Permanent Change is The Only Constant in Complex Environments

Le Matin : Isn’t permanent change the only constant of organizational environments?
Farid Yandouz : Indeed! Companies are often faced with very high levels of complexity and its resulting impact on uncertainty of clients’ projects scope and the competencies required to implement such projects. This complexity is made even more difficult by a technological environment obeying one rule: permanent change. As a result, several managerial practices are becoming essential and central to strengthening organizational performance.

What actions do you recommend then?
Several tactics and strategies can be deployed in response to the ever-increasing complexity of changes. It all depends on the room for manoeuvre each manager has, the extent of the sponsoring enjoyed, and the intensity of the inertia tied to a need to maintain the status quo. According to operational priorities, the following key areas can be identified.

  1. Assessing individual’s, department’s and organisation’s ability to change.
  2. Strengthening adherence to core values reflecting the organization’s desired (or projected) identity.
  3. Reducing structural, political, behavioural and functional inertia.
  4. Developing quality of working life in a changing environment.
  5. Deploying and promoting individual postures and aptitudes capable of co-constructing the strategies required by permanent change.
  6. Aligning competencies with organizational development needs.

Regarding this last point on action required to develop the competencies you mentioned, what approach would you recommend in complex environments?
It is important to bear in mind that managing these competencies requires first-line managers as well as middle-managers. Indeed, especially in complex environments, the way competencies will evolve, or are prompted to evolve, is very much unpredictable and heavily influenced by changes in technology or customer needs. Here, for example, the implementation of learning networks with a focus on evolving competencies is strongly recommended. This will allow the progressive emergence of new trends, as well as regular feedback on required competences, to manage both sourcing needs and resources career development.
This said, though, we must acknowledge that conventional Strategic Workforce Planning does provide quite a comprehensive picture. Nonetheless, SWP is unfortunately ill-suited to complex environments. Competence development itinerary models and associated workforce can not be used in a practical manner. The alternate exercise must provide employees with more visibility as well as more regular polls to ensure their feedback is taken into consideration. Such an approach will be built upon:

  • The Implementation of a self-assessed mapping of the areas of expertise required by the department, prioritising the construction of skills clusters.
  • Ensure skills clusters are build on a ‘division projects’ orientation and not a ‘posts / jobs’ orientation.
  • This approach can be fuelled by focus groups and moderated by stakeholders neutral to political and personal considerations.
  • Mapping is then prioritized in dedicated workshops with top management.
  • Q&A with Farid Yandouz published in LE MATIN newspaper

Drive change for successful project management !

Drive change for successful project management

Successful transformation and change efforts require more than resources qualified to execute and deliver projects on time, on cost and on target. It is well known that the success of projects intimately depends on the ability to integrate deliverables into the organizational environment, not just boasting about of the perfection of your project preparedness, planning, execution, control and closure capabilities. Many projects unfortunately can not think beyond deliverables, instead of pursuing how the product could properly be exploited or how to beat resistance, inertia and opposition. The consequence of this short-sightedness is the very high rate of failure and underperformance of projects, standing close to 85% according to the famous Standish Group’ Chaos Report.

Awareness of what we have just discussed must be the beginning of a deep reflection among project governance bodies to think and act beyond normative project management schemes to integrate more global considerations, geared towards instantaneous and agile value creation when it comes to expectations and desires of both customers and stakeholders.This is the ability to understand what customers expect from our products, what their customers expect as well, and most importantly, what might prevent them from using these products properly in their operating environment. The products might be procedures, systems, or even labour organizations, exploited by stakeholders who will need to be influenced before, during and after the process of conducting change.

Project management has many components that are very useful to the conduct of change, which need to be addressed in a configuration integrating both disciplines.From team motivation to communication techniques to stakeholder expectations and risk management, all these areas are often addressed in both disciplines, but in a different way.The major difference is that project management directs these disciplines towards the realization of each project phase, whereas conduct of change focuses on the twin levers of adhesion reinforcement (aka buy-in) and resistance management.

As we have just seen, and thereby adding to project management, the conduct of change provides added value by enhancing the chances of success of transformation projects.Assessing return on investment in change management is a very important step to take at the beginning of each transformation project. This approach allows us to understand the benefits of these efforts, if only in terms of other benefits at risk if these efforts are not undertaken. In this sense, one of the most credible assessment methods at the international level is the ESSEC Chair of Change shows that 5% investment in change management can prevent up to 20% of delays in project delivery. This means that your investment in change management provides you with up to 15% return on total investment. These figures allow you explain budgets allocated to change management and to be able to size and deploy project diagnostics, engage tactical and strategic levers, as well as monitor transformations.

Why is it essential to know how to protect ourselves from allies?

Why is it essential to know how to protect ourselves from allies?

We know intuitively to protectourselves from stakeholders opposed to our transformation projects. Counter intuitively, we must also consider protecting ourselves from our allies as well. In fact, the most spectacular defeats of history were provoked not by enemies but allies. As Voltaire said, ’God preserve me from my friends, I’ll handle my enemies’. There are two reasons behind this reticence. The first reason is that we often feel comfortable with our allies and may reveal weaknesses which could be used against us. The second reason is that our offensive and defensive capabilities are so focused on resistant stakeholders that we do not invest enough energy and effort in our areas of vulnerability which our allies are supposed to protect. This does not mean we need to be obsessive about it, only to keep it in mind.

We spontaneously tend to surround ourselves with allies, for comfort, protection, or conquest. To be well surrounded is to recognize that we can not go far without federating the strength and will of others, especially those who are not under our direct authority. These are the stakeholders who influence our projects but who may have other interests and interests which do not concern us. The urge to reach out to these stakeholders is so intuitive that it is hard to overcome. This risks rushing into alliances not out of necessity but out of a desire to satisfy our ego. Let us not forget we are better off alone than badly surrounded. A great deal of responsibility concerning the failure of our allies is unfortunately due to our early haste in their selection. Alliances often start to great fanfare but few become solid, sustainable and reliable. This observation is similar to that of the win-win agreements I mentioned in my article long-term win-win relationships. Taking the time to choose these allies thoroughly if much better than the headlines effect. Furthermore, inflated objectives create very high expectations in relation stakeholder contributions which can only be disappointed at a later date.

Choice of allies must not be made by affinity or through docility. Allies depend on the strategy of influence you adopt and the principles you advocate as part of the transformation you are conducting. You must have no ally independently of any situation you manage. Choice of allies is contextual and reflects the positioning of your strategy of attack or initiation of change whether negotiated, permanent, imposed, or clean-break. Your allies are not supposed to be your clones intellectually speaking, but must have the ability to reflect your strategy on the ground. This said, they have concerns thatdo not normally require your attention. As soon as these concerns overspill into your field of action and your interests, your allies become your future competitors or even join other resistant stakeholders. It must be understood that as soon as you begin to succeed, stakeholders agendas can change alonside their perception of their commitment to you and how they identify with your success. In the words of Francois de La Rochefoucauld : “To make enemies, surpass your friends; to make allies, let your friends surpass you “. In this case, your ability to protect yourself from your allies is subtly dependent on your ability to ask yourself the right questions at the right time!


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Farid Yandouz

Being a consultant is more than a calling


Does one become consultant as a satisfying career move or because of lack of other options?
Farid Yandouz: Becoming a consultant is an excellent catalyst for professional development! It is not always pursued just as a way of bringing fulfilment to a career. You must have noticed the incredible confusion related to the title of consultants amongst both customers and so-called consultants. There are no rules, which govern a consultant’s journey, but there are two professional development which lead to this profession:
1. The solid technical skills, which make a consultant an expert in his or her field
2. The range of cross-corporate experiences of an expert, which allow him or her to provide efficient benchmarking

Is solid expertise enough to earn a place in the world of consulting?
Farid Yandouz: To understand the type of skills required of a consultant, you must be open to the state of mind of the customer calling upon the consultant’s services. It is not enough to simply declare yourself a consultant, or to follow either or both of the journeys described above, a consultant must be truly be perceived as such by the customer. A client’s perception of a consultant’s services generally revolves around the concept of Trusted Advisor. In either of the cases mentioned, it is essential that the consultant’s posture follow guidelines revolving around the trust the customer grants to the proclaimed expertise. Much has been written on this theme, such “Everyday consulting”, a collective work coordinated by David Autissier & Jean-Michael Moutot, published by Dunod.

What advice would you give to those who want to clear a path to self-employment for themselves?
Farid Yandouz: The basic principles of consulting are often misunderstood, not through ill will, but generally through misguided assessment of the outlines of the trades. A successful consultant must always bear in mind that experience can be his or her own worst enemy. Experts at their cutting edge of their field must control the superiority complex which the length and breadth of the experience might provide them with. It is quite a challenge, after 10, 15 or 20 years focusing on specific issues, to be able to take a step back, see the wider picture and provide customers with solid advice and robust solutions. Once that step has been taken though, the perception of the consultant as a Trusted Advisor becomes well established and legitimate.

Destroy to Build!


2016 is shaping up to be extremely difficult! If you believe in the most pessimistic scenarios for 2016 recently presented in a special edition of Bloomberg (1), or browse the Saxo Bank’s 10 shock predictions about 2016 (2), you might end up resolving yourself to leaving planet Earth and finding refuge with the Martians. Forecasts around the black hole Continuez à lire