Tag Archives: Organisational Change

Lessons from Mike Shove- CEO CSC Australia

On Wednesday of this week, I was fortunate enough to go along to the 11th Australian Conference on Culture and Leadership presented by Human Synergistics, in Sydney. Having recently used the LSI at my workplace, I was keen for a refresher and also hoped to get some inspiration on how to change behaviour in my workplace when it seems like an impossible task.

Once again, the best way for me to learn is from experience, and that was why it was fantastic listening to Mike Shove (former Managing Director and CEO of CSC Australia).

Mike was a highly engaging speaker and began by explaining his somewhat typical CEO response to a bad start in his role as MD and CEO at CSC. He said that things weren’t going well with his leadership group and business results were poor. He said he responded with some executive coaching and a ‘retreat’ where they you know “hugged some trees”, did some orienteering and had fun.

Not surprisingly, this didn’t work and things continued to worsen. CSC obviously had standards around behaviour, but they were essentially a number based organisation that also needed to achieve its targets.

Mike credits his HR Manager at the time for suggesting that he try the Human Synergistics circumplex; and more specifically the Leadership Impact tool. Mike was happy to give it a go because he thought he was relatively well liked and that he was an effective leader.

Now I’ve seen some bad results but this-hands down- is the worst I have ever seen and by Mike’s own admissions, he holds the world record for worst circumplex. This just makes his success even more incredible.

Mike LI

Where do you even go from there?

Well one of the most important learnings from this process is that it doesn’t happen overnight. Like any personal change, it does take time and like Miley says, it’s all about the climb.

Mike stuck at it, engaged his leadership team and then looked to the organisational culture. It was a long journey but one that derived huge amounts of learning. The results are nothing short of amazing in terms of the impact that it had on the leadership team, organisational culture and also the bottom line.

If this is something that interests you, I would recommend you check out Mike’s presentation on the Human Synergistics site. I know I’ll be sending it around to my staff that have recently completed the process.

One more thing that was truly impressive was a story Mike shared with us about a senior member of staff. Now this guy was a sales type who was achieving amazing results. However, as Mike described there was a trail of blood left by these results, and this was fitting as the circumplex indicated loads of red in terms of competitive, power and oppositional traits. Now many leaders would argue that these traits are what it takes to be that successful sales guy or that as long as he was achieving the targets- it was worth it.

In being committed to what they set out to achieve in terms of culture, Mike spoke with this sales guy and they ended up parting ways. This move is of huge significance to the organisation in terms of behavioural expectations. It sends the message- “it doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, you still need to contribute to a positive organisational culture”. This is an action I’m not sure many CEO’s would be willing to take, but sales results kept increasing and CSC never skipped a beat.

What a great example and so many learnings. I hope I’m able to facilitate this kind of change in my workplace because I know the results would be amazing.

Do you have any other stories like this you’d be willing to share?


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Communication Strategies and Organisational Change

Previously I’ve spoken about organisational change, change management and emotional intelligence which are all timely issues right now. In addition to these areas, I like to highlight the importance of the communications strategy in managing organisational change.

Covin and Kilman’s (1990) research note that:

‘Failure to share information or to inform people adequately of what changes are necessary and why they are necessary were viewed as having a highly negative impact. Secrecy, dishonesty, and the failure to assess dysfunctional rumours were also issues of concern’.


Hence, a positive communication strategy would involve announcing the change early (even if incomplete); establishing an information timeline; commenting on the inability to give further information; clarifying the values and protocol for change decisions; tailoring each communication to the intended audience and finally, involving those affected by the changes in as much planning as possible (DiFonzo and Bordia. 1998).

This is a particularly key point as participation in the process can greatly assist in reducing employee resistance to change (Robbins, Waters-Marsh, Cacioppe and Millett. 1994), however full participation in the processes is not always possible due to the nature and sensitivity required by some changes (such as a restructure) and time constraints. It is also wise to use a variety of media to deliver your messages, however face-to-face should always remain the preferred medium.

Finally, it’s important from a HR standpoint to view the communication process and the implementation of organizational change as inextricably linked processes (Lewis. 1999) that must be carried out systematically in order to assist people to cope with change and achieve a positive impact upon the business.

Do you know of any good or bad examples of organisations trying to communicate change?

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Can emotional intelligence help employees deal with change?

Each individual is different and deals with change differently and this is largely due to the way in which people perceive or view the change. When an individual experiences a change, ‘it is filtered through their preferences and appreciated and accepted, or resisted accordingly’ (Dibella. 2007). Unsurprisingly changes that are beneficial to the employee or that align with one’s own personal values are more readily accepted than those that are perceived to be negative.

Scott and Jaffe (1998) propose a model for change which identifies that employees move through four phases; namely denial (a feeling of numbness where the change doesn’t appear to sink in), resistance (feelings of anger, depression, anxiety and frustration), exploration (release of energy and shift in focus to the future which can be exciting and exhilarating) and finally, commitment (when employees are ready to refocus and move ahead). They say that people move through these phases at different rates due to factors such as personal experience or current personal circumstances.

Could emotional intelligence be a way of getting people to the commitment stage quickly?

emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence may be described as the ability to utilize your own emotions, and the emotions of others in order to achieve a desired result or action (Chrusciel. 2006) and the level of emotional intelligence in an individual can be measured by tools such as Emotional Intelligence Quotient and the Multifactorial Emotional Intelligence Scale (MEIS) based on the research efforts of Mayer and Salovey (1997).

In the case of employees experiencing organisational change, these individuals would be intensely aware of how they were feeling and reacting to the changes, hence being better able to use this knowledge to guide future feelings and actions. These individuals are also more adaptable to stressful events (Nikolaou and Tsaousis. 2002; Slaski and Cartwright, 2002) and have better coping strategies (Bar-On et al, 2000).

In contrast, those who do not possess high levels of emotional intelligence may let the fear, anxiety and angst of the changes control their behaviour and without an awareness of this, the employees will remain negative and defensive about the changes and resist it at all costs. This point is particularly poignant when you consider research by Fiol and O’Connor (2002) established that ‘emotional energy is essential to mobilise and sustain radical change in combination with cognitive interpretations’; and that being able to use emotions in order to develop positive attitudes towards change and increase ability to cope with change (Huy 1999) is a critical success factor in the change process (Higgs and Rowland. 2002).

Therefore, as emotional intelligence is a skill that can be developed and enhanced with appropriate training, building a workforce of emotionally intelligent employees would be extremely beneficial to the organisation.

Overall, “emotionally intelligent employees will be more likely to be adaptable in emotional reactions to discrepancies signalling the need for change, since these people are more adaptive and responsive to their emotions and moods with better knowledge and understanding of the feelings they are experiencing.” George and Jones (2001).

Something to think about given the amount of change we are currently experiencing…

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What is change management and what does it mean for employees?

Change management may be defined as ‘the process of continually renewing an organization’s direction, structure, and capabilities to serve the ever-changing needs of external and internal customers’ (Moran and Brightman. 2001).

However, from an employee perspective it usually just means one thing- job losses. In the middle of a recession from the global financial crisis, that’s all people are hearing about each and every day. Everyone knows someone who has lost their jobs and companies are under scrutiny for how much they pay their execs and what they are spending money on. One of the worst examples was that of CEO’s in the US who chartered private jets to ask for bailout money.


The worst case scenario at the moment for an individual is if they are made redundant and must start the search for a new job. The labour market is already saturated with people out of work and baby boomers are feeling vulnerable being close to retirement age, but not close enough to retire. There are also many who had intended to retire, but can’t because their superannuation savings have dwindled. Being out of work is an extremely stressful situation, particularly when it places people under financial pressure.

I’ve been made redundant before and I have to admit that one of the hardest hits is to your self esteem. Sure, everyone worries about money but internally you analyse the situation and wonder why it happened to you, you question if you did anything wrong and sometimes you even feel embarrassed. Western society places a great emphasis on what one does for a living- it’s like your identity. To have that taken away from you on someone else’s terms feels like you’ve lost a part of yourself. I’m glad I’ve been through that experience because hopefully that will make me a better HR professional knowing exactly what it feels like.

However, organizational change doesn’t only affect those who have lost their jobs- take a moment to consider the ‘survivors’ of the event. Change means a different way of doing things and this can cause disruption, concern and angst amongst employees who usually are also saddened by the loss of their colleagues. Its not easy sailing being left behind and many experience some form of ‘role stress’ which is when employees become stressed by ‘role overload (too many tasks given), role ambiguity (not knowing what the job expectations are), and role boundary (caught between conflicting job demands), because the company is pretty much in a state of chaos (Tiong. 2005). There is so much confusion over what is happening whilst also trying to operate ‘business as usual’.

It’s so important to be aware of this for your employees and provide support wherever possible. Remember, everyone is human and will react in different ways. The corporate/scripted speech won’t be the right response in every case so go with your instincts and think how you would like to be treated.

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Times are a changin…

Although change is a part of life and always been an inevitable occurrence in the organisational landscape, arguably over the last twenty years the pace of change has rapidly accelerated. Dealing with this accelerated change is increasing in importance to organisations as highlighted by Kotter (1996. pp. 3-4):

‘By any objective measure, the amount of significant, often traumatic change in organizations has grown tremendously over the past two decades . . . . To date, major change efforts have helped some organizations adapt significantly to shifting conditions, have improved the competitive standing of others, and have positioned a few for a far better future.’


Organisational change is defined by Nelson (2003) as moving from the status quo to a new, desired, configuration to better match the environment; and that it could be viewed as a departure from the norm, or alternatively as normal and simply a natural response to environmental and internal conditions.

It can be attributed to a huge range of factors including but not limited to:

• globalisation,
• technological advances (including the communicative technologies arena)
• deregulation, privatisation, mergers or acquisitions
• movement of labour-intensive projects to less expensive locations
• customer and market changes
• social and political pressures
• organizational crises
• major events such as the global financial crisis

Competition between organisations in a global context has become more aggressive than ever as communication and logistics become faster and simpler, ensuring more streamlined transactions for parties across the world. Additionally with economies competing and changing as they are, this can only mean one thing for organisations; they must remain dynamic, malleable and responsive to stay in the game. Hence the reasons why organisations are scrambling to become leaner organisations at the moment- they’re all just trying to stay in the game.

For Human Resources this means being able to support, guide and assist both the management team and the people of the organisation so that they are able to cope effectively and ultimately come to terms with the changes; personally and as an organisation. Despite a vast amount of literature on the subject of change management, Beer and Nohria (2000) argue that a huge 70 per cent of change programs fail due to reasons such as lack of communication and trust, lack of change management skills and resistance to change.

It is strategically essential that organisations get this right.

What sort of change are you facing in your organisation and how are you dealing with it in HR?

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