The North Highland Portland office recently sponsored the Pacific Northwest Network ACMP Change Connect 4 Symposium and I had a chance to attend along with David Fisher and Dannielle Lowe from the Portland office. The theme of the conference was “The Art and Science of Change” and explored hot topics such as gamification, design thinking and agile change. The conference was held at the Portland Art Museum, a perfect venue to get us all into a creative frame of mind.
The conference planners stretched us outside of our comfort zones and challenged us to think about change management through both art and science lenses. For example, we attended small group sessions in the galleries of the Portland Art Museum that explored the role of art in societal change and related those learnings back to the role of change management in business. My group toured the impressionist gallery where we learned about Claude Monet’s devastation over both the death of his wife and the industrial revolution’s massive factories ruining his favorite idyllic painting settings. Monet drastically changed the subjects and colors of his paintings and ultimately produced his most famous series of work, the water lily paintings, during this time of grief and transition. This sparked some interesting dialogue on how we can challenge our clients to shift their frame of reference and respond with resilience in times of change.
Another creative session that challenged us to think through a more scientific lens explored the link between neuroscience and behavioral change. NW Noggin (www.nwnoggin.org), an organization that brings scientists and artists together to provide educational experiences about the brain, made an appearance and even brought six human brains that we could see and feel – definitely outside of my comfort zone! Their presentation focused on how certain physiological features of the brain make it very difficult for people to change their behaviors. We, as change managers, need to take into account this neurological constraint and be empathetic towards our change constituents while building our change management plans.
No change management conference would be complete without an appearance by Prosci, and they packed a lot of valuable hints and tricks into their short, 30 minute presentation. The best pearl of wisdom I took away from their session was how to solve the “sponsor paradox.” The sponsor paradox outlines the concept that although project sponsors are proven to be critical components of a change effort (72% of projects with extremely effective sponsorship met project objectives, vs. 29% of projects with ineffective sponsorship), only 1 in 5 change managers formally evaluate their project sponsors. This makes sense – who wants deliver critical feedback to the person engaging them? However, Prosci has found that offering your sponsor a self-evaluation tool and then coaching them through their self-diagnosed areas for improvement can effectively improve their sponsorship, while providing a much more comfortable way to give him or her feedback. This is a real world tip that I am definitely going to bring to my next change engagement.
Overall, the conference offered me a day and a half of valuable white space during which I learned some new tools and techniques and got to engage with industry thought leaders in many different disciplines. The art and science theme of the conference gave me a creative boost, encouraging me to take a step back and think differently about my day-to-day work. I have no doubt that the things I learned will benefit my client engagements in the year to come.