Understanding Personality Types During Times of Change

Have you ever noticed how some early adopters of change turnout to resist change during the reinforcement and stabilization periods? Similarly, it often seems that some people who initially oppose a change later become its greatest supporters. Understanding personality types during times of change can help explain these behaviours. It will also provide you with the knowledge to make people work with the change, not against it.

For the sake of this example, I’ll be reducing the plethora of personality types at work into two types placed on a continuum. On one end of the continuum lies the type that jumps at the first opportunity to try something new. On the other end of the continuum lies the person that prefers to stick to a daily routine.

I just want to mention here that there are many other factors that lead to resistance to change that are not mentioned in this post (such as the age of an employee). This will be discussed in future posts (hopefully).

There is probably no better example of a person that is of the ‘change’ type than myself. I always prefer project work over routine work. I’m always the person wanting to try new stuff out. And when it comes time to anchor and stabilize the new into a daily routine, I find myself having to focus a little more time than others. From personal experience, it is helpful for me to be surrounded by employees who prefer the more routine-side of the business to keep me from jumping to the next big thing before it is time.

So who are these ‘routine’ types anyway? I think almost everyone has met or worked with an employee that prefers a daily routine over a change (or you may be one of them). For the sake of anonymity, I will call a previous colleague of mine ‘Dave’. I met Dave on a large ERP-replacement project. Because of Dave’s passion for flawless execution and efficiency with the existing way of doing business, Dave would always be one of the first people to really scrutinize the upcoming changes and assess its validity. He would usually get a head start on examining every little piece of work the change might impact. Dave loves being efficient at what he does – it’s part of his DNA. So to introduce a change that will disrupt his efficiency goes against his work philosophy.

Here’s the catch though. Once Dave got used to the new application and was able to regain efficiency at his job, Dave could not stop talking positively about the changes and encouraged everyone to jump on the change bandwagon.

Both personality types, the ‘change’ type and the ‘routine’ type, pose opportunities and challenges during the change cycle. On one hand, the ‘movers and shakers’ can be targeted to help propagate change in an organization in the beginning stages of the project. Similarly, the employees that prefer routine work can be used to help anchor and stabilize the new behaviours once the new processes and measurements are in place. Utilizing the right people (personality types) at the right time helps smooth out the bumps along the change journey.

In terms of identifying and categorizing these individuals between the ‘change’ type and the ‘routine’ type, this can be done organically. If you have been working for the same company for many years, you will have a good understanding of who fits into these categories. If you are new to an organization, no sweat. As the change initiative gains momentum, the employees involved in the change initiative will start showing their true colors and, at this point, you will have a better sense of which category each person belongs to. Once you have the employees pegged, you will be able to assign leading activities to the right individuals at the right stage of the initiative.

For example, the ‘change’ types can play a more active role at the beginning of the change initiative. Similarly, the ‘routine’ types can play a more active role closer to the end of the change initiative when the ironed-out processes and expected behaviours need to be locked-down.

In a sense, people who prefer change and the people who prefer routine are each others ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ during times of transition. They need each other to help make the change successful. Understanding and embracing both types will help reduce or eliminate the challenges along the change journey.

SherpaTO – an interactive change management expert system (coach) in the cloud


I had the opportunity to get a tour of the SherpaTO application offered by Brio Change. SherpaTO is an application that coaches managers and team members through their change initiatives. This application was built in collaboration with HEC Montréal, an internationally recognized business school.

So what is SherpaTO exactly?
SherpaTO, as described by Brio Change, is “the first virtual coach for your organizational transformations”. It’s an interactive tool that is accessible 24/7 in the cloud. Based on the context and traction of your project/ initiative, SherpaTO will provide you with recommendations for next steps. The automated recommendations can be selected and added to a custom (and personalized) action item report for ease-of-use.

At a high level, the tool presents a 5-step approach to managing change called C.A.P.T.E. To date, SherpaTO encompasses 14 tools, 3 action plans, 5 progress indicators, 1 executive dashboard and 1 post-mortem. Did I mention that there is no need to involve your internal IT department because the application is in the cloud? (I can hear people flocking to this application already).

What value will SherpaTO bring to your organization, you ask?
Here is a short list of how SherpaTO may bring value to your organization during times of change:

1) An expert system that can be utilized by novices or experts (It doesn’t discriminate)
SherpaTO lessens the blow of having more novices than experts on your change management team by providing real-time feedback and recommendations for the next steps of your project. SherpaTO provides real-time recommendations based on the context and momentum of your change initiative (over 300 tried and true recommendations in their databank).

SherpaTO is one of those rare applications that actually helps managers and employees improve their skills on the job. This reduces (and possibly eliminates) the high cost associated with skilled resources and consultants in change management.

2) 24/7 accessibility to change management expertise
SherpaTO is a browser-based application/ service that is accessible from the internet 24/7. You can access and work on the change initiative anytime and anyplace. It’s ready when you are.

3) Standardized practice of change management for greater simplicity and clarity
SherpaTO helps to standardize the entire change management process by providing a common language, a common approach and a set of common tools/ deliverables to propagate change in a familiar way for all of your change initiatives. The greater the number of projects utilizing this software, the greater the number of synergies that will be generated as a result. SherpaTO reduces the plethora of excel spreadsheets used to manage change in your organization.

4) One-click for an executive overview of your change initiatives
Selected executives will be able to get an overview of project statuses with the click of a button.

SherpaTO has been able to do what I think many companies will be attempting in the near future – creating an application that can really coach individuals to be better at their jobs. I tip my hat to Brio Change and their partners for leading the pack in creating the first generation of artificial intelligence tools in the change management space. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

If you’d like to know more, please navigate to their website: Brio Change

A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan (Part 6 – Building the Transition Strategy)

A typical change management strategy consists of 5 tracks: (1) Engagement, (2) Communication, (3) Training, (4) Coaching and (5) Transition Management (including resistance management). This post focuses on the fifth and last track: Transition Management.



This is the sixth post in my series about managing change in large organizations. You can read my first 5 posts here:
1. A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan
2. Part 2 – Building the Engagement Strategy
3. Part 3 – Building the Communication Strategy
4. Part 4 – Building the Training Strategy
5. Part 5 – Building the Coaching Strategy

Pre-requisites to transition management
There are a few key activities I perform prior to diving into the transition management strategy. One of these activities is performing a preliminary target audience analysis to identify the individuals that will be transitioning from old ways to new ways. I also conduct a preliminary impact assessment to gauge the level of change that will be experienced for each group and individual within each group (This is discussed in this post – A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan.) My transition management strategy is also reinforced by the training and coaching strategies. These are needed to coach managers that will be leading their employees through a transition phase.

William Bridges – a transition management guru who deserves to be mentioned
I must admit, I have a bias towards William Bridges’ model for transition management. It’s a straightforward model that depicts individuals moving between three phases of transition; letting go, the neutral zone and the new beginning. In his model, he makes a subtle, yet important difference between change and transition. In his view, change is described as having predictable hard dates, such as the go live date to a new technology or the start date of a new CEO. Transition, on the other hand, is the more psychological part of change that happens within each of us. It’s when we begin to internalize the changes happening around us. A transition cannot be assigned a hard date, cannot be fully predicted and is more time consuming than the actual implementation.

The model also provides a checklist to guide employees through these 3 phases: checklist. You can navigate to my previous post for more information: My Favorite Change Models: Part 3 – William Bridges’s Managing Transitions.

Because a transition from old to new ways can be perceived differently by each employee, I always incorporate an “individualistic” feel during change initiatives. In other words, I place myself in other people’s shoes to experience the change. I know this is a tedious exercise, but who said managing change was easy? Here is a good video on this topic: Overcoming Resistance to Change – Isn’t It Obvious?

My strategy for managing transitions
In addition to using William Bridges’ model for transition management. I apply the following strategic approaches where applicable.

A) Identify and engage ‘unofficial leaders’ early for bottom-up engagement and propagation of the change
I call those employees that do not have a high-ranking title but carry tremendous influence to other employees within the company ‘unofficial leaders’. These are the employees that have the ability to act as a communication hub between people and groups of people and have the predisposition of voicing their opinions freely to others. Getting these unofficial leaders on your side will help promote the change from the ground-up. When selecting the first wave of employees to move through a transition period, I make an effort to include these unofficial leaders early in the change process so that the communication of the change is propagated favourably throughout the organization. In addition to executive leaders, the unofficial leaders can be one of your greatest advocates for change.

B) Create Transition Monitoring Teams
Another tactic that I like to apply in large change initiatives is forming Transition Monitoring Teams (TMTs). TMTs are small groups of employees (7 to 12 employees) created for the purpose of providing real-time feedback on the change initiative. TMTs are a good way for the project team to hear back from employees that are not part of the project regarding the perception of the change initiative in real-time fashion.

A word of caution when creating TMTs: make it clear from the beginning that TMT members do not hold any decision power on the change initiative. Their purpose is to report on the feelings and perceptions of the change project. With frequent feedback from the TMTs, the project team can re-calibrate the change plan as necessary. Create as many TMTs as you see fit for your change initiative. This will show the employees that the organization is listening.

C) Make a list of people that will be going through a transition.
Once I start getting a good grip on the type of employees being impacted by change, I like to create a list of people with the following five sequential factors as columns to capture the progress towards change. I find that moving employees through the following factors gives me more favourable odds at implementing change:
1 – Aware of change?
2 – Ready and willing to change?
3 – Understands how to change?
4 – Demonstrates ability to change?
5 – Sustains the change?
Here is a link to my template

With this template, I am able to take a snapshot of the organization at any point in time during the change/ transition effort. This data will let me know if the organization is adopting the changes in a timely manner or if some re-calibration is required to get targeted employees back on track. For example, if a specific group was slated to demonstrate new abilities by a certain date and failed, the training components in the plan may need to be re-visited to get people back on track with the planned timeline.

D) A few words on building a strategy for resistance management
Resistance to change is normal. It’s the prolonged resistance to change that becomes a problem. From my experience, there is no secret sauce to managing resistance.

Resistance to change will likely be present in most change initiatives. I do my best to work with the organization to iron out the pockets of resistance that appear along the journey. With many conversations and interviews, I try to predict the pockets of resistance early in the project and identify the possible tactics to mitigate resistance. In the end, I believe that the best remedy for resistance to change is sitting down with the resistors and having an honest conversation.

Similar to section C, I run through a list of 5 sequential questions that may unravel an individual’s need to resist change. Here are the five questions:

1- If resistant (or underperforming), is it because they don’t understand why the organization is changing?
If so, the “why” and purpose of the change initiative needs to be revisited.

2 – If resistant (or underperforming), is it because they are not ready and willing to change?
If so, their immediate supervisor needs to convince them otherwise. Unless the user has a valid point and the proposed change needs to be revisited. Either option is good.

3 – If resistant (or underperforming), is it because they don’t know how the change will work?
If so, their immediate supervisor needs to revisit how the change will be implemented.

4 – If resistant (or underperforming), is it because they haven’t had enough hands-on training and need to be trained or guided a little more?
If so, a little more hands-on training needs to be provided to the user

5 – If resistant (or underperforming), is it because it is too easy to regress back to old habits?
If so, find ways to reinforce the change. The options are endless here:
– Reinforce by surrounding the individual with people who are already using the new process/ systems.
– Retire old systems.
– Remove access privileges to old systems. Etc…
* Perform action-research: plan, action, analyze result of action (and repeat)

This tool can be given to managers and team leads for capturing and mitigating resistance to change.

This was the last post on strategy. My next articles will focus on the planning and execution phases. See you next time.

Posts related to this series – Change Strategy:
1. A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan
2. Part 2 – Building the Engagement Strategy
3. Part 3 – Building the Communication Strategy
4. Part 4 – Building the Training Strategy
5. Part 5 – Building the Coaching Strategy
6. Part 6 – Building the Transition Strategy

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Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan (Part 5 – Building the Coaching Strategy)

It is much easier to implement change within an organization when the change is led by internal resources (check out my previous post: Building the Engagement Strategy). The coaching stream is incorporated into my change plan when internal leaders have not yet acquired the skills, knowledge and capabilities to effectively lead their employees through change.


What is Coaching?
Coaching is a teaching process by which a coachee is getting support from a coach while learning to achieve new capabilities. I personally believe that the single most important element as a coach, whether it be in sports or in business, is caring. If you genuinely care about the person you are coaching, you will be able to unlock their full potential.

How is coaching different from training?
It is very easy to confuse coaching and training. Training has more to do with teaching people new concepts and hands-on skills. Coaching, on the other hand, has more to do with utilizing their new-found knowledge (and existing expertise) to awaken their full potential. I typically provide training opportunities on change management prior to coaching individuals through leading a change effort.

A disclaimer – coaching is a two-way relationship
There is a certain level of chemistry that is needed for a coaching relationship to take place. Without positive vibes felt by both parties, the coaching relationship will not happen. This is ok. You can’t expect to have a perfect balance of coaching relationships on every change effort. Just be thankful that those that do connect well will make the change initiative a little easier. As for the other leaders that aren’t so lucky, a different set of tactics will need to be adopted to move the change in the right direction.

So what’s my coaching strategy?
I usually follow an informal approach to coaching leaders and managers through a change initiative. Coaching is one of the five streams I utilize to move a change initiative forward. It’s not my full time job (Not yet anyway). Full time business coaches follow a more formal approach which incorporates such things as a written agreement between the coach and the coachee. The written agreement, or contract, captures the objectives and goals of the relationship, the preferred interaction/ communication between the two parties, the duration of meetings, the coaching program, metrics to measure improvements, confidentiality, legal agreements, etc…

My coaching strategy is simple. Once I’ve taken a stab at identifying all impacted stakeholders in the company (as explained in one of my previous posts – A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan), I identify all of the leaders, managers and team leaders that are in a position to lead the change. Once I’ve pinpointed these individuals, I look at ways to start a dialogue with them to understand their level of understanding and experience in managing change. With this information, I’m equipped to produce a personal coaching strategy that is catered to each of the targeted change leaders needs. For example, one individual may prefer to discuss their performance at the end of the meeting when everyone has left the room. Another individual might prefer a weekly call to review their activities and questions that have been collected in a note book. Different strokes for different folks.

In Summary
Here is my informal coaching strategy in step-by-step format:
1) Identify the change leaders – (often based on stakeholder impact assessment)
2) Keep an open dialogue with the leaders impacted by the change
3) Evaluate (informally) the management competencies of the change leaders
4) Identify tactics and approach to increase change management capabilities for each of the targeted change leaders
5) Create an environment that invites a coaching platform. Formulate supporting mechanism for coaching opportunities
6) Identify the activities and metrics to measure change management coaching success

Hope this helps in formulating your next coaching strategy. Another post will describe the coaching plan often generated by this strategy. Stay tuned for my next post on building a transition management strategy.

Posts related to this series – Change Strategy:
1. A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan
2. Part 2 – Building the Engagement Strategy
3. Part 3 – Building the Communication Strategy
4. Part 4 – Building the Training Strategy
5. Part 5 – Building the Coaching Strategy
6. Part 6 – Building the Transition Strategy

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Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net