How to Lead a Successful Change | Tim Creasey


How can leaders manage the people side of change?

My guest Tim Creasey is a thought leader on managing the people side of change—and his work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on change management. 

Tim believes that a successful change is possible with and through the people on your team…

And in this episode, he’ll share his top insights on change management, including:

  • How to look into the future
  • The power of “I” statements and “We” statements
  • The ADKAR Change Model
  • Handling resistance to change 
  • Project management tools
  • And more



Tim Creasey: Change is hard, change is continuous. But change success is accessible with and through your people.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Build  Vibrant Culture podcast with professional speaker, coach and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Welcome everybody to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer, and they call me the vibrant coach. And today I have an incredible guest on our show. I have with me today, Tim Creasey. He is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and is a dynamic presenter, researcher, thought leader and he is a thought leader on managing the people side of change. 

And we’re going to hear all about that because I know what you’re thinking. We need to change. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on change management. Maybe I need to repeat that. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world, people on change management. 

Through public speaking and writing, he advances the discipline of change management as the structured rigorous approach for driving business results and he can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under 90 seconds. I forgot to ask him to bring that with him. He is obsessed with the band called, is it the Avett Brothers? The Avett Brothers?

Tim: The Avett Brothers.

Nicole: The Avett Brothers. All right we’ll hear about these guys. And his passion for helping people unlock the challenges of change. Please welcome to the show, Tim. How are you?

Tim: Doing great. Thank you, Nicole, and it’s great to be here. Really appreciate you having me.

Nicole: Yeah, it’s great to be with you. Alright, so when did you learn to do the Rubik’s Cube in under 90 seconds? Is this like a junior high school thing?

Tim: High school senior year. AP Calculus. Mr. Lewinsky was his name. We had already, you know, did all the work and got ready for that AP test that gets you your score. So hopefully you can get some college credit. And he taught us each of the formulas that you use to go and solve a Rubik’s Cube. And then it was practice, practice practice to get faster and faster. 90 seconds is about my record. My youngest who is 12 right now hit 78 seconds here recently, so he even blew me out of the water.

Nicole: And how old is he? 

Tim: Twelve.

Nicole: Twelve! Oh, my word. Okay.

Tim: Yeah, he’s in sixth grade. He picked it up a little bit earlier. But it’s patterns, right. It’s algorithms and patterns, which is kind of the name of the game.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s fantastic. And so that’s a very good sign that maybe you know, in your old age, he’ll be able to support you buy a very nice condo in Boca Raton. So very good. Very good. Well, I’m so glad you’re here because I teach change management all the time. And I know I still have much to learn. And most teachers are learners. So let’s do that today. But before we get started talking about change management, I wanted to ask you, what is your definition of leadership?

Tim: Yeah, and I know you’re collecting definitions. I wonder if I might offer four. Okay. All right. The first I’m going to offer up is really, I’m going to actually define change leadership. But I always do this because I go on podcasts, a bunch of different podcasts that don’t have change management as the core or background. And they always asked me to define change management. And I say, well, I’m only going to do it if I can define it in context with change leadership and project management. 

So change, leadership is deciding where to go and how to get there. Project management is building what we need to get there, whether that’s a product or a process. Change management is helping our people get there, too. So there’s change leadership, project management, change management. Deciding where to go, and how to get there, building what we need to get there, helping our people get there too.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. And you have written a lot of books about change management, and I bet you they have the change leadership and the little dribbling of project management all throughout them, right?

Tim: Because they’re all connected, right? So let me give you my second definition of leadership. It’s one of the four aspects of healthy projects. And again, this gets at the interconnectedness. So we have a thing called the PCT, the Prosci Change Triangle. It’s a diagnostic. It’s a triangle. 

The top is leadership that provides us direction and governance. Bottom left is project management where we get that technical solution to what we need to move forward. Bottom right that people side where we address change management. And the center of the triangle is success, a definition of where we’re actually trying to get to. Healthy projects have all four of those components. If any of those are missing, we get a wobble. It’s like a three legged stool. Success sets on that stool, but if any of those legs wobble, success falls off the top. 

So leadership in that context provides us the governance and direction we need, the leadership actions and the leadership behaviors in times of change, to help us achieve what we set out to achieve. So that’s my second one. Part of that triangle. You want the third one?

Nicole: I do. Lay it on us. Give us three and four, we got to hear it.

Tim: Alright, so peeling back the research because as you mentioned, Prosci is at its core a research organization. Right at the beginning of the research, the importance of leaders showed up, right. Number one contributor to successful change over and over active and visible sponsorship from your leader. And the research also gave us a little bit more definition about the role of the leader in times of change. 

Because sponsorship isn’t a title. It’s an active role and responsibility to fulfill when we’re trying to bring change to life in the organization. So out of the research, we got the ABCs of sponsorship. Active and visible participation throughout the life of the project, building a coalition of support with other key leaders and peers. And the C is communicate directly as that voice of why, why now, what if we don’t. 

So that’s my third definition of leadership in a changing time, is actively fulfilling the ABCs of sponsorship. And my fourth one is really more around the job of the leader today. And I did a bunch of work last year. Some development that I tried to write a book and didn’t get it all the way there. But it was about Peter Drucker’s the big overarching question of his work that Jim Collins kind of describes in a podcast with Ferris. 

He says, the big probing question that Drucker was trying to solve was, how do we get both more humane and more productive at the same time. Because I can achieve one at the expense of the other all day long. But the trick is, how do we as a society in organizations thread the needle of more humane and more productive. So I started pulling this apart for a while last year, and I kind of came to the conclusion that the job of the leader today, there’s really two jobs of the leader today. 

Land the change that’s going to help us become who we want to be. And build an organization that people aspire to be a part of. Because the organization is going to only be successful as the people who want to come work there and stay working there. So to me, leadership today is landing the changes that will get us to who we want to be, and building organizations people aspire to work to.

Nicole: I love all these definitions. These are fantastic. Can we play with that last one a little bit? Because I’m a big fan of Drucker. I wish he was still around. And I think I read something that he wrote 66 books in his life. Something like that.

Tim: Prolific right, in terms of perspectives on how we work together to achieve what we’re setting out to.

Nicole: Yeah. And then that he wrote the majority of them after he turned 50. Yeah, and I’m like, there’s hope for me yet, Tim. So I love that. That’s fantastic. All right. Well, let’s talk about that. What do you mean by land the change? How does a leader land the change?

Tim: Yes, we get into this notion of what is the leader’s role in times of change. In the PCT model, we build it as kind of extensions. We talk about leader decisions and leader actions. And those are what we take to get the plane off the ground and ultimately land the change. So the leadership decisions tend to be around what we tend to know in the project management world. 

Scope, cost, resources, time. I think one of the most critical and this shows up in the kind of the center of the PCT triangle, but it’s around those decisions. It’s what are we actually setting out to achieve. That clear articulation definition of success is probably the most important thing the leader can do to get the change off the ground in the first place. 

You know, the change management world has this discussion around, you know, what do we do with the definition of success. Because it’s critical and all the work we do in terms of building support and commitment and engaging people along the way. But the change practitioner doesn’t own defining success for the initiative. 

Their role is extracting it and packaging it and socializing it and making it understandable and accessible. The leader owns defining success on this initiative, and ensuring that that’s part of how the initiative moves forward. So executive action or decisions, that definition of success and then those executive actions which we described around active mutual participation, building the coalition and communicating directly. 

So I think that’s how we get off the ground and get the plane through the air. I think one of the things we find in the research is that the leader has a critical role to play in ensuring sustainment of change efforts. We all know sometimes leaders get that shiny object syndrome. Have you ever experienced a leader that’s got shiny object syndrome?

Nicole: Yeah, and I think sometimes it’s personality related, right. You know, like so I got this great idea. Yeah, I gave it to my team, let me go find another one because I bore easy.

Tim: There certainly can be a bit of that. I also think sometimes I talk about the change agent as a time traveler, because we do pay the leaders to live in the future state, right? We’re paying. That’s what they’re incented to do is live where we’re going to be 1, 3, 5 years out. So we actually time travel to help bring them back to the day to help our people step out of today and into what that initiative is.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Yeah. And, you know, I’m curious, because you say that they need to have a clear articulation of where we’re going. Now, it is challenging for folks to cast a vision and to think about the future. One of the things that I do in my practice is I talk to people about the ERP, that they have to have an introspective like take yourself five years in the future, one year in the future, six months in the future, whatever it is, and tell me what that future looks like. What has to be true in the future, so that we know that this is a success? What do you think is the issue why is it hard or challenging for people to just kind of declare the future? Declare with clear articulation what they want to do?

Tim: Yeah, and I’ll first give you a reflection, because I think the pandemic changed how far out we were able to define success and look into the future. So pre pandemic, right, five years, let’s say, April 2020, we are looking five hours or five days out, right. How do I get through whatever curveball comes next? Certainly, that’s relaxed and loosened a bit. And so I think those horizons are getting farther out five quarters, maybe. 

But it’s certainly I don’t think quite back to as far out as we thought we used to be certain, you know, in what was ahead of us. So I think that’s one interesting backdrop or condition we’re living in now. We use what we call a Merlin exercise. You remember Merlin from King Arthur’s Court. The interesting thing about him is he lived backwards, right? So he knew what was coming. 

The kids these days, I usually use Benjamin Button because they tend to know that maybe more than Merlin. But we’ll actually set up an exercise where we say it is three years from today. So your project the year out three years, write me an article, because your organization has just been written up across industry across literature, as the best organization out and about. 

What metrics are you exceeding? What are you doing that the competition is not? How have you adapted and anticipated new customer demands and expectations? So we really put each of them into that notion of you’re a journalist, write the story. Sometimes we’ll just do bullet points if people aren’t really into writing, but and then we’ll have those all get shared and say, what are some of those commonalities across the future states that we’ve started to envision? 

I think part of this gets at how human beings make sense of anything. I think we need context and contrast, right? So context is how does this thing relate to the things around it? Contrast is how are these two things similar or different? And I think this is where we can use contrast, elevate contrast to help our senior leaders articulate what that future is going to look like.

Nicole: Yeah, I love that. Okay.

Tim: In the Prosci methodology, we talk about that definition of success from two dimensions, project objectives and organizational benefits. So what will this initiative deliver? And how will the organization benefit? What gains? And then we always add the how will we know? How are we going to know that we’re achieving these? 

Because you’re right, you know, chasing aspirations gets people nowhere, right? We want to get closer to the customer. That’s an awesome aspiration, but what am I going to measure? So that I know we are making important movements towards getting closer to the customer? You know, as an example?

Nicole: Yeah, I’m wondering if you’ve got a story about maybe a leader that was excellent at, you know, looking into the future. And maybe you could identify, like, you know, how he was skilled, or she was skilled at doing that. I think, you know, one of the things is, you know, again, personality sometimes plays a part in it. You know, I got a really big imagination. I can dream up all sorts of stuff. What I need help is, is bringing that back down and putting it in an orderly form. 

And I think other people are good at putting it in an orderly form and need to be pushed to make it bigger. But are there some particular skills or a story that would illustrate that a leader that, you know, was really good at visioning that out and having a clear articulation of what’s coming? And I love the fact that you use the word horizon, because the thing about a horizon is you never reach it. You just keep walking towards it, you know. And you gotta be okay with that.

Tim: Yeah, I’ll tell you a story about a perspective, a lens that a leader brought to the table. And that was the notion of the lens of a compass. Right, so we all know the compass works 360 degrees north, south, east west. And they use that compass relative to how far out in the future we’re able to plan. So to say, five years from now, we’re gonna be going 17.2 degrees. That’s crazy. There’s so much variability between now and five years from now. 

So 17.2 degrees five years from now is not an effective vision. Between 15 and 20 degrees, we’re going to be somewhere in there five years from now, absolutely. And to get 15 to 20 five years from now, that means we need to get in the seventeens over the next couple of years. Which means you know, as you start to bring that level of granularity of the definition of what we’re trying to get to, at the proper, I’m a big fan of the notion of zoom levels. 

I picked this up from Molly Breazeale, an amazing facilitator. She led the change and transformation conference for the Conference Board a number of years back. But she’d always have a picture on the back of her wall of a particular point, usually the physical location where you’re meeting, and then kind of five Google Maps zooms up from there. And we use this at my house all the time to try to make sure we get alignment, right. Is this a country, state, city, street or coordinates challenge, right? 

What degree of zoom are we talking about? So organizational strategy needs to be at the country, state level. But then we start to get into departmental metrics. Into individual performance metrics, we’re now getting into that city, street, coordinate kind of level. So the notion of the compass over time, you know, I think helps us define the future in a way that makes it accessible to people.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. All right. Well, the second part of that earlier, as you said, you know, when we were talking about Drucker, you said, we could, you know, balance the difference between creating a humane organization, a productive organization, you said and build an organization that people want to be a part of. 

So tell me a little bit more about what you’ve seen, because I think, you know, a lot of the folks that listen to the show, have a lot of human resource folks. And that’s what they want to do. They want to, they want to build an organization, so they can recruit really great talent. You know, if you don’t have a really great organization, you know, the talent, oftentimes it goes other places. So how do we build an organization that people want to be a part of?

Tim: And I think, again, to your point, right, the last couple of years, created a very interesting backdrop against which talent became even more, you know, and I remember years ago, I was talking to a gentleman, he ran the change function at a big global world leading apparel organization. And this is one of those happy hours after, you know, late in the evening. And he said, you know, my biggest competitors right now are Google and Facebook. 

Remember, this person is making shoes that you go running in. And I’m like, tell me more, how are those your biggest competitors? And he said, design talent is the most important thing for us to acquire right now, in the challenges that we’re facing is designing talent. So the person that I’m interviewing to bring on the team is interviewing at Google and Facebook. So it’s an interesting dimension of competition, right? 

Where you might no longer be competing with the people selling the same stuff you are, you’re competing with the folks who are going after the same folks you are. And you’re right, you know, the talent we need that we need to keep here, we need to keep here. And then we want to be able to attract the talent that will help us get to who we want to become. Then I think it gets into how do you create that culture where people want to be? 

You know, I don’t know that you can actually just change culture, like you can change oil in a car. I think organizations are much too living systems to say you can just change culture. I’ll tell you a story about Prosci internally, right? We have six values. Impact, people, integrity, inclusion, experience, and excellence. Then each of those we define with sort of a we statement below. We’ve been asked many times, why is culture not on that list? 

And we said, because if we live our values, we create the culture that we aspire for. The kind of culture where people can show up as their authentic self, always feel that they can and are invited to contribute with their unique perspective with their valued individual experience and worldview. And so I think the culture, I’m kind of a math geek, right? And I think the culture is an output of having these other variables moving in the right directions.

Nicole: Yeah. And so, don’t miss everybody that he just rattled off his core values in a hot second. And then he made this really incredible statement. He said we have a we statement underneath each one of them. So will you just share in case people are like, what’s a we statement?

Tim: Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll take the first value is impact. So that’s the very first one, it’s kind of at the top of our pyramid, let’s say. We are proud of the people we are, the work we do, and the difference we make. So that’s the we statement underneath. We are proud of the people we are, the work we do, and the difference we make. 

And so you can imagine, right, we had an all hands meeting where we built the entire, the whole agenda is built out around making sure that we create the context, the environment where we each can show up and be proud of the people we are, proud of the work we do, and proud of the difference we make. And we had a global nonprofit who has adopted the ADKAR model show up and speak during the very end. 

Because we wanted to say this is the difference we’re making. This global nonprofit that says we’re able to help kids that need the most help more effectively, because we’re implementing internal change more effectively with the model. So that’s an example of that we statement under impact.

Nicole: Yeah, and I just want to tie that back to this idea of being proud. That goes directly with what you said, again, about balancing the humane and the productive. Building a company people want to be part of. People want to be part of a company they are proud of. What the company’s doing or what the leader did or whatever. If they can get behind, like you said, you know, helping a nonprofit help kiddos, I mean, that’s gonna get me up out of bed and off to work with a smile on my face.

Tim: That’s the thing and helping people see and make a connection between the work they do that is valued and the difference we’re able to make. So yeah, do you want any other we statements?

Nicole: I do. Give me a couple more so people can get a flavor for it.

Tim: Well, first, I’ll tell you a quick digression. Side story. What we’re doing now is defining out the behaviors that sit underneath each of those we statements. So the we presents that kind of collective, you know, how we, Prosci, show up. Underneath that we’re defining the I statements that more specifically, define what that looks like.

Nicole: Yeah, so do that kind of with the impact, because I’d love to hear the behaviors underneath being proud of the work we do. The mission we’re on.

Tim: Yep. All right, let me get it. I’m going to open this one up. I do want to make sure that I get the I statements, because we’re doing multi month campaigns to co-create the I statements. So the whole team comes together, talks about what that value means, how it shows up in the work they do. And then we just, our talent, our amazingly talented talent team, takes all that input, all those stories and starts to distill it out into what that impact means. What that value means. So if I go to the impact, go ahead.

Nicole: I was just going to say, while he’s looking for that and getting that pulled up. You know, I just want everybody listening to this to hear how they’re working on the business a lot. You know, because that’s a big problem. Tim is like, I don’t have time to sit there and figure all this out. You don’t have anything but time to figure this all out. Because you got to figure out the why behind the work that you’re doing. 

So we do have to spend significant time and give resources and have a talented team who is going to work on the business. So that when we’re working in the business, doing the work, we’re doing it the right way. With again, these core values, our we statements, and then people know the behaviors that make that happen. It’s so clear. Oh, I love it, which is what you said earlier. Leaders have to have a clear articulation of what’s going on. So go ahead.

Tim: And I think you’re spot on. It takes time and effort, and hard work. And again, our Laura McGann who leads talent at Prosci has done such a great job of ensuring that the executive team makes the space to have the conversation, ensuring that we’re co creating this by really bringing in the voice of everyone who is Prosci. 

So here’s those critical, here’s the I behaviors that sit below the we. I contribute my unique perspective and ideas to grow myself and those around me. I continuously engage in learning about how our organization creates value for customers. And I focus on achieving results for my team, our people and our customers. 

So those become and then behind that there’s, we can’t get into this, but this is the secret sauce is behind that there’s business context, prompting discussions just to really help people bring to life what does that impact value mean here at Prosci. And so right now the team is really working to flesh out the I behaviors that sit underneath the people and the we statement is actually what we’re doing right now.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. And what hit me I don’t know if this is true, Tim, but I mean, like the closer we get to, you know, the I statements, the behaviors underneath the we statements, then when you’re interviewing people to join your organization, you can kind of hear are they saying, you know, the things that match our I statements, our we statement, our core value? So wow, that must really help your recruiting and human resources efforts, tremendously. The talent development.

Tim: It ties all the pieces together, right. The first TED talk I ever proposed, and that got turned down was called The Gift of Clarity. All right, that the gift, there’s such a gift in bringing clarity. And so I think yeah, exactly. Under Laura McGann and our CEO, Michelle Haggerty, the two of them have really co-sponsored this, this values effort. So do you have the people we statement? 

Nicole: Yeah, I do. 

Tim: So people, the we statement is we genuinely care for our Prosci team members and get each other’s backs. 

Nicole: So good. 

Tim: And so that sets the tone. I can’t even tell you what the I statements are. Because this morning, there was a manager meeting where they were still working on some of that co-creation about what those I statements set below that people value will end up being, so.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. Alright, so y’all have a big homework assignment. You got to look at your core values, you got to come up with some we statements, and then the I statements, which are really this is how I behave that makes the we statement and the core value happen. All right. So there’s a whole activity you need to get on your to do list. Now you dropped in this really great thing you said we have this model called ADKAR. So can we dive into that? Will you explain A D K A R for us?

Tim: Absolutely. So yeah, the Prosci ADKAR model created by Prosci’s founder Jeff Hiatt, and one of the I began with a quote that’s on kind of page one of the ADKAR book that Jeff wrote.  He wrote, the secret to successful change lies beyond the busy, visible activities of change. The secret to successful change lies with how to help one person change effectively. So ADKAR is an individual change model. 

It describes the building blocks that an individual has to be successful in any kind of change. Whether it’s at home, in the community, or adopting a new online collaborative platform. So that’s the ADKAR, kind of as an individual model. That first day is awareness, awareness of the need for change. And notice that I said awareness of the need for change, not awareness that the change is happening.

Nicole: It’s more like the why, right?

Tim: Yeah, it gets into why, why now, what if we don’t. Why this instead of that, absolutely. Knowing that it’s coming is very different than knowing why this change is needed. So that’s awareness of the need for change. And if we build sufficient awareness, the individual would say, I understand why this change is needed. Right. 

So that’s our milestone we’re looking to achieve is helping to get somebody to say I understand why. And I talk sometimes about awareness and awareness in the wild. And I had, I use a picture up on the screen, and it’s a picture of my son and I on a chairlift. Beautiful sunset in Idaho. We have night skiing at the local ski lift right outside of town here. 

And so you get these beautiful, you know, the alpine glow and the sunset while you’re still on the ski lift. But the story I tell is he leans over on the ski lift one time and says, dad, look at that person without a helmet. This is 2023. Back when I was learning to ski, you would have leaned over and said, look at the guy wearing the helmet, right? 

Because this was back in the early 90s. Now, the kid wearing the helmet was the son of the neurologist in town, so we should have known. But there were a couple of huge tragic losses on the ski hill that really prompted a safety awareness. And this whole, you know, to the point where he says, look at the one person not wearing the helmet, not oh my gosh, one person’s wearing a helmet. 

So that’s awareness of the need for change. Why, why now, what if we don’t? We had a client one time, they’re working to try to just bring a change mindset in the organization. And they actually set a policy that the very first communication that went out about a change had three headings and only three headings. Why, why now, what if we don’t? Because that’s that first building block of change. 

The D in ADKAR is desire. Desire to participate and support to change. Now we know humans and because of free will, we can’t make anybody do anything right. Whether it’s a kid or a coworker, we can’t make anybody do anything. And we can get malicious compliance when we think we’ve made people do things.

Nicole: Wait. Hold on. That sounded juicy. Talk about malicious compliance for a hot second.

Tim: Malicious compliance. Yeah, I’ll give you what you asked for, is kind of the line that would go along with it. One of the visuals that I use is somebody painting lines on a highway. You know, the two yellow lines down the middle. There’s a dead raccoon on the highway and the paint line goes right over that raccoon.

Nicole: I painted the line. That’s what you wanted.

Tim: That’s what you asked for. Right? And so yeah, malicious compliance is the kind of flipside of that lack of commitment to the change, minimal viable effort enough not to get, you know, in trouble maybe. So that’s desire. We can’t make people change. But we can certainly motivate and nudge people to the place where they said, I’ve decided to take part of this in this change. 

We do that by understanding the personal motivators that will help and share the organizational motivators. This is where WIIFM shows up, which a lot of people in the change space know w i i f m, what’s in it for me. And we also know from the research that people’s managers have the greatest influence on influencing desire to participate and support the change, right. 

The senior leader is critical and helping build awareness of the need for change. My direct manager is the one that’s going to help me if I’m getting stuck around stepping into saying I’ve decided to make this change.

Nicole: Yeah, so I’m curious just real quick before we move on, because there are some people in organizations that do have that malicious compliance, or there are people that just flat out refuse to get on board. They’re like in a wait and see mode or something like that. Is there a particular strategy that you use? You said, you motivate, you nudge. I’m a big believer in just sitting down and having one on one, practicing truth telling honesty and candor, answering questions, trying to build rapport with this person. What are your thoughts on helping somebody kind of flip towards being helpful?

Tim: What’s interesting is wait and see is there’s could be multiple symptoms of wait and see. Right? That tends not to be in a lack of awareness. Awareness would be I don’t think we really needed to do this. So a person can end up wait and see after already having awareness of the need for change. Maybe it sits in desire, right? Is it going to be worth the effort? It might sit in knowledge, like, I’m not sure I have the knowledge to be successful. I’m going to hold back just to see because I don’t want to expose my lack of knowledge. 

It could be a fear of having lack of ability. All right, that might cause a wait and see reaction, because I’m going to have to build extra skills. And I’m just going to wait to see if this is going to stick. It could even be lack of reinforcement, which is that last R. I know, we just kind of blasted through knowledge, ability, reinforcement. 

We’ll have to circle back. But a lack of reinforcement can cause a wait and see as well, right? If this is a flavor of the month, I’m not going to invest the time and energy to get behind it. So I need to watch to ensure it sticks before I’m going to invest. So wait and see is symptomatic, could be symptomatic of many a number of these blocks missing.

Nicole: Yeah. And I think sometimes too, you use the word fear several times just now. And I always associate the word fear with somebody’s ego popping up. And the people that listen to this show, they know, I’ll just share again, in case you’re fresh to the party here. But I had some great training one time, Tim, about ego. 

And it’s just helped me so much to have empathy for the malicious compliant person. It’s like, why would you have empathy for them? Well, they’re scared to death, maybe. You know, we don’t know. But that could very well be the situation. And so I was taught that the ego is hungry for security, approval, and control. So you know, maybe I don’t have the knowledge, I’ll look stupid. And then people won’t think I’m as smart as, you know, they think I am today. 

You know, or their security, you know, what if I never learned this thing, or, you know, they change my job or whatever. And then some people really like how things are right now? Because it seems like it’s within their control, and then you start changing it up, and they lose approval, security and control, they get into a state of fear.

Tim: Absolutely. Or if this change looks like it poses a threat to any of those things, right? Absolutely. It’s natural. I’ve done some parallel thinking around with a David Rock’s SCARF model, right? 

Nicole: Say his name again.

Tim: David Rock, and the model is SCARF like that you put around your neck. He’s a neuroscientist, and he says, you know, the human brain is wired to either lean in or away from these things that feel like a challenge to these things. 

Nicole: Like an attachment and an aversion. 

Tim: Right, right. So status is the first one. Will this thing elevate status or potentially drive down status. That’s going to cause us to move one way or the other. Certainty is the C. All right, so there’s some alignment there. Autonomy is the A. R is relatedness. So my ability to be connected to and related to others might just bring that up or down. 

And then the F is fairness. Does this feel fair or not fair? And so I’m gonna lean in or away to something that feels like it’s either threatening or supporting those things. And to me, all this gets to the notion that change is ultimately this journey that each of us go through. 

So when that person says, wait, I’m gonna wait and see this time, there could be all kinds of stuff going on, around how they’re perceiving this change relative to what’s going on, and to their role in the organization. Or it could be related to nothing going on in the organization, right? What’s going on outside the walls?

Nicole: Yeah. And you know, and there are the people who are, this is a word my daddy would use, like some curmudgeons wandering around your organization that just like to cause trouble. But I think the average person that reacts in a negative way towards the change does have kind of like you’re saying an internal issue. 

And, and I do want to repeat what he said, everybody that the ADKAR model is not a change model for the strategy, it is a change model for the human who will carry out the well clearly articulated direction that we’re headed using project management and all the things that he’s mentioned from before. So don’t miss that this is a one person at a time change thing. Okay.

Tim: Can I add one more thing to that? We got the curmudgeons. And that’s one kind of resistance that falls a little outside of this kind of human piece. I’ll also elevate what we talked about as constructive resistance. So it’s, it’s not because we hadn’t helped this person through the change process effectively. 

It’s not that we didn’t provide them the answers they needed when they needed them, which is to me what change management is all about. It’s that we did all that stuff. And they still have a fully informed objection to the direction we’re going, the solution we picked the timings, right. And that is gold for the project team and for the leader to get back. 

So only if we can discern what’s the source of this resistance are we able to really pick the good constructive resistance out of the resistance that came from leaving change to chance, which is actually where a lot of the resistance comes from. Is just leaving change to chance.

Nicole: Yeah, and when you say that the source of resistance is kind of like the obstacle is the way right, like so that’s a book that’s out there. It’s on my nightstand right now. Have you read that one yet? 

Tim: No, I have not. 

Nicole: Okay. But, you know, like, when a human is the obstacle, you know, we do want to go, oh, you know how George is, you know how Susan is or whatever you could like blame the human. But like you said, and don’t miss what he said, everybody. He said, that’s gold. Like, what do you see that we don’t see? Susan George help us, you know. The obstacle is the way. So getting in there, and they have, Tim labeled it as constructive resistance. I love that. All right. So don’t ignore it. Go after it. Right?

Tim: Absolutely. I heard a phrase on a podcast and I’ve still not tracked it down. So I still am not able to attribute it. But the phrase was lending me your eyes. Which so lend me your ears is like listen to me talk, right? Lend me your eyes means help me see this issue or opportunity the way you’re seeing it right now. And I think it not only honors the value you bring, because of your unique experiences, everything that makes you you, you have a unique perspective on this. 

And I value that. And help me see that perspective. Because we’re going to be better off at unlocking this challenge and helping climb this mountain if we bring all of the perspectives to the table that are there. So that lend me your eyes notion I just thought was a beautiful characterization of inviting people to be part of solutioning.

Nicole: Yeah, and there’s a song out there and I can’t think of it. Is it Brynden?

Tim: So every time I Googled to try to find the podcast where I heard it, that song is a thing that gets between me and finding it.

Nicole: Yeah, it’s a beautiful song. Everybody go Google, lend me your eyes and listen to the song and then help Tim out. Send him a clue where the podcast was. Okay. All right. So I love that. So we were doing A and D and we sprinkled in the K A R. Let’s talk about the K next if we can.

Tim: Yeah, we’ll circle back. So the K is knowledge. Knowledge on how to change. What are the new skills and behaviors I need to show up in the new way. Knowledge is unfortunately the default that we often jump to right. In organizations, right? We’ve got some new thing that’s coming out. What do we do? Send people to training? Well, we know what it feels like to get sent to a knowledge session if we don’t have awareness and desire before hand.

Nicole: Like, why am I here? Is this mandatory?

Tim: Cross my arms. Yeah, exactly. Dreaming about what you’re making for dinner that night. So knowledge is necessary, but not sufficient. It needs the context of awareness and desire. And we need to help people build the knowledge they need to be successful during and after the change. So there’s a couple of knowledge pieces there that we just want to be thoughtful of, as we build out the plan to help this person make the change. 

The next A is ability. The ability to implement those skills and behaviors. And so that’s really where I’ve demonstrated that I can make the change. It’s where I’m able to show up and follow the new process use the new tool, use the new system. Demonstrate the new mindset. Ability is where the change has happened, that I’ve stepped in and demonstrated that. 

There is often knowledgeability gaps that we want to be cognizant of right, that each individual will have a different knowledgeability gap in their experience. So when we build that into the way we think about the planning, there’s potential barriers that we need to be thoughtful of. You know what barrier might get in the way of ability to make this change? Let’s say we’re going to move a meeting, that’s a standing meeting to 8am in the morning, but we have one of our teammates that takes their child to school every day. 

That’s a barrier to the ability to show up in that meeting. Some people ask what’s the difference between knowledge and ability, they kind of feel like the same. And I always tell them, if you want to see the difference, just go golfing with me once, not even like 18 holes, one hole. And you’ll see the difference between knowledge and ability. Because I know how to approach the ball. I know how far apart to keep my feet. 

I know, I’m supposed to keep my head down. Like I know, I’m supposed to keep my head down. But no, no, right. So I’m just slicing off into the trees every single time. So that’s knowledge and ability. And then I often will make the joke that Prosci would be a complete failure if Jeff forgot the R at the end, like most projects do. 

And that R at the end is reinforcement. Reinforcement to sustain the change to make sure the change sticks. And it’s around celebrating successes, measuring mechanisms to keep the change in place, closing gaps when they do exist. Because it’s our natural, physiological, psychological tendency to go back to what was. It’s what we’re wired to do. And so if we want the change to stick we need to be intentional around reinforcement. 

And we’ve even brought that intentionality about that last lap into the methodology itself. Kind of the organizational methodology, which is the flip side of the individual ADKAR model. That notion of intentionality around sustainment. How do we ensure we’re thinking about how to make this stick from the beginning and then we put the resources and effort to making sure it sticks at the end? 

A D K A R, we often joke internally that ADKAR is way more famous than Prosci. And if you’re intrigued by ADKAR, there’s a load of resources on the internet all about ADKAR, but if you want to share it with somebody, on YouTube, there’s a thing called Tim Talks. They’re little three to five minute videos of somebody interviewing me, asking questions. 

And there’s a five minute ADKAR one that’s just about a, it’s really nice little, you know what ADKAR is. But I have you know, I’ve watched clients use ADKAR on a change that impacts 10 people. We had a client that was having a change impact 250,000 people. And they used ADKAR as the backbone of how they built their engagement plans.

Nicole: What were they changing in 250,000 people?

Tim: It was a big governmental organization here in the States. They’re moving people all over the place. So a huge kind of massive reorganization.

Nicole: So Tim Talks. So I go out to YouTube and I find Tim Talks. I got all sorts of things. So I want to hear a story about somebody who took their folks through ADKAR and really pulled a rabbit out of a hat. Really, really made something fantastic happen. Do you have like, one favorite little story? It’s like, here’s what they did. And here’s how we got it done. And it’s just given us sales or improved customer service or whatever.

Tim: This is actually a long, long time ago story. So I spoke at a conference, got off stage, somebody came over and said I gotta tell you what happened. We were changing payroll up. And so we knew some people were not some people were not going to get their pay. You just know when you’re changing all that stuff. There’s going to be somethings that fall through the cracks. We invested a ton up front. 

And the awareness, the desire, the knowledge, the ability of how people were going to interact with the system, how this change is going to go through. And the fact that this is a potential consequence that might come out. It’s the fascinating thing about change management, she said, we got paid back in silence. 

The way we knew that it was successful is the next day a couple of people knocked on the door and said, hey, I just want to let you know, I was one of those people where it kind of fell through the cracks, I didn’t get my paycheck. There was no screaming, kicking, yelling, because the context for the change had been set in a way that people were able to connect their experience with the change to what the project was trying to achieve to the team and the work they were doing to all the moving parts. 

So I think to me, that’s one of the most important parts about kind of change management is that it’s about bringing human beings to the change table. Realizing that every change has a human side that is going to be there, whether we pay attention to it, or neglect it, ignore it, hope it just goes away. And so there’s times that I think people expected catastrophes, and were amazingly surprised at how quiet and well everything went because they put the time, effort, energy upfront. 

Now, the problem is, it’s sometimes invisible, then right? Silence is hard to hear. Kicking, screaming, door slamming, you can hear that when changes are going off the rails. And so often, as these change practitioners, they’ll get done putting in 60, 70 hour weeks, project goes off without a hitch, everything’s quiet. And a project manager goes see, we didn’t need change management, everything went smooth.

Nicole: Change management people are like.

Tim: It went smoothly, because we paid attention to the people and their experience.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Okay. Well, I have two questions left. And one is that you know, you have your triangle. And one of the things on there is project management. So there might be somebody listening to this, like, we don’t have one of those fancy project managers? We don’t, we’re not big enough for that. 

Or we’ve asked, we’ve told no, we can’t have another person on the team. So if somebody wanted to make sure they didn’t have the wobbly stool that you talked about, how could I put kind of some project management, like under my belt? Or how would I go about making sure we’re doing that, because it seems like a whole nother thing that we got to learn or install or instill or find the stuff for.

Tim: I’m not going to pretend that there’s kind of a magic wand where we don’t have to bring it. You know, even internally at Prosci, it’s been a journey for us as we’ve gotten more mature in how we run more complex projects on a bigger scale, to actually formally stand up project management office with a little bit of some, some more rigor and some thought there. 

I do think that there’s, I mean, there’s a lot of learning opportunities, where you can go out and find out sort of the basics of the trade offs of trying to make a change, right? How big, how fast, how much, and just starting to get into understanding trade off decisions, that even as a smaller team, we’re gonna have to make in order to sequence move this change forward. 

I lean into, you know, what are the key technical milestones that are gonna help us move that technical side forward? It’s really around designing, developing, delivering a solution that’s going to meet that need. How do we right size that if we’re going to really put into it?

Nicole: Yeah, and I’ll tell you, during COVID, we were talking about COVID, a little bit back. And so my business, you know, really suffered a lot because nobody wanted to get in a room and have training with me. And so I have some really dear friends over at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and they said, would you be interested in doing some producing for us, because all of our professors have to get online and they don’t know how they need to zoom? Would you help? 

And I said, oh, it’d be glad to. And so I did that. And I got to sit through Dr. Jonathan Mayhorn’s, you know, project management 101. And so I would just really encourage, you know, folks, you know, you said, there’s learning opportunities out there. So I sat through that, I mean, like, I was, like, looking up everything he was saying, I was supposed to be the producer, I learned so much, and just some very basic tools. 

And then I think the other thing about the project management piece, and I’m curious, if you have an opinion, but I use Basecamp in my company, to you know, like we’re going to introduce a project, we’re gonna, you know, put this process in place. Putting a process in place is change. And, you know, so we use the base camp to lay it out, keep it all organized, set up to do lists, provide accountability, calendar stuff. Do you have a particular project management software or tool that you love?

Tim: Well, first of all, kudos to you for leaning into the learning opportunity, and I love the ambient project management knowledge you got to take in while being a producer if the show. 

Nicole: Game changer, people!

Tim: Absolutely. We used Basecamp for a bit. We did in the past, yeah, now we have different teams that use different tools. I know Trello is pretty popular in some of the groups and Smartsheet is used, especially in some of the places where we need the collective data. 

But I think you’re right. It’s like how do we sequence the most important tasks and activities that are going to get us to, and then who’s going to pick those up and do them? One of my colleagues uses the phrase, the difference is going to make the difference. Anything that’s gonna help us hone in on and focus on that is going to be effective.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s fantastic. All right. So everybody, Tim, we could just talk to him for like, 15 more hours, but he doesn’t have time for that. He’s got change he’s got to make happen. And so I just want to let you know, there are a lot of resources that are out there, that are available so that you can find Tim. 

So Tim, before I asked my final question, will you tell everybody where they can find you, find more information? Don’t forget the Tim Talks are on YouTube. Where can we find you? And you also have a program where people can get certified right? So will you talk about all that real quick?

Tim: Yeah, best place to start is going to be p r o s c There’s loads of blogs. There’s several days of webinar replays available, including access to upcoming live webinars, thought leadership articles, including information about that certification program. Prosci’s cornerstone, which is a three day immersive program where you bring a project that you’re actually working on, and you apply the process and the tools to that project just start to build out that people side strategy and set of plans. So is where I’d start. 

The Prosci YouTube space with those Tim Talks, and there’s a bunch of other really nice little snippets. That just gives you those really consumable bite sized pieces. I’m going to be most active on LinkedIn. And so I’m sure we can put a link in the show notes. That’s where you get, you know, sometimes the evening bourbon inspired insights, which those are sometimes more fun, sometimes less fun. But yeah, LinkedIn is where I’m going to be most active for sure.

Nicole: That’s right. Okay, so he’s got his Pappy going in the evening. I’m just saying.

Tim: Not the Pappy’s. No, no no. Blanton’s is my go to.

Nicole: Okay. All right. Well, you know, here at the house, Mr. Greer does the Maker’s Mark. I’m a red wine gal myself. But anyway. All right. You come to Charlotte, come see me. We’ll have you ever to the house. And we’ll have a bourbon in the evening. That’d be nice. All right. So my very last question is people are like, oh, I can’t believe this podcast is over. 

If you wanted to leave one more nugget, one little tasty nugget for everybody to take a bite out of, what’s the last thing you would share with everybody? Here’s what I want you to know about change management.

Tim: Yeah. And I’ll leave you with what I call my bass beat. So I ended up on a lot of podcasts, and most of them are nowhere near related to change, like yours is, right. It’s project management podcasts, it’s design thinking podcasts. But what I kind of found across all those conversations was, again, my bass beat, that change is hard. It is hard to step out of what we know into something, something in the future. 

Something different, something unknown. Change is continuous. And some people say change is constant. But again, I’m a math geek. So to me things like pi 3.14159. That’s constant. It means it stays the same forever and always. That’s not how changes in our organizations. It’s ba ba ba. But it is continuous. So change is hard. Change is continuous. But change success is accessible with and through your people. 

So that’s it. Our people are where we find the solutions. They’re the people who bring those solutions to life. The more we recognize and elevate the people as we there’s so much lip service paid to this most important, valuable asset. I think the last three years proved that our people are the most important assets. So change is hard, change is continuous, but change success is accessible with and through your people.

Nicole: That’s right. And can I add to that? 

Tim: Yeah, absolutely. 

Nicole: You know, and again, you know, I’m big into looking at personality stuff. But you know, I think the other thing that we don’t really think about is like, when you have a successful change, you should celebrate it in a really amazing way. So I may have shared on the podcast before, but I’ll share again. During COVID I also got invited to work on a change management project for Duke Energy. And it was like an 800 people change. 

And so wow, what a great privilege to be in a little petri dish around this huge change management project. We’re putting SAP software in place for the customer service team, and I was going to be a technical trainer, which, you know, everybody thought was hilarious. You’re going to be a technical trainer, like, watch me work. I can bend that way. 

So I learned SAP and everything. Well, the leader at Duke Energy, did this really cool thing. He sent a package out to every single one of the people involved in the change. And we, you know, we did one portion at a time. We didn’t do all 800 at once, of course. But we had all the people like in North Carolina, South Carolina. 

And so we all get this package in the mail. And it’s kind of like, don’t open it. Do not open it. I’m sure some people did. But you know, I tried to be a good girl, so I didn’t open it. And they said, on Friday afternoon, have a nice adult beverage, preferably red in a stemmed glass. Or a beautiful cup of coffee. Whichever you prefer, making sure it’s a beautiful cup of coffee. 

And so what do you think’s in the box? Well, it’s chocolates from around the world. And so at four o’clock on Friday, on comes the leader, you know, the one that is, you know, making hold on, let me use your language, having clear articulation of what we’re trying to do here. You know, he shows back up, and he like, opens up his box, and this guy comes out. 

And he’s an official chocolate taster. And like, I’m like, how do you get a job like that? That’s the job I need. Anyway, so we all sat on the call, on this giant zoom, and he’s like, this one is from Zimbabwe, or whatever it was, and you know, and it has cinnamon notes and all this kind of stuff and put it on your tongue and do all this kind of stuff. And how much fun was that? You know, and that is what Tim was talking about. He says, build an organization people want to be a part of. Right? 

Tim: Absolutely. For sure. 

Nicole: Yeah. So all that. And then when you have a really big, celebrate the hard work that people are doing. So good. I love Tim Creasey. I know you do too. Maybe he’ll come back and play with us again in the future. Thank you so much for being on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast.

Tim: It was an honor. Thank you so much, Nicole. Yeah, we’ll definitely be back.

Nicole: All right, fantastic.

Voiceover: Ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with their strategies, systems and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email And be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

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