Mister, Can You Spare Some Change?

Because change seems to be hard to come by; and it’s just plain hard to do.  Now, I appreciate that, for most of you reading this, change is actually quaint and a tad bit on the boring side.  If you’re anything like me (God help you), disruption is more your speed.  But, for the larger segment of business leadership, change is a difficult thing to envision, much less execute.

I got to thinking about this recently as I’ve been listening to several companies that are a year or so into their navigation of social CRM as a business concept/philosophy/fill in the blank (I won’t use strategy; as that is yet to come for many).  As predicted, many of these companies started off with tactical activities and tools.  And now, they are starting to think about higher level business considerations like strategy development and execution.  The one missing theme in the discussion still is that of the organizational impact of this new business model: the people dimension of our trusty “people, process, technology” mantra.

Flashing back in history a bit, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Back in the heyday of ERP, what was one of the biggest drivers of failed initiatives (besides under-scoping the complexity of the technology development)?  It was the cursory consideration given to change management.  Sure, we had change control to manage technical requirements modifications.  But, change management always seemed to be the sacrificial lamb.  The first negotiating point offered up to reduce the scope and price tag of the engagement; if it made it onto the client proposal in the first place.

History repeated itself during the height of the CRM hype cycle.  Technology led these initial projects.  Then we got smart and learned that business process and strategy were critical to success.  But, still identification and management of all the organizational and cultural upheaval of such initiatives typically took a secondary role in the project.  I remember my colleagues in the change management practice were typically paraded out prominently during the sales cycle, but then not provided their due place in the project organization or work streams.  And, the work products that were typically scoped were focused more around application UI training and tactical business process change.

Culture change is too often labeled as the ‘soft’ part of the work.  While in reality, organizational and cultural change is directly responsible for the long term, sustainable business improvement of these projects.  And, there are proven, quantifiable methods for driving sustainable change.  I explored a simple model for change a while back called the E-C-R Model: Expectations, Capabilities and Rewards in a series of posts starting with this one.  This model uses quantitative methods to align and measure these components of a business system to drive sustainable change.

Flash forward.  To the credit of many, much thought leadership has been focused over the past ten years on customer centric business models.  After the CRM technology craze leveled off, focus shifted appropriately from the company at the center of the universe to the customer as the bullseye around which each corporate function should revolve.  And, we all had great pictures of what that should look like.

Now, while most organizations haven’t even caught up to the vision of those diagrams, we’ re throwing social CRM into the equation.  Now, the customer is no longer at the center of the bullseye, with the company corralling and containing her.  The customer has escaped the pen and is charging off in whatever direction she dare, challenging the company to keep up.

If there is ever a time when organizations need to put change management a wee bit higher on the priority list, I’d argue it’s now.


  1. "Now, while most organizations haven't even caught up to the vision of those diagrams, we're throwing social CRM into the equation."

    This is what I have a hard time with. Ok, as you may know, I have a hard time with Social CRM in general, but I think a lot of people on the SCRM bandwagon (not you, just to clarify) are talking out of both sides of their mouth. As you've stated here, cultural change in an organization takes exponentially longer than technological change.

    We are all so quick to emphasize the philosophy and the strategy first, but do most organizations even have the capability or capacity to do that when technology is moving and spreading a hundred times faster amongst our customers?

    I can just see that meeting going down:

    Young energetic entry-level person: Sir, we need to start using and leveraging these new social platforms to our advantage. We need to get in the game and stay on top of the shifting landscape.

    Old nine-cups-of-coffee-per-day senior manager: Whoa there sport, we'll need to write up a business strategy document first. Then we'll need to meet and discuss the business philosophies that need to change. Then we'll need to map out a change management plan and get sign-off from all of the department heads.

    Oh boy.

    We can sit back and preach the "change first, tech second" sermon all day long, but the truth is this:

    The tech is driving the change. Period.

    I'm still young and dumb, but I say tech first, change second. It's that or be left behind, because we're sure not waiting for you.

    Thanks for your post Barry…and for letting me rant on your blog.

  2. So, now I know why your blog is way cooler than mine. I have this boring, 9 cup-a-day old codger blog and you have this flashy diddy over at deliverbliss.com

    So, to the other comments in your most excellent rant here.

    Change, in my mind, comes in many forms and flavors. And change needs two things to roll on. 1) a catalyst and 2) change agent(s)

    Ok, lets see if I can finish this comment all from one side of the keyboard. While change management to me is critical to sustainable business revolution, I hope I didn't leave the impression that I believe the process requires some long, drawn out corporate exercise of wheel spinning and no forward progress. That's kind of the antithesis of change, in my view.

    Change can and needs to happen at the speed of light (a Paul Greenberg reference for your pleasure :). Also, change, in terms of the strategy, people, process and technology components of the business system, should occur in whatever order makes sense for that business, in that market, at that point in the business cycle.

    Just like I wouldn't suggest to the hungry, upstart software entrepreneur to wait to go to market with his product that can fill an immediate market gap until his strategy, process, etc are all buttoned up. I also don't suggest that the brakes need to be put on the social CRM (or whatever) revolution in order to figure things out in the ivory tower first.

    I absolutely agree. Technology can, and especially in social media where technology is more than the enabler, its the root, drive change. As I stated above, most organizations have, continue to, start with the tools and tactics.

    There does however get to a point, where the other elements, most importantly cultural change, need to take place too. Or, companies will eventually trip over their collective…uh…shoe laces.

    Take a couple examples.

    Nestle. Had a Facebook page. Good for them. But, oops! No governance or change in corporate mindset as to how to address the angry mob.

    Another client of mine, a huge beverage brand, decided to let its brand manager loose in a community forum to dispel the perception that its drink had way too much sugar. The brand manager's reply started with "To whom it may concern"

    Again. BIG Oops! They had a governance policy (process) and technology. But, no mindset and cultural shift as to how to engage in a human voice.

    So, I'm with you (as much as this old Sr Manager could be). Lead on, Technology. If that drives change. Perfect!

    Thanks, Tim for continuing to challenge me.

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