Making Change Happen Without Force With Paula Anastasiade

When you want to make a change what do you do?

You can force people with a stick. You can entice them with a carrot. Or you can talk it through and agree how to work together.

Today Paula Anastasiade goes into organisations and works to make changes happen. Without bribery or force. But through dialogue and listening

Change happened through force and fear. Later she trained as a Social Scientist. Her Master’s degree involved Conflict Resolution and mediation processes.

She understands how people work and interact together in groups.

Today Paula goes into organisations and works to make changes happen. Without bribery or force. But through dialogue and listening.

I had a fascinating conversation about her experiences and how to make change work.



Paula: [00:00:00] You’re probably very familiar with the smart meters program. in Great Britain. 

Paula: Back in 2011, the government decided to introduce smart meters and have them installed in homes, but also make them available for small businesses, because that would have led to a number of benefits such as reduced consumption, decarbonization and a number of other benefits.

Paula: This whole initiative was supposed to complete by 2019. We are in February of 2024. And by now, according to the last report that I saw, which came out in September of 2023, only 59 percent of the target homes and small businesses had been equipped with with a smart meter. Interestingly, this initiative has already been adjusted three times, and if you look at the latest report on the UK Parliament’s website, you’ll see that their primary concern, is that the population isn’t convinced of the benefits of this initiative.

Paula: And then there are others. Some of them have to do with [00:01:00] social equity, some of them having to do with the benefits not being as extensive as was initially thought. 

Paula: The bottom line is that among the many issues that made it impossible for smart meter to be completed by 2019 is this whole set of issues that have to do with reluctance on the part of the consumers. 

Paula: My job is to help prevent or overcome these hurdles.

Rob: It’s interesting that you bring up the change of smart meters.

Rob: My concern, which I think is a lot of the barrier. Is that this was kind of done with water meters. It was supposed to be more economical, more efficient, and actually what it meant was people who, who adopted water meters, ended up getting bigger bills, and I think so they’ve lost trust. 

Rob: That mirrors probably what you see a lot of the time in organizations, that organizations have lost trust before. And so they bring in a new change. And I guess that you come along and you often have a lot of resistance because people [00:02:00] have been promised certain things, there’s relationships that have broken down, there’s that loss of trust.

Rob: And so the next thing comes in and they’re like, we do this every few months last time they promised us the earth and it never changed and nothing ever changes. 

Rob: So I’m guessing that’s the kind of resistance that you have to overcome? 

Paula: Yes and I wish more leaders were sensitive to this fact, because what happens is that Someone has a bright idea and they rush in to have it implemented without considering whether the organization is ready, including from this perspective.

Paula: When we talk about organizational readiness, we actually talk about many different things, but what you highlighted is a central aspect that needs to be considered. 

Paula: Because like you said, if Previous changes have failed. And if those changes were meant to bring about similar improvements to the ones that we are hopefully driving right now, then, of course, people will have lost some trust if something [00:03:00] went wrong in the past.

Paula: I remember that when I first started. working in in this field, which was almost eight years ago. 

Paula: In my very first project, I set out to interview some key contributors that I thought could give me input about what happened during a previous implementation.

Paula: And by interviewing them, I discovered among many other interesting things that this was not the second time this specific project was being deployed, but rather the ninth time in the entire history of the organization. And of course there was a lot to unpack in terms of what had gone wrong in the past.

Paula: There are a lot of mistakes that we keep on repeating just because we don’t look to see what happened in the past. what went wrong, what could have been done differently. 

Paula: In case the organization is not ready, then the organization is going to lose a lot of money, it’s going to be a wasted investment, and it’s going to add up to the frustration and this. content that have already been [00:04:00] adding up through people as a result of failed changes.

Paula: Unfortunately, this organizational readiness exercise, which in my opinion is a project in itself, not just a stage that organizations should engage in formally before kicking off works. It’s often overlooked. Organizational readiness, if you will, is this exercise of taking off the layers of plaster off the building, which is the organization.

Paula: And highlighting any potential cracks, visible or hidden, especially hidden. That could put the, the entire building, the organization at risk of collapsing as a result of the change that that the leaders are planning. Of course, there’s a major difference between earthquakes and, and changes in organizations because an earthquake is unpredictable.

Paula: You don’t know when it’s going to happen with an organizational change, it’s different because it’s decided by someone. It’s not an accident.

Paula: It’s not something that just happens. That is why I think it’s a pity that [00:05:00] organizations, a lot of them, not all, of course, don’t understand the value of this exercise of assessing organizational readiness and postponing certain changes if the organization is not ready, or perhaps taking other measures.

Rob: My background is relationships. And so looking at teams, I’m looking at the strength of a team is the strength of relationships.

Rob: And I think what organizations really want from a team is the speed of unified action. 

Rob: In order for, to get unified action, you have to have trust. You have to have trust, you have to have communication, you have to have commitment, and then you get unified action and then you get feedback and then it becomes a cycle.

Rob: So when you do a organizational readiness check, what do you do? 

Paula: It’s supposed to work like an x ray where you look at.

Paula: Everything that an organization is made up of it. You look at workflows, at relationships, patterns of collaboration, you look at implicit knowledge, not just explicit knowledge, formal and informal rules and norms for how people make things happen.

Paula: [00:06:00] You also look at many other things like you have to review the incentive structure, reporting lines, leader readiness, team readiness. Many different aspects. These are just a few of them, probably the main ones. When it comes to teams and team readiness, because that’s a great point that you’ve raised, you’re very right.

Paula: That is where a lot of change breaks down. By the way, change can fail for many different reasons. But one of them is precisely that. 

Paula: Middle managers have been considered traditionally by researchers as the most reluctant layer within the organization. That also happens to be my experience. And that happens for many different reasons.

Paula: One main reason being that when the top leaders decide to make some changes, they somehow assume that everybody’s on board and that just because you’re a manager, you’re supposed to do two things. 

Paula: First of all, somehow be instantly aware that something is [00:07:00] about to happen. 

Paula: And second, support it. So what seems to be forgotten in many cases is that middle managers have a dual role.

Paula: First and foremost, they are also employees. They’re not just managers. So on the one hand, they have to absorb the change themselves and adopt it, but on the other hand, they also have to lead the way for their teams. And this is exactly where a lot of issues come up for a number of reasons.

Paula: One reason which I find extremely impactful is the lack of education on change management and change leadership. Even though change management is not that new anymore, to this day, many of the world’s business schools, even the ones that are among the top 50, if they do offer change management as a course, they offer it as an elective course.

Paula: Few of them act offer it as a core subject, which sends the message that, it’s nice to have. It’s like parsley on the plate. It’s decorative. It’s nice to have, but it’s hardly [00:08:00] essential. And of course not all middle managers or executive leaders study for an MBA, but those who do may very well finish the program without having any knowledge of what it means to manage change and what it means to lead change.

Paula: So on the one hand, the lack of education and the lack of preparedness for change leadership is one issue. The other issue that experts have called out is the fact that a lot of middle managers are stuck in their operational role. They are asked to spend their time on all sorts of technical and operational issues.

Paula: It sounds very trivial and probably seems intuitive, but I’ve Met and worked with a lot of managers who did not see the need for a regular one to one meeting with each member of their team. So this is. already one of the hidden cracks that comes up in times of change. You cannot expect your team to, to [00:09:00] support a change if you don’t even have consistent communication in place.

Paula: One other thing that a manager should be doing is to act as a liaison between the project team and their team. 

Paula: So a lot of things that put a lot of weight on the shoulders of managers who are already overburdened by all their operational work. Well, there are other things that they have to worry about. So it’s it’s not easy. And I do believe that a lot of them change management effort has to be has to focus on on these layers, these middle layers, the middle managers, and of course, their teams.

Rob: I’m picking up on, then there’s the whole issue of creating the culture of psychological safety. If we don’t have regular feedback, formal and informal, we don’t know where people are. And if we don’t know where people are, it’s like the proprio ception, of, you know, when we’re walking along, we need to know where we are in relation to walls and obstacles and things like that. And organizationally, we don’t have that if we don’t have enough feedback. 

Paula: It’s true. 

Paula: And [00:10:00] when I say that I mainly think of thinking about the frequency of contact with the people on the team, you have a regular one to one perfect. But you also have to have informal contact and people have to feel like you are approachable, like They can knock on your door or on your virtual door, and that you will be there that you don’t restrict your communication to or limited to those regular formal instances.

Paula: So this is the quantity aspect of how much you’re engaging with them. But then there’s also the quality aspect. And this is where I see your your point on safety, because If you are my manager, for example, and we always have one to once, maybe once a week, once a, you know, every two weeks or whatever we decide works best for both of us.

Paula: But you come into these meetings and you only ask me about how are we on that project or have you, I don’t know, finished working on that document or, or whatever it is. In other words, if it’s just very [00:11:00] matter of fact, very project related, very milestone related, then. There’s no opportunity for us to build a connection and one piece of feedback that consistently comes up whenever I interview individual contributors, but not just individual contributors, even managers.

Paula: One thing that consistently comes up is that there’s no conversation about who you are as a person, who I am as a person. There’s no conversation about development, career development, personal development. And of course you cannot blame a manager for not having this in mind when they have so many other things to do.

Paula: And okay, maybe you won’t want to discuss these things every single time you meet up with a team member, but make it a point to at least bring this up at least once a month, assuming that you have more than just one one to one per month, which, by the way, I would not recommend.

Paula: I wouldn’t recommend only touching base with people regularly once a month. 

Rob: There’s something that you mentioned, which is something I have in the back of my mind is [00:12:00] that you have to get to know the person because their experiences shape why and how they act and think as they do.

Rob: So I’m really interested in where has all this come from? 

Rob: What’s been your journey to lead you to understand this and to see this and to care so much about it? 

Paula: Eight years ago, when I started out, I was fortunate beneficiary of one of the most toxic myths that are out there about change management, which is that change management means communication and training.

Paula: And where communication is understood as, you know, one way transfer of information. You send some slides, you send whatever documents and training is just training. You have people attend the training session and then they already know after the session, they know what you want them to know.

Paula: It doesn’t work like that. But I’m saying that I was a lucky beneficiary of this toxic myth about change management because otherwise I would not have been hired for that role. 

Paula: It was believed that communication was the backbone of change management or rather the essence of change management.

Paula: I got [00:13:00] hired because I had the experience with communication. I was asked to co lead this complex project for the entire EMEA region. And I felt like I wasn’t prepared.

Paula: So I started asking around, what is change management? And people were shrugging and saying, well, you know, it’s just that umbrella term for comms and training. That’s what it is. 

Paula: If change management means nothing more than comms and training, then it doesn’t make sense.

Paula: Why do we need to invent a fancier term to designate something that already has an established name? To me, it just didn’t make sense. The good that came out of that was that I started studying on my own.

Paula: And the more I studied. The more I discovered that initial intuition, which was that change management was about much more than just communication and training, was right. 

Paula: One thing that is really important to keep in mind, whether you are a change manager, whether you are a people manager, whether you are a senior leader, is that you’re dealing with a human.

Paula: You’re not dealing with a, with a machine that works based on a [00:14:00] fixed recipe. You’re not dealing with a mechanism. You’re dealing with heart and mind and behaviors. And that’s where your focus should be. 

Rob: So true. I think that’s the thing that organizations have, it’s like, be prepared, be professional, leave your emotions at the door.

Rob: You know, this is work and as if people can separate themselves from how they feel. 

Paula: And that comes a lot. That comes up a lot when we talk about resistance. For example, one of the key topics that I focus a lot on during my training sessions with people managers has to do with resistance. What kinds of resistance are there?

Paula: How do I, how do we identify them? 

Paula: How do we respond appropriately to each of them? 

Paula: One thing I’ve, I’ve often noticed when working with, with such leaders from all over the world is that there’s a lot of surprise on their face, often, not all the time.

Paula: When I talk about the fact that resistance is to be expected. You shouldn’t be surprised by it. There’s always going to be someone, at least one person, who will feel reluctant about, [00:15:00] you know, an organizational change or whatever they are being asked to do, and that they should rather should be prepared to tackle it. sensibly and reasonably rather than try to shut it down. 

Paula: There’s always going to be some resistance. I know that some experts in the change management field seem to believe that when organizations become more change agile, resistance will go away. My opinion is that it will never go away for the following basic reason.

Paula: In real life, we don’t have a lot of issues understanding that maybe you like ice cream and I think that it’s horrible. 

Paula: Or maybe your idea of having fun is, I don’t know, to go clubbing and my idea is to, of having fun is being tucked up in bed with a good book.

Paula: We don’t have that much of a problem when it comes to differences in real life. The problem is that as soon as we step foot in our offices, all that common sense seems to go out the window, and all of a sudden we become very intolerant. 

Paula: All of a sudden, in the name of professionalism, we believe that everybody should be on board with whatever the organization is [00:16:00] doing, and those who are not.

Paula: And worse, those who maybe are not opposed to it, but just have some questions are naysayers, and we have to act in a forceful way to shut that down. 

Paula: Of course, there’s a cultural component to that. If I reflect on the history of my own country, where we were forced to live under communism for almost half a century. Repression was such that you were afraid to even ask a question.

Paula: This is something that I feel a lot of leaders from the Western world don’t always understand when dealing with people from ex communist countries or other cultures around the globe where saying no is considered extremely rude.

Rob: As we’re becoming increasingly global, there’s like this whole clashing of different cultures. And often I think that also happens in generationally in that certain generations have been through certain experiences, which is going to change their attitude, to change.

Rob: My degree was mostly psychology, but it also had a little bit of sociology. 

Rob: What made [00:17:00] you choose sociology? 

Paula: I have a really stupid answer that will probably disappoint you.

Paula: It had to do with my aversion to mathematics. And it also had to do with my lack of attention. 

Paula: What do I mean by that? 

Paula: I was about to finish high school. I was looking into university options and I came across this amazing university in Canada that I ended up attending and this university offered two very interesting programs for me, psychology and sociology.

Paula: My interest in psychology had been there for a very long time. This was actually what I was really interested in and, and passionate about. But when I saw that the curriculum included some stats courses. I got scared and I wasn’t sure that I could handle that.

Paula: Funny enough the sociology program also had that, but I don’t know what was on in my mind because I was pretty thorough in in making all these, comparisons and choices, but somehow. I just didn’t notice that qualitative and quantitative [00:18:00] research methods were also part of the curriculum for the sociology program.

Paula: So I thought, okay, that is also interesting. I had also been reading some sociology books. But what really tipped the scales was this fear that I would not handle all those quantitative courses, quantitative research methods appropriately.

Paula: And it turns out that I did. That was also a lesson because if you don’t put yourself through experiences that are going to make you uncomfortable it’s hardly likely that you’ll make any progress.

Paula: So that was a very useful lesson early on, which I kept in mind later on for when I started working in change management. This is one of the reasons, why I understand why people are afraid, often afraid to make a change at work or outside. 

 I wouldn’t choose the same degree now.

Rob: If you were going to go back to university and you were able to make that choice again, what subject would you choose? 

Paula: I did a double major in sociology and international studies. If I were to go back, I would probably do psychology and sociology.

Paula: But I’m curious, why would you not do the same thing if [00:19:00] you could go back? 

Rob: I loved psychology, and then through my degree, I realized I would have done social psychology.

Rob: Now I would probably look at behavioral economics. 

Rob: I’m also in awe of anthropologists. I love reading how they understand a culture and how they go in and they, they, look at like the dynamics and the foundations of what makes a culture.

Rob: Behavioral economics is also something that I find really fascinating, but also very useful. It’s not just fascinating, you know, as an intellectual hobby if I can call it that it’s actually very relevant for for change management work.

Paula: There are a lot of experts who have spoken about this, but I feel like it’s not it doesn’t have the place it deserves in in change management, and I don’t think it can as long as people cling on to the belief that, oh, I did this change management training, and I know how to apply this methodology, 

Paula: I think that for the first year after I got my change management certification, I was so excited and I thought that it held the answers to everything. But no [00:20:00] program and no methodology and no model is going to tell you everything you need to know.

Paula: In part, that’s the beauty of being in the change management profession, but it’s also a challenge because you have to look at other connected areas and other connected disciplines like organizational development, behavioral economics, organizational design, neuroscience and others, and see what you can extract from there, because I don’t believe. That there’s any change management training right now that gives you a comprehensive understanding of how people work, how organizations work.

Rob: As someone who I spend a lot of time trying to build models and, you know, frameworks and processes, and often people misunderstand that and it’s like you’re trying to prescribe and you’re trying to fit everyone in.

Rob: I’ve learned all these things from all these different contexts and make it a concept or a principle from that’s abstract. The model is idealized and we have to know that when to use a model and when to go beyond.

Rob: My big problem with [00:21:00] therapy is, someone comes up with a model. Or a framework, and they fit everything into their framework. 

Rob: They all talk about it from within their model. 

Paula: I think so, too. And I can completely relate to what you said, because I also see this in change management. 

Paula: Like you said to just see these models and methodologies as lenses. that you can, a box of lenses, right? 

Paula: You are probably going to be starting out from, from your baseline, from the methodology that you’ve been trained in, or that you’re familiar with.

Rob: Like life is full of uncertainty, life is probability, it’s a series of probability and I can see where people don’t want to accept it, but the reality is it’s still uncertainty no matter whether someone tells you it’s a certain thing or not. Life changes from context to context.

Paula: Yeah, exactly. 

Paula: And you have to understand as a leader, and you have to expect that it’s not like taking your car to the repair shop. Where you can establish causality with no uncertainty, 

Paula: I remember that one of the very first things we learned back in my university days in [00:22:00] sociology was that with complex systems it’s very hard to pinpoint causality and to tie it to just one cause. I see this oversimplification a lot even from within the change management ranks where people rush and say this happened because of this.

Paula: A prime example, I think, is the topic of how much transformation fails. And you see all these inaccurate estimates that are meant, I think to scare potential clients and potential beneficiaries more than anything else. There’s little scientific substance to that, if only because they fail to define failure.

Paula: There’s this simplistic thinking and maybe insufficient exposure to the kind of thinking that a researcher would would adopt. There’s this rush to pinpoint one cause there are certain people, even within the profession who like to engage in challenging conversations about Oh, What is the state of change management, and why is change management done so poorly if, look, this much of [00:23:00] transformation fails?

Paula: First of all, transformation is a very complex topic. You don’t just have change management in there.

Paula: If I go back to the smart meter project for Great Britain, one of the reasons why the project got delayed So much is there were technical issues.

Paula: The meters themselves were not developed quickly enough. Then there were installation issues. Then people had issues when switching from one energy supplier to another and so on and so forth. So it wasn’t just the people issues. But you have those as well. And I feel like that’s often forgotten.

Paula: Whenever we see all these statistics about transformation failing, even some people who call themselves change management practitioners and who ought to know better rush to point fingers at the change management team. 

Paula: First of all, you’d have to prove that everything else went well and that it was only the change management piece that failed to deliver.

Paula: Second of all, you have to start from a definition of what success is and by extension, what failure is. 

Paula: I see this tendency quite [00:24:00] often with a lot of studies that fail to give a definition.

Paula: You have to define what you consider to be a failure. 

Paula: Is it not delivering on time? 

Paula: Is it not delivering on budget? 

Paula: Is it overrunning costs? 

Rob: In my degree I did a couple of modules that were business management. And I was used to psychology and sociology, I knew when I went into an exam, I had to have about 30, 35 research studies, the names, the authors, the point. So when I was going to write an essay, I would go and I would just use, it would all be evidence backed. 

Rob: And I went into a business management one, and it was just opinions. 

Rob: And I didn’t have a lot of respect for it. There’s no like academic rigor. There’s no proof. There’s no evidence. It’s just, this person said this.

Rob: I’ve always felt that that business is something that you do, I don’t think it’s an academic subject. You can all have opinions on, but it’s, it’s something that actually, it’s about action. 

Paula: Exactly. You’re right. Academic rigor is something that is missing quite a lot from, from business in general. 

Paula: Back in university I really could not understand why in the beginning of [00:25:00] each academic year they insisted on bringing us together and putting us through lectures on what academic integrity is and what the standards of acceptability were and so on and so forth.

Paula: Now, I understand why, I understand why like you said, you don’t just come in with an opinion, have some arguments, and, It’s true that some of the myths, for example, the failure rate for transformation, that has also been proposed by reputable names, by academics even.

Paula: So then, of course, you are a bit confused when it comes to choosing your sources. Who do you trust? 

Paula: I guess the, the onus is on each person to develop their critical thinking, to try to think more like a researcher, but that takes time.

Paula: And of course that takes effort that some people may or may not be prepared to invest. 

Rob: So yeah, there’s this 70 percent failure rate, which I wish was true. 

Rob: For me, my thesis is that our relationship model was broken and because of that, projects and things break because of the lack of relationship and trust. But it’s [00:26:00] convenient. It’s a convenient figure. And it’s easy to and I think also because people are busy. It’s easy to, to jump at facts rather than put them through the rigour.

Paula: Actually the myth that’s, that is still in circulation out there is that 70 percent of transformation fails.

Paula: And it started from a self admitted unscientific estimate by two authors in the mid 90s, and then for some reason, and I don’t understand how that made its way into Harvard and other prestigious institutions, and then various academics concluded that it’s true, and so on and so forth. What I can say to that is one flower doesn’t make a spring. 

Paula: A study needs to be replicated for people to be able to take the conclusions and and consider them to be true.

Paula: I saw some LinkedIn posts, I think, or an article, I can’t recall that said, it’s important for leaders to get trained in change management because there’s a study that proved [00:27:00] that 31 percent of CEOs get fired for poor change management. This Intrigued me. I immediately went online to do some basic research. It turns out that this study was completed in 2015. It’s 2024. Is it still reliable?

Paula: The sample was limited. We don’t know too much about the institution that ran that study. And even assuming that the methodology was right, it’s still just one study. 

Paula: That said, I still believe, like I said in the beginning, that leaders, most of them are ill prepared for their role in change leadership, the business education system doesn’t talk about that because learning and development programs hardly incorporate change management in their curriculum. 

Rob: One of the big challenges that we have is that, the more information, It’s easy to jump to conclusions from one study, even psychology is notoriously slanted in almost all studies are done on university students because you can only study the people you can get [00:28:00] around.

Rob: So there are very few studies. That are definitively valid, reliable and replicable because it takes so long. 

Paula: It’s true. Even in change management, you can see that a lot of books written by experts who tell their stories.

Paula: And of course, that’s valuable if you want to understand what a certain type of project looked like for them and that’s all fine until they generalize based on their own experience. 

Paula: You might tend to take that for for the truth, when in fact it’s nothing more than that person’s experience, or that person’s opinion, or that person’s interpretation of certain facts that would not necessarily coincide with your own interpretation. That’s why epistemology has a lot of work to do, even in these days, and it probably will have even more work to do, because now with AI and with the possibility for almost anyone out there to become a book author,.

Rob: So the field I come in relationships if you look at the most [00:29:00] popular sources of advice, is like people with 2 million, 5 million followers on YouTube or Facebook or whatever, there’s no basis to what they say.

Rob: It’s opinion, it’s their personal experiences. If you look at the Gottman’s I think they have the last time I looked at 25, 30, 000 followers, Dan Wile, you know, spent a lifetime understanding conflict in couples, like very few followers maybe not even a thousand.

Rob: The most researched are the least followed and yet you get someone who has no knowledge, no experience, but a strong opinion and they’re able to express in a clear way. 

Paula: But it also goes to show on top of that it’s important not only to do solid research, but to also be able to communicate it to people in layman’s terms. The problem is, I think, with many researchers, they are used to communicating in their own language, which is not accessible to the world out there.

Rob: In a world of increasingly short [00:30:00] attention spans, it’s more and more important to be able to wrap up an idea in a short phrase. There is something else just to talk to your point earlier about change is what comes to mind.

Rob: This is a story. I came across years ago. And it’s a story about someone comes across a, you know, like when a before a butterfly is born, it goes into like a chrysalis. And someone’s watching this chrysalis and it’s struggling. It’s like really struggling. And you know, they feel empathy and they feel and they want to cut out, you know, they try and cut it out.

Rob: So it’s free. And what comes out is it not fully developed. It hasn’t got the wings. It hasn’t got the strength to fly. It. doesn’t become the full butterfly. And I think that when we go through change, what we’re doing is the struggle and the difficulty of change is part of it is that in going through that, we build the muscles so that we’re ready for a change because the change is a bridge of something that we don’t have to something that we do [00:31:00] have.

Rob: In that struggle, we become transformed. And so I think when you, when you look at go back to like the 70 percent figure, in the beginning, we’ve got an idea, we haven’t got the understanding, to really picture that vision because by the time we get to the vision, the vision’s changed because we’ve become transformed.

Rob: And so our understanding is so much more nuanced that we change what the goal is. So. We do change and change changes, that process changes us. 

Paula: Exactly. That’s exactly what happens. And you often see situations where an organization starts out from a certain goal with a certain strategy and a certain objective in mind.

Paula: And by the time it manages to make all of that happen, things have changed outside in the business world. And they’re not able to keep up. So, of course, that’s a waste of time. That’s a waste of energy. That’s a waste of money and a lot of frustration for everybody involved. But you cannot have a more agile organization if you insist on doing things [00:32:00] the wrong way.

Paula: And by doing things the wrong way, of course, that can mean many different things. But what I specifically have in mind is this failure to recognize several things. Failure to recognize the place that change management should have, in your approach. It’s a strategic advantage to have change, to have change management capability that is fit for purpose.

Paula: For example, a lot of re-orgs fail, in my opinion, because they are based on the understanding that changing the org chart is enough, but an org chart just tells you, you know, things like who the roles, what the roles are, who the people are, what their reporting lines are, what the hierarchy is, but it tells things of that sort.

Paula: But it doesn’t tell you what the relationships are, what the dysfunctionalities are in that system what has been going wrong in terms of processes, but also how people relate to each other. What’s wrong in terms of the process itself, the workflow, does it make sense? 

Rob: This is what I see in conflict. And there was a point you made earlier [00:33:00] about relationships change, like we can get along, but it’s when relationships are challenged.

Rob: You didn’t say the exact word, but you said like we can get along and it doesn’t really matter our opinions. And this is what I learned in, with couples, is that the strength of the relationship needs to be equal or greater than the challenge that they face. So if you and I are we’re colleagues and we get along, we, we chat, you know, we have coffee and we talk about things.

Rob: That’s fine. That’s a friendship. If you become my boss, 

Paula: it changes suddenly 

Rob: your decisions affect my future. And this is where couples have the same problem because every decision a husband makes affects the wife and vice versa. And when they spend money, it’s, our money. When you make a decision about the kids, it’s my kids.

Rob: And suddenly, so everything becomes so much more challenged. And so when you’re my boss, you have control over my future. And that is when the relationships are really challenged. 

Rob: The problem in relationships and I think in [00:34:00] organizations is that we’re constrained by the perspective. 

Rob: The opportunity that change, conflict and all of this brings, and communication and feedback is that the more of that we have, the more we expand our perspective and success is when, if we want to talk in terms of probability. 

Rob: The greater our perspective, the more probability we have, because the more things we have covered, and this is why diversity is so important that we bring it in that every different culture, different perspective broadens the overall whole perspective so that we are stronger, more resilient, and that’s really where you can have an anti fragile organization because it becomes strengthened by the conflicts and the challenges they faces. 

Paula: Exactly. And this is exactly the reason why I do something that seems to surprise a lot of the people leaders that I work with on specific projects or the sense that they attend my my change management train. 

Paula: I’m supposed to help them come out of the training, for example, with a [00:35:00] concrete plan for how they are going to manage that change with the teams.

Paula: And many of them are surprised to see that I actually go beyond this and I do a review with them of the patterns, the relationships. With each of the members and in the group dynamics, and some of them don’t understand this and the way I explained it is similar to what you have said. 

Paula: Sure you got me here because you need some help and you want to come out of this with a concrete plan for how you’re going to manage the change with your team. And that’s what you’ll get. But this plan will not work if we don’t look behind. If we don’t look at what came before this specific change.

Paula: At the same time, I also try to make them aware that the way they are about to manage a specific change will also influence, relationships long after the change has completed. We always have to look at the big picture, not just, Oh, I have to manage this specific project.

Paula: No, you have to look at the foundation you built up to the time that the change was initiated and you also have to look at okay. How do I want to [00:36:00] do things after this change? 

Paula: What do I want the relationships to be like? 

Paula: Do I even want to have a relationship with these people? 

Paula: If so, what’s it going to take?

Paula: And what are they about to, what are they supposed to contribute to this? 

Rob: That’s fascinating. I can see where the sociology comes in, because what sociology has taught you, I think, is to look, at so much deeper the strands of what interaction creates, what is, is like a chain of reactions, and, having that background has then helped you then be in an environment where all of this is going on so rapidly, and be able to see that where someone with maybe a business background might not see the same, depth and richness of the changes that have gone on, that are going on.

Paula: I think education is really important. I don’t mean to say that everybody’s got to become a sociologist or a social scientist, but there are certain things that I think any business leader should know, should learn and these have to do with, of course, [00:37:00] change management.

Paula: Like I said, what it means to lead change as opposed to what it means to manage change. All these essential aspects that the leader should be aware of aspects that have to do with emotional intelligence. 

Paula: There’s this failure to recognize and which is paradoxical, because if you look at the value statement of Pretty much out any organization out there that you’ll always see the message of people are the core of what we do. They are at the core of, you know, of our focus. They are the most important.

Paula: But when you look at the embodied values, so to speak, and compare them to the proclaimed or espoused values, there’s often a gap. 

Rob: When we look at relationships, the issue of a relationship is it’s a change of identity.

Rob: It’s not about the relationship. It’s about going from me. This is what I want. This is what I care about. And this is what I’m worried about. And a successful relationship changes from me to we. And this is what we become. And it’s the ability to shift from [00:38:00] me. To a couple, to a family and to a work team.

Rob: And we have to do on the onboarding is people have to change their identity so that they’re still an individual. But when we come to together in the collective, we have a collective identity and we have a collective goal. And that’s how you get unified action. 

Paula: Exactly. And, and that’s exactly what happens and what’s at stake with reorgs often.

Paula: And this is another aspect that. Goes unnoticed much too often. It’s not just about your role changing or your reporting line changing or the structure or the mission of the team changing. It’s also about the identity. Like you said, the identity of each team member, but also the collective identity.

Paula: And for example, in organizations where you have one rework per year, per fiscal year, Thank you. I’ve had that experience. That makes things very confusing for people. They expect that, you know, by default next year, there will be a new leader with a new leader comes, usually comes a reorg [00:39:00] because that’s a very visible way for a leader to show that they are coming in with a new vision, with a new perspective, and, and they start their implementing their vision by changing the boxes, you know, in the org chart or the people in, in various roles and, and or switching them around. And it, it’s very confusing for people.

Paula: It doesn’t work like that. So of course, people are going to have this doubt about who they are as part of that team. what their work is about. I wish more people understood that. So this is why I think at least a basis or at least the basics of how these things work should be included in, in our business leaders education.

Rob: Long before you chose to do sociology, what did you want to be when you grew up, when you were a little girl and you what did you want to be and how has that changed as you to where you are now?

Paula: I wanted to be a doctor because my grandma was a doctor. But I cannotstand to see blood. Later on, I wanted to work in intercultural dialogue just because when I was living in Canada, [00:40:00] I was able to understand how important it is.

Paula: Canada is very multicultural. If you don’t have that kind of dialogue between various cultures you cannot end up with a functional society. And I thought at the time that things would progress in that same direction in the European Union. 

Paula: I went into my master’s program thinking that I could do this, but I realized that unlike my colleagues, I was not dreaming of going into a conflict area. 

Paula: So I thought, okay, let me see how I can put this into practice here in, in Europe. 

Paula: I then worked for a couple of US NGOs. Which were devoted to to advancing association management as a discipline and that what that means in very short terms is how can we help chambers of commerce and membership based associations become lucrative and get them to not be dependent on their member dues.

Rob: That’s fascinating. That’s you’ve had a whole depth of experience [00:41:00] and exploration, which you can see is wrapped up in how do we make change go as smoothly as we can.

Rob: If you could just tell people who you most work with, when might someone want to engage with you and how might they find out more? 

Paula: Well, I’m an independent consultant. So that means organizations going through change can work directly with me or through an intermediary. Sometimes the organizations decide to work with a big consulting firm, but that big consulting firm may or may not have the necessary or all the qualified people that it needs. So then they would decide to reach out to people like me and other independent consultants out there. So that’s one possibility. And that’s generally in connection to a specific project. 

Paula: Another category in my focus is training. I work with people leaders who want to be better prepared to manage the change. People leaders go through this training to understand the basics of change management that they should be aware of.

Paula: Which they probably [00:42:00] didn’t get from their MBA or from a business school or a different executive education program. 

Rob: Because we’ve covered so much if you could wrap up one thing that you’d like people to take from this.

Paula: I would say if you are a business leader and your organization is about to go through some important changes please consider educating yourself on change management, before you set the wheels in motion.

Paula: You will thank yourself for having someone who’s qualified run a solid organizational readiness assessment for you that will tell you whether or not your change or planned change is likely to succeed or not. And if you are a change manager tells you that it’s likely it won’t succeed, please heed their advice. 

Rob: Thank you for your time. Thank you very much. 

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