Update your qualifications

These posts are part of the series on the change management profession and the reasons and benefits for developing your knowledge and understanding of best practice in business change and transformation.

Experience versus qualifications

I lead transformational change in organisations, and as part of my role, I am responsible for developing the internal capability of the organisation to implement change for itself, via the upskilling of its staff.

This involves creating motivation and excitement for training and certification in change management by explaining the value of qualifications and accredited training.

As a result, I have to address the challenge: “I am an experienced manager, I lead change in my teams all of the time, so why should I get a qualification when I already know what I am doing?”

The question raises many issues:

  • A sense of fatigue – I already have enough on my plate, don’t burden me with any more expectations.
  • A sense of unfairness – you haven’t recognised how experienced I am, you are treating me like a junior!
  • A sense of disempowerment – you are telling me what to do, not letting me choose my own way.

As a result, my argument has many elements, to enthuse as many as I can to want to get up-skilled, and I thought you might find some of these arguments will inspire you to address your own learning needs.

It will give you a sense of validation

For many things that you learn on the change management training, you will have a sense of déjà vu. The  theories and models will reflect situations you have faced in the past and you will be able to align when things went well, realising that you accidentally stumbled on the best practice you are now learning in the course. For situations that went badly, you will get ideas for what else you could have done, as you learn new concepts and new techniques. Sometimes that leads to an emotional outcome on the course, when people wish they had learnt this stuff years ago, because it would have saved them from so many difficulties.

You will be able to conduct an internal bench-marking exercise

Using the contents of the course, you can identify how many of the theories and models you really did know, and therefore how experienced you really are compared to others. It is not something you will necessarily share with the class (although some do when they have a realisation that there is so much more to creating new ways of working than they ever realised – particularly from a psychological and neuroscientific perspective).

You will “find your tribe”

One of the most gratifying moments on a course is when delegates “find their tribe” i.e. they have the realisation that there is a whole management discipline dedicated to something you really enjoy doing, and that this course has opened the gateway to a new world of learning, and something that you can build your expertise in. I have been doing this a long time and have lost count of the number of people every year who write and thank me for putting them on the path to career fulfilment as they have changed their jobs and taken on roles in business change and transformation.

You will feel a sense of accomplishment

One of our biggest motivations as a human being the need to continually develop our skills. Learning new information, practising new techniques, and developing new abilities creates a shot of dopamine in the brain, the neurotransmitter that is linked to reward and pleasure. It is highly addictive, pushing up to learn more and increase the cycle of feeling focused, energised and rewarded. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, the effort required for learning can actually reduce stress, because of the enjoyment that is generated by creating more capability than before you went on the course.

Conclusion

I would love to hear your reasons why learning about managing change and transformation motivates you, so share your comments with me.

Training has new meaning when working from home

As the duration of working from home has lengthened our immediate excitement of skipping the commute is being replaced by a realisation of the things we are missing.

Top of this for me and countless others is the ability to learn from my colleagues. Leading transformational change is not easy and there is no single recipe to follow. When I hit a blocker I need new perspectives and the genius of my network to share the solutions that have worked for them in similar circumstances.

Increasingly I am seeing this as a requirement of those attending my training courses. When I ask someone why they want to join my class their answers include:

  1. I want to hear new voices – I’ve been following my own instincts but I want to benchmark my ideas against the experiences of others.
  2. I want an injection of expertise from someone who has much more knowledge and experience than me.
  3. I want to feel as if I am progressing and developing my knowledge – many have talked to me about their fear of stagnating whilst working from home.
  4. I want to share what my views and have them challenged and improved by others.
  5. I want to hear the outcomes from those who have tried other solutions so I can imagine the reaction I might receive.
  6. I want to hear the practicalities – how long do things take, who should I involve and what should I prepare in advance?

Of course, we have always had these needs but they are more urgent now that we don’t have the informal community sharing in the office. How many of us have benefited from informal coaching that we cannot relocate on Zoom?

Responding to a colleague who asks how things are going as we walk down the corridor, I share a problem. Describing the issue to someone else can create a new perspective, as does the questioning and sharing by my co-worker. I return to the problem re-energised and with at least one new direction to try.

Training courses should provide these opportunities, from the trainer, during the discussions and in the breakout rooms. Recognising how important this informal learning and support is to the well-being of others makes me proud to run my courses. It also inspires me to attend courses for myself.

Business Case for training

I have created these outcomes and benefits so that you can develop your argument for why your organisation should invest in your development. This business case gives you lots of ideas to make your case for attending a change management training course, and you can tailor each statement to your situation and level of experience.

Qualifications are important

Structured knowledge base is low

This blog is based on my experiences over the last couple of weeks. I am helping an organisation with a cultural change, adopting Agile ways of working at all levels and in all business functions across the organisation.

I have been running a number of familiarisation workshops with those sponsoring and managing the change. The workshops have been high energy, lots of discussions, lots of collaboration in building the change plan but……I am frustrated.

I have been hired as a subject matter expert in both transformational change and Agile working so it is my job to pass on my knowledge, my skills and my experience of similar changes in organisations. I love my job, but what has frustrated me is that during these workshops, I am having to build the knowledge of the key leaders of this large-scale change from nothing. They have had no grounding in Agile, they know nothing about any of the methods, techniques, structures or theories. However, they are going to be the ones that everyone is looking to for answers.

How have qualifications helped me?

It has given me cause to reflect on my own journey, which over the last couple of years has meant my attendance at numerous conferences, seminars and formal training courses. I won’t bore you with all of my Agile qualifications but take it from me, it is a lot! https://agilechangemanagement.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Agile-development-poster.pdf

I think we need to start valuing core knowledge in Agile approaches, so that those involved in adopting Agile can make well informed decisions about the style and type of Agile working that will meet their strategic objectives.

I think too often we think a quick introduction at the start of a workshop will bring everyone up to speed but with broad disciplines such as Agile and Change Management this isn’t true. A period of study and careful evaluation of all the different approaches isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity.

Continued learning

Perhaps I am biased, as I qualifications based training courses, but I do this as a reaction to those of my clients that want this formal learning. My point is, not enough organisations demand this depth of learning. I may also be biased because I have been studying another formal qualification in Strategy Implementation. Revising for the exam has made me challenge my views and has introduced me to new perspectives and new ideas that I know I will use in my next change initiatives.

It got me thinking about how much more my clients achieve in their workshops if they came to the sessions with the same depth of knowledge. I am also mindful of a very clever client I had a couple of years ago who pointed out that it is always an advantage to be the most well qualified in the room because that way you have inner confidence which shines out and increases the respect others have in your abilities.

The best jobs need qualifications!

I am frequently asked for advice on applying for change management and business transformation roles. This is my advice, addressing two simple things that candidates can do to improve their chances of success:

  • Get qualified a change management qualification
  • Have something current and relevant to say about your area of expertise

Get a change management qualification

The easiest candidate to offer a role to is the most qualified candidate.

As I lead large-scale change initiatives I want to know that those joining the team have a strong knowledge of how humans react to change and how to help them implement change.

I don’t want to employ someone who knows less than the current team because that just dilutes the total team capability.

If I’m hiring an external candidate they are probably joining a team of internal staff who are working on the change because of their organisational knowledge. They will have experience of current ways of working and will be vital in carrying out impact assessments.

However, they are unlikely to be change management professionals so to increase their understanding via knowledge transfer I want to hire an expert. I want my expert to have experience of successful implementation of change but I want “Book learning” and not just “street smarts”.

This is because knowledge of theories, models and techniques means they can create a repeatable structure and set of processes that all in the team can use to manage the change. This increases our chance of success because we are managing change by design and not just by the luck if past experience.

Go to conferences

I know Covid has robbed us of face to face conferences, but they have moved online and there are lots of career benefits from attending.

It gives you access to speakers explaining best practice, sharing case studies and discussing what they think the most pressing issues and challenges are.

I find listening to these speakers is always thought provoking. Some inspire me to take action, some give me useful ideas for how I might tackle issues I am facing on my own transformation programmes. Their ideas give me a chance to “take the temperature” of my profession and consider where I think things are heading.

Crucially, if you are thinking of applying for a new role, conferences help ensure you have something interesting and up to date to say. Whatever role I am hiring for, I want evidence that the candidate is interested in and motivated by their specialism.

Attending these events gives you something to share and it can help you think up questions for the firm’s you are applying to. Hearing best practice and case studies means you have good questions to ask about how the organisation benchmarks itself. These are impressive questions because it shows you are interested in joining a quality firm.

Of course, if you don’t attend expos and industry events you won’t have the background knowledge to ask these questions (or understand the answers!). To get you started I run a free community of change management practitioners where we debate the latest challenges and ideas in change management and business transformation. It is called the Continuous Change Community and it is hosted on LinkedIn and events are organised via EventBrite – join us.