ACMP Global Conference: Reaching Heads, Hands and Hearts

This week, I had the pleasure of attending the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP)’s global conference in New Orleans and presenting on Best Practices in Change Communications.

The conference featured an impressive line-up of some of the world’s leading experts in the field of organizational change, covering a broad spectrum of topics and perspectives. What stood out for me was the theme of moving beyond changing mindsets and behaviours and actually reaching our stakeholders on an emotional level.

Lisa McLeod kicked off the call for moving beyond the basics and connecting to emotions in her excellent opening keynote Leading With Noble Purpose. She made the point that for too long, businesses have wanted to “keep emotions out of it” and stick to logic and facts – a mistake that has cost organizations the opportunity of harnessing the power of employees’ true sense of purpose, meaning and value.

Michael Bohnert, Director of Change Excellence for BASF Management Consulting offered a thought-provoking workshop on post-merger integrations. The session focused on a specific recent acquisition by BASF, which was used as a springboard to explore the challenges of integrating dramatically different cultures to align processes and performance.

Bohnert presented a very thoughtful, principles-based approach which at its core focused on treating the emotional dimensions of agency and psychological safety with care.

Monika Alder of Great West LifeCo. led a thought-provoking discussion of how practitioners can articulate the value creation of organizational change management. By presenting various standard measurement frameworks used in business and performance measurement, Monika put a spotlight on the challenge of capturing the invisible value of the work of change – the kind of impact that is often felt on an emotive plane, beyond the empirical or activity-based metrics that so often seduce us into a false sense of results expressed by what’s easy to measure rather than what really counts.

The conference wrapped up with a terrific keynote close by Simon Sinek. The talk presented some of Simon’s most recent work, using game theory as a model to understand organizational dynamics and performance.

Simon encouraged us to explore the difference between playing a finite game based on limited players and rules, and an infinite game – such as the game of business. The core idea of his presentation was that too often, leaders are stuck in playing a finite game, focused on the “what” and measuring tangible results that are easy to measure. Instead, he suggests that true value is found at the infinite game level focused on the “why” and the intangible domain of values and purpose.

Sinek’s Model of Game Theory  

The keynote was a call for change practitioners to capitalize on our opportunity to speak truth to power, and challenge the limiting thinking of playing the finite game. Simon encouraged us to work with leaders to connect to the sense of purpose and value of organizations, playing the long game that matters rather than the short game of quarterly results and twitchy decision-making.

He concluded with the following advice: “The goal is not to win every battle, the goal is to outlast. If you want a stable company, you have to have a strong culture with people who want to stay and will stick through the tough times… where employees will give you their blood sweat and tears. That requires knowing what game you’re in so that you can play by the right rules.”

An inspiring close to a thoroughly energizing conference.