Product Thinking
Facilitating Culture Change with Douglas Ferguson
February 16, 2022
Melissa Perri welcomes Douglas Ferguson on this episode of the Product Thinking Podcast. Douglas is the President and Founder of Voltage Control, a change agency focused on helping teams implement new approaches to old systems. He joins Melissa to talk about the realities and challenges of influencing corporate culture, and shares his wisdom on how and where to start your own process of change at your organization.  Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Douglas talk about: Before getting started with any change initiative, companies should sit down and assess where they are in their change journey. Douglas always starts with the people - those who are on board with change, and the ones who are opposed to it. When you can identify who the key players are, you can tailor your approach to the specific climate of the company. [3:30] Leaders need to ask themselves what kind of change they want to see in their organizations. Identify the most important change that you want to see, and focus there. Oftentimes leaders get distracted by changes that are alluring, instead of focusing on the smaller changes that are right in front of them. Focusing on the key outcomes the change is going to drive for the organization is far more important. [5:55] "It's healthy to step back and even just look at why am I trying to do this culture change," Douglas tells Melissa. He adds that exploring the purpose of change can lead to some epiphanies about what can be done during a particular timeline, and what could not be done. [9:34] When it comes to the detractors in the organization, it's better to understand that they operate on a spectrum. There will be individuals who oppose your suggestions simply because it's personal, but there are also the passive detractors. The passive detractors are neutral and are more skeptical. However, it is possible to bring them around to the changes you want to implement. They simply need a bit more detail and convincing but once they get it, they will become advocates for you. [14:45] It is a lot harder to tell if an executive is committed to change, if you're an individual inside the organization. Consultants that are brought in are usually able to tell from the start. Douglas gives some practical tips on how employees can gauge how committed their employers and leaders are to change. He also shares some questions employees can ask. [17:35] Team level product managers are capable of making change impacts in their organizations. Anyone, no matter where they are in the company, can make a change. Douglas illustrates this using points from the book "Start Within," that he co-authored with Karen Host. If you feel passionate enough about making a change in your company, just do it. [21:31] Breaking through the mentality of 'We can't do this; it's not allowed' at organizations starts with inquiry. Start asking provocative questions about why certain processes aren't performed in the organization. [25:45] Douglas gives tips on what product managers and designers can do to challenge regulations that hinder them from productivity and innovation. One such tip is to befriend the legal department. [29:11] Figure out strategy before you decide to implement change. Douglas and Melissa touch on OKRs and its role as a strategy deployment tool. "OKRs is a strategy deployment technique but if there's no strategy how are you going to deploy it," Melissa says. [35:58] Douglas cautions against putting together a perfect vision of how you think the world should be when giving presentations. "You're not changing, you're not adapting, you're not verifying assumptions that you have about the organization or about how things could work," he says. Be willing to change, be willing to listen and tweak your vision as you go along, and you and the business will be a lot happier for it. [38:33] Resources Douglas Ferguson | LinkedIn | Twitter Voltage Control
Melissa Perri welcomes Douglas Ferguson on this episode of the Product Thinking Podcast. Douglas is the President and Founder of Voltage Control, a change agency focused on helping teams implement new approaches to old systems. He joins Melissa to talk about the realities and challenges of influencing corporate culture, and shares his wisdom on how and where to start your own process of change at your organization.  Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Douglas talk about: Before getting started with any change initiative, companies should sit down and assess where they are in their change journey. Douglas always starts with the people - those who are on board with change, and the ones who are opposed to it. When you can identify who the key players are, you can tailor your approach to the specific climate of the company. [3:30] Leaders need to ask themselves what kind of change they want to see in their organizations. Identify the most important change that you want to see, and focus there. Oftentimes leaders get distracted by changes that are alluring, instead of focusing on the smaller changes that are right in front of them. Focusing on the key outcomes the change is going to drive for the organization is far more important. [5:55] "It's healthy to step back and even just look at why am I trying to do this culture change," Douglas tells Melissa. He adds that exploring the purpose of change can lead to some epiphanies about what can be done during a particular timeline, and what could not be done. [9:34] When it comes to the detractors in the organization, it's better to understand that they operate on a spectrum. There will be individuals who oppose your suggestions simply because it's personal, but there are also the passive detractors. The passive detractors are neutral and are more skeptical. However, it is possible to bring them around to the changes you want to implement. They simply need a bit more detail and convincing but once they get it, they will become advocates for you. [14:45] It is a lot harder to tell if an executive is committed to change, if you're an individual inside the organization. Consultants that are brought in are usually able to tell from the start. Douglas gives some practical tips on how employees can gauge how committed their employers and leaders are to change. He also shares some questions employees can ask. [17:35] Team level product managers are capable of making change impacts in their organizations. Anyone, no matter where they are in the company, can make a change. Douglas illustrates this using points from the book "Start Within," that he co-authored with Karen Host. If you feel passionate enough about making a change in your company, just do it. [21:31] Breaking through the mentality of 'We can't do this; it's not allowed' at organizations starts with inquiry. Start asking provocative questions about why certain processes aren't performed in the organization. [25:45] Douglas gives tips on what product managers and designers can do to challenge regulations that hinder them from productivity and innovation. One such tip is to befriend the legal department. [29:11] Figure out strategy before you decide to implement change. Douglas and Melissa touch on OKRs and its role as a strategy deployment tool. "OKRs is a strategy deployment technique but if there's no strategy how are you going to deploy it," Melissa says. [35:58] Douglas cautions against putting together a perfect vision of how you think the world should be when giving presentations. "You're not changing, you're not adapting, you're not verifying assumptions that you have about the organization or about how things could work," he says. Be willing to change, be willing to listen and tweak your vision as you go along, and you and the business will be a lot happier for it. [38:33] Resources Douglas Ferguson | LinkedIn | Twitter Voltage Control

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