On this week’s episode of Inside Outside Innovation, Brian Ardinger, Inside Outside Innovation Founder, sits down with Pam Marmon. Pam is the CEO of Marmon Consulting and author of the new book, No One’s Listening and it’s Your Fault: Get Your Message Heard During Organizational Transformations. Pam and Brian discuss operational and organizational change, why change isn’t hard, and what people are doing to adapt in this very fast paced change that we’re experiencing now.
Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast that brings you the best and the brightest in the world of startups and innovation. I’m your host, Brian Ardinger founder of insideoutside.io, a provider of research, events, and consulting services that help innovators and entrepreneurs build better products, launch new ideas, and compete in a world of change and disruption. Each week we’ll give you a front row to the latest thinking, tools, tactics, and trends in collaborative innovation. Let’s get started.
Interview Transcript with Pam Marmon
Brian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I’m your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today with me is Pam Marmon. She is CEO of Marmon consulting, which focuses on change management and the author of the new book No One’s Listening and It’s Your Fault – Get your message heard during organizational transformations. Welcome to the show, Pam.
Pam Marmon: Thank you for having me, Brian.
Brian Ardinger: Well, let’s get into it. One of the things I read in your book is 70% of organizational change efforts fail. Can you unpack that?
Pam Marmon: Yeah. So, a lot of research has been done on the change management front and why large initiatives fail and based on the research, when organizations and when leaders don’t apply proper change management up to 70% of those efforts fail. And this is where change management as a discipline has really flourished to help leaders understand what is the role of the executive, of the leader, of the people, the managers, and then how do you weave these communication messages or the behaviors and the mindsets that have to shift within the organization so that you can have a successful outcome.
Pam Marmon: Yeah. So, I started writing the book actually last May of 2019. But prior to that, I was working with leaders and I came to realize that a lot of my leaders we’re afraid of change. There was just a sense of fear associated with change, whether it’s fear of failure or just behaviors, or resistance that they may encounter within their organizations.
Having done change management for the last decade, I felt like I was on the other side, looking in into their organizations and knowing that if they did the right things at the right time, that they wouldn’t experience this resistance or nearly to the level that 70% of organization experience.
And so, I wanted to help leaders not be afraid of change, and I wanted them to be confident when they step into the roles of leading organizations through change and the most effective way to get your message heard is through writing a book. So, I wrote the book in a way that, and easy for leaders to understand, to read. There’s a model that I share in the book LESS. I walked each leader through the process of leading transformation and having the right mindset as you listen first, so that you can engage your team later. The things
Brian Ardinger: One of the things, I liked about the book is you really do set the stage of having to have that kind of mindset shift. A lot of people, when they hear the word change, they automatically think hard and difficult. And I don’t want to go through this, but you twist it on its head and say that change isn’t hard if you approach it in the right way and have the right mindset. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Pam Marmon: Yeah. So, with the proper process, change is not hard, and it does sound radical to say it out loud. But when the process that I talk about is being able to listen first. So, within your organization, as a leader, you need to be able to align to the vision. You need to be able to understand what your peers at the executive level are doing, and you need to be able to create a story that aligns well. And part of that listening is the readiness assessment. You need to understand if your organization is ready for this change and also to stage the change. So maybe there are multiple changes happening at the same time, and you have to be mindful of the resources and the people impacted.
The second part is engage. And so, part of the process I talked about your ability as a leader to engage the right people at the executive level, the managers, the change champions that you identify in your organization, and then you can actually speak. And when you do speak, you need to understand the channels, the proper messages that have to be shared, the timing of those messages, how they’re going to be received by people. What’s that cohesive story and that experience you want to shape for the individual that’s experiencing that change.
And then the last part is measure. It’s our ability to solve and that’s through measuring and being able to create the dashboards and the metrics so that we can evaluate is this successful. And what is success for this particular change as we look at the behaviors and the mindsets of the people that we’re shifting. And how can we measure that against the project outcomes, which is really where we measure success.
Brian Ardinger: Everybody right now is experiencing massive change with the coronavirus and recession and all the other things that are hitting companies all at once. Having a more proactive approach and measured approach to change know, listening and putting all the ducks in a row would be an important process. How do you do that when the pace of change is accelerating so much, that what you thought was going to happen is not the current case. And you’ve got to execute quickly.
Pam Marmon: Yeah. So, the environment that we are certainly as different than under normal circumstances, when we plan change and we have the time and the opportunity to stage things and think them through and stretch them out long. Currently, what we’re seeing is the urgency of change to happen. And so, there’s a lot more reaction and reactive leadership that’s happening and also the need for stronger and more frequent communications that have to come out from the leaders. We’re seeing a lot more communications that are more human in the nature of how they’re delivered because we’re seeing leaders empathize with people and whether their customers.
And so, the volume of communications that we’re seeing is greater. And also the ability of leaders to kind of shift that mindset and say, I know we may have planned to do this then, you know, in three, four, five years, but here we are now and we are forced to change and we don’t have another option. We have to learn to adapt. We have to have grace for one another, as we’re learning through this journey and we have to test and shift as we move along because some of our assumptions will be broken and we may have to redo what we thought was the right way to do something and think outside the box.
Brian Ardinger: That makes perfect sense. I have some personal examples where I work at Nelnet. One of the things that we did at the early stages of the coronavirus is to open up a different type of communication channel to all our associates. The executive team created a internal Q and A podcast that allowed folks to not only hear or find out what’s going on in the traditional sense as, as webpages and emails and that, but also to actually hear the executives talking about the things that were going on in the environment. The associates told us that it was very powerful to hear the executive talking rather than just appearing on a page or an email. Can you think of other examples or ways that you’ve seen that people are adapting to this?
Pam Marmon: Yeah. So, another communication channel that I’ve seen that has been effective is Friday happy hours, where, you know, people come together, and they use their videos and they just share what’s going on in their lives and much more casual and approachable. And I think even working remotely, when people can see your environment and they get to know your family members, because your children are coming and going and your dog is barking or whatever, it just makes us more human and makes us more relatable to one another.
And it breaks that barrier that may have existed in the past and that separation that now all of a sudden, we’re all in this together. Like we all have to figure it out and it’s actually, a beautiful thing to see because the humanity aspect of communicating and engaging with people has really flourished here.
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Brian Ardinger: So, we’ve talked a lot about change from the management’s perspective. What are things that the average employee can do to be more adaptable to change?
Pam Marmon: That’s a great question. So, as a beginning, we have to examine ourselves and we need to understand why am I resistant to change? What are my thoughts about change? Do I like change? Do I not like change? On the spectrum of I like it, or I don’t like it, where do I fall? Cause that’s not always a black or white yes or no. And what’s the reason behind it. Is it a financial reason that I don’t like the change? Is it a control or power or influence in my organization that I may be giving up or shifting?
So, once we can assess our own internal state of where we are, and what matters to us, and our values, and how we run our lives and how we operate. That’s really the beginning so that we can actually adapt some other measures to change our behavior and to be more open minded about the future and what it could hold for ourselves. And for our companies
Brian Ardinger: A lot of our listeners are in the innovation space. And there’s a lot of talk about innovation and most companies talk about, a good game about innovation, but a lot of it’s innovation theater. The ability to get companies to think innovatively and try new ideas and launch new business models. And that it’s challenging. What do you think are some of the obstacles that companies are facing and why is it so hard to innovate?
Pam Marmon: I will say incentives putting on my hat as a change leader. When I think of organizations that want to be innovative, how we incentivize people to do that and how we treat failure has a lot to do with the outcomes that we get. If we punish people for failing at innovation of creativity, then that sends a very clear message that subconsciously people are going to be mindful of.
But if we look at the incentives and if we incentivize people who try to think outside the box or creatively, or come up with alternative ways of doing work, and we recognize those individuals, not just financially, but we recognize their hard work and we give them more meaningful work or ability to work wherever they want to work. Whatever’s important to them, I think we will see that ability for people to come out and really be innovative.
And also, that intellectual property that needs to be stimulated in the right environment. I’m married to an engineer, who’s an innovator. And so, I’ve had a hard time telling him, and this week you’re going to invent something. So, I had to learn in my own marriage, how do I encourage my husband, who was a very creative person to innovate at his pace, in the right space that he needs mentally to be in. And just, I think as leaders, we need to recognize that.
What will empower people to be creative and what are those barriers to creativity that we may have put in place subconsciously, or built within our organizations that are preventing people from thinking outside the box or behaving in a way that we want them to behave. And how can we kind of pull the strings and unleash people with that creativity for the benefit of everybody.
Brian Ardinger: It does seem like there’s that dichotomy of thought as far as like, Hey, we want you to execute on this business model and what you’ve been doing and optimize and build this, but also we want you to completely destroy and come up with the next thing out there as well. And it’s very hard to go back and forth between those two and explore mindset.
Pam Marmon: One thing that we do in my own family, because my husband and I are both entrepreneurs. We will buy things for the sake of breaking them, because we know that there’s a learning process that happens when you explore something and you undo it and then you, the curiosity that needs to be built in just the mindset of anybody who’s an inventor. And so that’s, we’ve personally taken upon ourselves and sometimes it’s expensive because it doesn’t always come back together.
The learning that happens, I think, is really beautiful and the mindset that we want to cultivate within innovation and creativity and out of the box thinking and removing those barriers, what society tells us, how we should behave or what our lives should be like. We want to be able to step back and say, is that the right way? Is that the only way? And the more we expose ourselves to diversity and living in different places and doing different jobs and looking at different industries, I think that’s where that creativity starts to truly bubble up because you start to connect the dots and see things that other people don’t see.
Brian Ardinger: Yeah. And I think that skill of adaptability is going to become even more and more prevalent as the pace of change accelerates. Are there particular examples or companies that you’ve worked with or you’ve seen out there that are doing this well?
Pam Marmon: I worked with a lot of Fortune 500 clients. And at that level, the innovator, there are different scale. There are certainly departments dedicated to just innovation and creativity. And I see a lot of resources and a lot of timelines that are not as nimble as the smaller companies that are creating the technology and the innovation that we’re seeing else in the marketplace. I don’t know if I can answer that question. It just depends on the size of the organization.
The biotech companies that I’m working with right now are very creative and innovative because of that, our current environment, and our need and our society for the product that they’re designing. I’m definitely seeing speed and attention, and just shifting the organizational priorities so that the creative pieces can come together faster and removing any barriers that may have held people back or any processes that would delay that innovation to take place sooner.
Brian Ardinger: It’s a fascinating topic and I’m glad you came on Inside Outside Innovation to give our audience insights into this. If people want to find out more about yourself or your book, what’s the best way to do that.
Pam Marmon: The book is available on Amazon. It’s called No One’s Listening and It’s Your Fault. People can also find me on LinkedIn. They can connect with me there and on my website, Marmonconsulting.com. We have free resources available to any leader with interest in leading transformation well. That’s Marmonconsulting.com. I welcome anybody to come and check them out.
Brian Ardinger: Pam, thanks again for being on Inside Outside Innovation. I look forward to continuing the conversation.
Pam Marmon: Thank you, Brian.
Brian Ardinger: That’s it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out InsideOutside.io or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.
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