigorously docenting the path we expected and how we altered that path, I think is part of what we can do to capture the lessons learned and moving forward.
I had one, colleague. She's now, she was a client now. She works here at Prosci, as one of our master instructors. She had all of her change practitioners record. It was like a narrated PowerPoint, a scar storytelling of here's a situation we ran into about the people side of change. Here it was a challenge, here's the challenge, our approach, the results. Narrate them, three to five minutes, a narrated PowerPoint deck, make a video of it and submit it and we'll do a contest, right?
We'll all watch them together. Someone's gonna get a prize, which is so cool. Right? Everyone got excited recording there and some of them were helping one person through a small change. Some of them were helping a huge department through a massive change. It was going through, but in the process, they harvested so many lessons that they were able to then perpetuate out and then take into the next project they were working on.
So, you know, rigorously capturing the impact and packaging it up so we can share it are some of the ways I think we can leverage for these everyday innovations that you're talking about.
Galen Low: I love that. I love the storytelling aspect of it. One of the questions I had here, and I think we're touching on, I think we can build on, it was just, you know, project managers, they are not necessarily seen as like innovators, right?
And I don't know if project managers necessarily see themselves as innovators and definitely don't get recognized necessarily as innovators, even if they actually are doing some of this everyday innovation.
, so I love that as a way to surface the results of these experiments. You know, use a sky or framework, tell a brief story. If you are in sort of more of a management or leadership role, make space for this to happen. Not just a project retrospective with the project team, but a project presentation of, Hey, we did an experiment, it was deliberate. Here's how we approached it. Here are the results.
So it can kind of bake in to process at a more organizational level, but also, so that that perception of innovation is happening. And I imagine that's true, right? Of like everywhere in a lot of different roles. You know, we've been talking about the fact that managers are the allies of change. We've been talking about the people, you know, that you want to thank in terms of change management are the individuals, the boots on the ground who are actually doing the change.
How can someone in an organization just be better recognize as an innovator for the innovations that they do every day?
Tim Creasey: I think you're right. Sometimes organizations, either in the hierarchy or by job classification or title, we think innovation happens over there or only in that part of the organization. And like you said, you know, my title is Chief Innovation Officer, but I will tell you that the most innovation that's happening in Prosci every single day is happening in the classroom, in the moment, right now.
An instructor is helping a class, see something a little bit differently that's helping them unlock the challenge they had. And so, to me, an innovation is about seeing challenges and problems as opportunities and possibilities. I have a 13-year-old, by this definition, he's the most innovative person, you know?
And he is, and he drives his mother and I crazy because he only sees the world as opportunities and possibilities to seize into. I mean, you should see him destroy a kitchen when he decides he wants to make something creative and beautiful for breakfast. And again, it's so much fun and I love that big picture, long term life.
That's the way he approaches things. It still destroys my kitchen regularly, but. So what I try to do in my role is you have to try to find those folks who are seeing the challenges and problems that we're collectively experiencing as opportunities and possibilities and are bringing those unique solutions to them.
, the people that continue to ask the question, how might we continue to do this better? And at Prosci we worked to really institutionalize this even into the values of the organization. So we have six core values that, the executive team rolled out, a refreshed in 2021. Impact, people, integrity, inclusion, experience, and the last one is excellence.
And the statement we have is we strive to continuously improve ourselves in our work, which I think is an important definition of excellence, right? It's not we deliver perfection, it's we strive to continuously improve ourselves and our work. And that gives us the opportunity to celebrate when people spot opportunities to continuously improve ourselves and our work, which, it's the right mindset, right, that we're trying to instill with our folks, that when you see something, step in with a way to to, get better.
Galen Low: Which you said earlier, right? Iterative and adaptable. These are necessary things that we need to kind of bake if, and from a top down view, we need to bake it into our values and our culture as an organization from a bottom up standpoint. It's like, yeah, celebrate it, make a little bit of noise about it.
It is a little bit of a, you know, you wanna could see it as a bit of a PR campaign. Look at me, I have innovative ideas. And it is, but it's also about celebrating where there are wins and celebrating the fact that, Heck, even when it's a failure, even if it's an abject micro failure. To be celebrating the fact that, Listen, we are trying to do something a little bit differently to get better at it, not to be perfect and reach a state of perfection where we can just stand still, but a state of just change iteration, that Kaizen mentality.
Tim Creasey: Yeah. And I think that framing is important, right? That I think you're right, that it's along the lines of a PR campaign. But if it's, Look at me, it's gonna go south. If it's, Look at the problem, I just helped us solve. Look at the opportunity, I just looked at a little bit different from a little bit different direction, you know?
So I heard this phrase on a podcast here recently, and I am still digging to find out who said it and on what podcast, so I wanna make sure I attribute it correctly. But the phrase was 'lend me your eyes'. And you know, lend me your ears means, listen to me. Lend me your eyes means, help me see this issue or opportunity in the way that you see it.
, and I found it beautiful because one, it's an acknowledgement that every single one of us brings with us, our own experiences, expectations, capabilities, everything that made us, us impacts how we see this issue in front of us or this opportunity. , so a beautiful acknowledgement that we all bring that to the table.
And by asking you to lend me your eyes, I'm inviting you into helping us solve this challenge. And so I've really tried to bring that into some of the work that I'm doing. Even as a leader here at Prosci.
Galen Low: I really like that. And I think it really just ties that into the han side of change, right?
This empathy, and knowing that, like you said, the mucky transition phase is about figuring it out. It's not about sort of trying to smash a, you know, a round peg into a square hole and hoping for the best about seeing things from the perspective of people who will undergo and lead this change at all levels, who will inherit these changes, and be able to kind of get that perspective, as well.
Tim Creasey: For sure. I often talk about changes having two sides, right? There's a technical side, where we design, develop, and deliver a technical solution. And there's a people side, where we engage our people so that they can adopt and use the solution effectively. If we don't tend to both sides of the coin, the change is not gonna create the value the organization needs.
And so in the end, that's what it about, is achieving the improvement in performance we're trying to achieve as an organization through this project, by tending both the technical and the people side of that coin.
Galen Low: Absolutely. I love that. And I think that kind of ties in to my last question here to just kind of zoom back out on the big picture.
So we've been talking about big transformation, this right of passage, change and innovation that organizations will go through. Some of them had to go through, you know, as a result of the pandemic. And then we're talking about this more micro change, right? Either at the project level or sort of day over day within a business operation and something that I hear often is that, you know, this complaint that big consultants, they come in, they drive massive change.
They drive this big change management initiative. Everything takes one step forward altogether, and that could be digital transformation, or it could be some other kind of wholesale change. But then when they leave, these consultants, it creates this vacu or it welcomes a sort of, you know, backwards movement, a retrograde rebellion that prevents that change from really sticking.
So like after this change has been made, figuring out that change, paying attention to both sides of those coins and then, Cool, we're done. That change agent leaves and then, where does the onus lie in terms of keeping this capital "I" in innovation, the big innovation? Where does the onus lie in keeping that doing its job?
Tim Creasey: Yeah. And Galen, I think, you know, we talked about the two sides of the coin. I think often the case is we get the technical side.
You know, Daryl Conner is one of the great grandfathers of change management and he used the phrase installation versus realization. , and I think a lot of times when we bring folks in on these big transformation investments like you described, we end up getting installation of the technical side of that coin.
And I mean, it is an incredibly high relief for the technical side of the coin. I mean, but if you flip over and look at the people side of the coin, have you ever been to a muse and seen one, like a 2000 year old coin and it's all, you know, it kinda looks like a Plato coin almost.
Galen Low: Yeah. Yeah.
Tim Creasey: That's how they left the people side of change. They sent an email on Monday for training on Tuesday for go live on Wednesday and they walked out the door on Thursday. And that's not how you prepare equipment to report your people to really bring the change to life in the way they do their jobs.
So, yeah, in the end, success only happens. Realization only occurs when we get both sides of those coins. And that's why we work, even when we go in as a, in our advisory services and coach our clients, we won't do it without a client agent kind of two in a box. Because we know this has to be something that organizations pick up and own for it to go beyond something we do and something we are, for it to become part of the DNA of the organization, it's gotta be picked up and carried forward, , and embedded in how we show up each and every day.
Galen Low: I love that. I love the sort of collaboration aspect of it, and Oh, gosh, I'm sure everyone can relate to that email you receive. By the way, new CRM, new client portal launching on Monday. You know, here's the Wiki about it. And going forward, don't use the old one anymore, please. Good luck!
Versus actually mapping to, where are we trying to go to, right? That future state that you mentioned, and casting that vision and making sure that people understand that it doesn't happen to them, that installation, that they are a part of realizing this change that they will benefit from it. But actually, the torch is actually with them from the standpoint of carrying forward that innovation. And then to your point, continuing to iterate on that and to be adaptable.
And I think, you know, reading between the lines here, I'm thinking I'm like, Okay, yeah. Leaders of organizations, I think the lesson here, the message here is, yeah, sometimes you need to bring in external help to, , the agents of change. But it's not like a one time investment that you're just calculating ROI on.
To get the real return, you need to actually make sure that the folks that change happen too, understand why and can carry that torch and support them so that they can continue to innovate, so that they can tell their stories, you know, using the scar format,about how their experiments are going so that they continue to innovate. And aren't just like victims of a big change that they had no control over and no say over.
Tim Creasey: Yeah, absolutely. You know, this change is hard, and equipping people with the tools to navigate it and step through it and take control over.
I think it is, you know, really what it's all about. And we know that that's gotta become the muscle of the organization, right? Things are not going back to how they were.
Galen Low: I love that. The muscle of the organization. Project managers who are listening, day to day operations folks, you are the muscle of change, as well you are innovators. I think that is super awesome.
Tim, listen, it's been a pleasure chatting with you. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your ideas. I always love talking to you. I love your analogies, your metaphors, your frameworks, and the way that you think. There's so much good stuff in here.
I think the thing that really stuck with me is this sort of anthropological rite of passage, big adventure model. And the fact that actually, I guess in a way, every day is an adventure, right? If we're trying to be iterative and adaptive, sometimes there's gonna be a rite of passage change and it's gonna seem like this big thing.
Sometimes it's something where we need to embrace this mucky transition phase and always be looking at the future and always be in a mucky transition phase. And I think that's day to day ops, I think it's projects, and I think that, yeah, we all play a part in that every day. I think that was just, yeah, such a cool visual for me. Such a cool metaphor.
Tim Creasey: Ah, fantastic. Yeah, my, my sort of base beat that I've arrived at is, change is hard. Change is continuous. Change success is accessible with and through your people. And I think that's what we're all gonna need to step forward into the future.
Galen Low: There you have it. Ladies and gentlemen, Tim, from Prosci.
Tim, thank you again and looking forward to having you back on the show sometime in the near future.
Tim Creasey: Thank you. It was fantastic.
Galen Low: So, what do you think? Do you see your projects as innovations on ways of working? Or is the temporary nature of projects something that only ever creates temporary innovations? Have you influenced organization wide change through your projects? Leave your thoughts and stories in the comments below.
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