Month: April 2015

Leading Change Ala The Music Man By: Darren Hayes and Janet Hayes

The world around us is in a constant state of change. While change is an inevitable part of reality, it can come with a multitude of problems, particularly in the business world. A business plan that works perfectly now may be an utter failure a year from now. Therefore, it is imperative that businesses work their way ahead of the change or even be harbingers of the change itself. But how do you do that? To demonstrate the process, refer to Michael Beer’s “Leading Change” and The Music Man.

Change Formula
In “Leading Change,” Michael Beer describes a unique equation that illustrates the necessary components of leading change and how they interrelate with one another:

Amount of Change = (Dissatisfaction X Model X Process) > Cost of Change

Beer explains that change only happens if the level of dissatisfaction with the status quo, combined with a clear model and process for change, are sufficient to overcome the perceived costs of change (e.g., loss of power, loss of competence, etc.).
Now, how does The Music Man fit into this equation, you may ask? Meredith Wilson and Franklin Lacey’s musical Midwestern misadventure demonstrates the whole process quite simply through the antics of “Professor” Harold Hill.

A con man and traveling salesman, Hill rolls his way into the small town of River City, Iowa with a plan to scam the humble townsfolk. The first part of the plan deals with the first issue outlined in Beer’s equation: Dissatisfaction. In order to get the complacent townsfolk to listen to his proposal, Hill first goes about convincing them that the local pool hall is turning a number of their younger boys into juvenile delinquents. In doing so, he stirs up a sense of dissatisfaction amongst the populace. This first major distinction that he “creates” as part of his sales pitch alerts the people of the town to a potential problem in need of change. A change leader must be a salesman, and as any good salesman knows: where there’s dissatisfaction and need, there’s a sales opportunity.

The next part of Beer’s equation comes into play when Hill proposes his solution to the town’s newly apparent problem. Hill presents them with a grand vision (Model) of a local boys’ band that would be the pride and joy of the town. The town would gain a unique distinction while also dealing with the “problem” of what to do about the local boy delinquents. With the initial dissatisfaction in place, the “solution” that he sells them solves a problem and generates a benefit which comes across as being doubly appealing to the people of the town.

The Process itself is simple: the townsfolk need to give Hill their money so that he can order instruments and uniforms. Hill then promises them that he will be the one to teach the boys.

Costs of Change
Michael Beer also points out the importance of perceived Costs of Change. Professor Hill assesses these costs and, with the help of his friend who lives in the town, Marcellus Washburn, identifies influencers in the community who have either informal or formal power. He then either persuades them to become evangelists for him (e.g., the mayor’s wife, the piano teacher), or he distracts or deflects them (e.g., the mayor, the school board). Hill accomplishes this initiative so well that, even when he is unmasked, people in the town stand up for him.

Of course, being a conman, Hill really plans to leave as soon as he’s collected enough of the people’s money. However, despite the fact that Hill intends to walk away as the only one who would actually profit from this scheme, he personally has a price to pay in order to make his scheme work to its best effect. Hill needs to spend time getting to know some of the townsfolk in order to work his way around any skeptics. He ends up establishing very close bonds and connections with them. As a result, he later regrets his actions and stays in the town to make things right by actually following through on his promises. The boys’ band and his connection with the townspeople become more important to Hill than personal profit. He realizes that, in order to fulfill the vision, he himself will also have to change.

Even though most of this story involves a scam, it also demonstrates perfectly how a business can get ahead of change:
1. Discover and/or create dissatisfaction with the status quo

2. Develop and communicate a practical model that solves the problem or fills the need

3. Convey a process that meets the needs set forth in the proposed model

4. Assess the costs of change and develop strategies to address them, including allowing people to participate in planning for changes and letting them mourn their losses briefly before moving on

As Brien Palmer so aptly put it in his book Making Change Work, “Some change will always happen but not necessarily the change you want. It is far better to plan for and manage change systematically, rather than simply react to events as they occur”.
It’s also worth mentioning that some change costs just can’t be foreseen, so remain flexible and have a safety net.

Finally, as Ghandi, said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” As Professor Hill discovered, lasting change only happens when the change leader invests in it himself.

4 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement with HR Technology

Employees will increasingly use mobile phones and tablets to access HR software. (Photo by mikecogh/Flickr)

Employees will increasingly use mobile phones and tablets to access HR software. (Photo by mikecogh/Flickr)

Employee engagement is the new name of the game in the ever-changing world of HR Management Systems. Traditionally, HR software was used predominantly by HR staff, and occasionally other managers, with non-HR employees only using it for basic tasks such as time reporting or benefits management. As the technology has advanced, however, the possibility now exists for every employee to both utilize the resources HR has to offer and provide valuable data to maximize personal and organizational effectiveness. If your HR software solution isn’t engaging employees fully, your business may be missing out.

1. Mobile as the New Platform

One of the biggest trends in technology in general is the move from desktop and laptop to mobile. According to CNN Money ( as of February 2014, Americans spent more time accessing the internet through mobile devices than through PCs. This trend is only expected to continue, and the way employees will interact with HR is no different.

One of the major complaints about HR software is that interfaces are often clunky and unintuitive. This is a big reason employee engagement is not as high as it could be. Vendors are realizing this, and are devoting more energy toward developing easy-to-use mobile apps for employees to interact with HR. What previously took a dozen or so clicks (and often the need of a manual) in a desktop application can now be done with a few intuitive taps on a mobile app. This lowers the time and effort employees spend with the interface, and increases their eagerness to engage. This, in turn, leads to more valuable feedback for them and more meaningful data for HR.

2. Continuous Evaluation and Feedback
Employees and managers used to conduct performance evaluations on an annual basis. While this model worked well for reflecting on the year’s accomplishments and shortcomings, it had several flaws. First, it could take up to a year for a manager to properly notify the employee of a performance problem and help the employee find a solution. Additionally, employees and managers were less likely to clearly remember projects that had happened several months prior. This contributed to many employees dreading the evaluation discussion, so, what could have been a very useful tool for them and the organization became an obstacle to improvement.

Many HR systems vendors now offer easy-to-use platforms for employees and managers to evaluate more frequently, such as at the end of projects, monthly, or quarterly. This allows poor performers to be given the tools to succeed sooner, and also outstanding talent to be identified so they can be placed in more effective roles.

3. Learning Management Systems

This leads into the next new and exciting system–dynamic Learning Management Systems (LMS). Newer software and cloud solutions have the ability to integrate data from employee evaluations and personality tests to cater learning experiences to each employee. Analytics capabilities can tailor specific tools and training to both the learning style and specific role requirements of individual employees. This reduces wasted time and energy of employees either being trained for something they don’t need or being taught in a manner which is not suited to them.

These tailored learning systems are all the more necessary in today’s world where the amount of available training resources can be overwhelming. Along with more traditional materials, technology has created new ways of training employees. Many major universities now offer MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in many general business and industry-specific topics. Easy video content creation means your employees can learn from sites such as YouTube, but also within your organization, with employees creating valuable content for coworkers or collaborating to build knowledge bases.

4. Compliance and Workflow Efficiency Software

Depending upon what industry your company is in, you will likely have to maintain compliance with company policies and a number of regulations from a number of government agencies, such as EPA, OSHA, FDA, and many others. Each of these agencies have their own standards, and may require certain documents and records to be created and submitted. Various processes exist to comply with many of these regulations, but recently, some technology companies have begun offering single-interface Compliance Management Software Solutions to increase efficiency and ensure that all regulatory guidelines are met. These solutions support compliance through training, recording, reporting, document control, and auditing, as well as providing the ability to track process ownership and drill down for detailed information.

Similarly, Workflow Efficiency Software Solutions now exist to track and schedule many routine tasks that your business must regularly complete. As an HR professional, these solutions can help track your employees’ productivity, and help identify inefficiencies in your business’s ongoing processes. This software can be especially helpful creating inter-departmental communication, which is often where key processes break down. Real-time reporting can help discover and address risks before they become larger issues which can cost your business time and money.

Bottom Line

These are just a few of the ways technology is helping employees engage with everything HR has to offer. In order for an organization to be able to effectively implement its strategy, HR has to understand the employees’ strengths and weaknesses so training be designed to develop their full potential. Part of this comes from choosing an HR software solution that works for your organization, but HR professionals must also get employees to use it. By implementing some of these systems, employee interactions with HR can be smooth and straightforward, benefiting both individual employees and the entire organization.

Ask a Musician: What is a “Concertmaster”

Many long-time concertgoers may have seen the word “Concertmaster” in print, or heard it used at a concert. To those of us who haven’t, the word commands respect; the concertmaster provides an essential service to an orchestra.

Typically, the concertmaster is the first-chair violin. He or she can be easily spotted within an orchestra because they will be holding a violin and sitting in the first chair. The concertmaster will also stand up to give the tuning pitch at the start of each piece, and sometimes between movements.

The role of concertmaster is very important within a musical ensemble. They are the assistant to the music director/conductor and often conduct performances themselves. They lead sectional rehearsals within the violin section (the largest number of musicians). They assist in selection of repertoire and help plan the schedule for the season. Additionally, they give private concerts, are often the featured violin soloist when a guest isn’t performing, and are the public face of the ensemble (beside the director). They frequently engage in community outreach with performances in schools and public venues and often give lectures and educational seminars to musicians and non-musicians alike.

While a music director is well trained as a performance musician (usually in strings or keyboard) themselves, they also possess a wide range of musical skills. They also conduct the ensemble. For this reason, the director can be called a generalist – they do many things well. A concertmaster is more of a specialist – they are very good at what they do and their specific role within a performance ensemble. The concertmaster is a performer first and foremost and must balance their orchestral collaborative responsibilities with their personal performance responsibilities.

With this information a non-musical person should be able to spot the concertmaster within an orchestra, but how do you spot the concertmaster(s) in your organization? I would recommend looking at Human Resources. Your HR department manages workplace culture within your organization. They orchestrate interdepartmental projects and projects within departments (sectional rehearsals: small rehearsals of only one type of instrument).

While doing this, they ensure that everyone stays true to the score (strategy). However, a true concertmaster actually helps write the score itself. This is true in music and business. A musical concertmaster will make any change necessary to the score to adapt it to their ensemble’s particular culture. The concertmaster decides which bowing the string section will use (such as which strokes are made up and down). This is why an orchestra looks uniform when playing and how they have such a powerful sound. They are all aligned because the concertmaster takes on the responsibility of adapting the score to the orchestral skill set.

In a business setting, your organization cannot function without a music director/conductor, but I would argue that it also cannot function without a concertmaster. If you are a concertmaster, you know the score inside and out! Now, write it and make your organization sing.

As a final note: since the writing of this blog, Noah Bendix Balgley, the concertmaster for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been chosen as the new first concertmaster for the Berlin Philharmonic! As a Pittsburgher, I’m sad to see him go, but this is one of the most prestigious positions in the world and I couldn’t be happier for Maestro Balgley. Everyone at Harmonic Systems Consulting would like to congratulate him on this wonderful opportunity and wish him well wherever he goes!

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