When to Develop Individual Change Capability
Organizations frequently wait too long before they tell their employees about proposed changes; so most people find out through the grapevine. Leaders often feel that if they tell people too soon they will lose productivity and divert attention from the task at hand. That is a mistake.

First, people are already diverted by the uncertainty about what will happen. Second, those affected by change need time to prepare themselves for the new ways and support to make it happen.  Third, by not actively engaging key stakeholders in the organization leaders fail to surface the organizations capability to change.

While the specific nature of some organizational changes may not yet be clear, the general direction and major assumptions are often known.  The sooner people begin to prepare, the more ready they will be to change how they think, work, and behave.

Change Demands New Skills Mindsets and Ways of Seeing Work
Employees need more than commitment to succeed at change.  They need help to understand the new expectations and how to assess their own ability and desire to work in new ways.  Reaction to change is often determined by fear of the unknown, lack of preparation for change, and inadequate skills for managing change.  For most, dealing with change is not a natural skill.

Current ways of thinking and working are deeply ingrained and heavily reinforced by existing systems and structures.  It is the employees who have to make the change successful.  But employees often do not know how to do the job in a new and whether it makes sense to engage, resist, stay, or leave.

Employees Need to Share Responsibility for Change
Often employees feel that change is not their problem; change is only the responsibility of the top leaders or of a change leadership team.  If people act like the leaders will take care of them, they will not take the responsibility, initiative, or develop a real commitment to self-development during the change process.

Employees also tend to focus narrowly on their own specific area of responsibility which can limit their ability to see the overall need and direction for change.  But when there is a major change effort, every employee has to develop a broader and more strategic big picture view of where the organization is why.

8 Guiding Principles to Develop Individual Change Capability

  1. Engage the Human Factors, the Emotional Side of Change
    Change can be upsetting, disorienting, and difficult.  People need explicit support and help to move through their denial and resistance to change before they can become a meaningful part of a change initiative.  Be willing to invest resources to support employees through the change process.
  2. The Quicker the Change Process is Initiated, the Quicker the Change Can Take Place
    Changing attitudes, engaging people, and building the new workplace take a considerable amount of time.  The earlier you address these issues, the quicker you’ll be able to implement change and obtain the desired results.  It is never too early to begin to engage the workforce in the needed changes.
  3. The Use of Repeatable Models and Common Language Makes It Easier to Constructively Discuss Change
    Putting everyone through the same change kickoff, orientation, and program enables all employees, managers, and stakeholders to speak about the change in the same terms, gives them with a shared experience they can fall back on, and provides a framework for holding discussions and addressing concerns.
  4. Leaders Need to be Visible at the Earliest Phases of Change
    Employees are used to seeing what leaders do and what they reward – especially if they conflict with what is being espoused.  Employees need change management training and reinforcement in new ways to work.  The organizational reward and management systems have to work differently in order to get employees to behave differently.
  5. Honesty and Candor Build Trust
    People see through unrealistic forecasts, contradictory statements, and corporate visions that do not reflect what is possible.  A lack of transparency only damages credibility and hinders the development of a coalition for change.  Honesty, even if difficult, allows for a shared basis of respect and sets the stage for candid dialogue.
  6. Create Several Successive Change Awareness Events
    Commitment to change is a process that moves through several phases and activities and involves many people.  Several successive change events throughout the organization are necessary to build commitment and a realistic understanding of what is to come.
  7. Since New Possibilities Propel Change, Stakeholders Should Challenge Conventional and Prevailing Wisdom
    Change is better, deeper, and faster when employers are excited about what their organization can be, not just what it has to do.  Allow stakeholders to make the changes personal, meaningful, and worthwhile to them, their teams, and the company as a whole.
  8. You Need to Change Both Mindsets and Behavior for Change to Achieve Its Potential
    Individuals need to develop a new set of thoughts and mindsets about work and the sets of skills and capabilities to put those thoughts into action.  Recruitment, new hire orientation,  and performance management processes must be adjusted to emphasize the new skills and mindsets.

    It is difficult to help people shift their mindset until you demonstrate how and why their tasks are shifting.  Experiential learning is the fastest way to acquire new skills.

The Bottom Line
Just as a change champions need to learn about change, employees need education and preparation to be an integral and engaged part of the change process.  If employees are treated as passive recipients, waiting to be told what to do, they will not be real partners in change.  Are you investing enough to develop individual change capability?

To learn more about successful change at work, download How to Mobilize, Design and Transform Your Change Initiative 

For most organizations today, teams are how most work gets done. Knowing how to build a great team at work is a critical skill. Work teams are the machinery that produce value; the better “oiled” they are, the higher the performance.  While great teamwork can increase performance, teams can also create additional stress, conflict, and coordination costs.

Great Teams Outperform 10x Better
Great teams at work do not just happen.  Great teams need to be purposefully designed, thoughtfully maintained, and consistently realigned as business priorities change. Great teams accomplish their goals faster, with better results, and more reliably over time.

A study at Yale found that the performance level between a working group of employees versus a great team is higher by a factor of ten. Clearly, a critical skill that should be part of every new manager training program should be knowing how to build a great team at work.

5 Elements of a Great Team at Work
Granted, every manager has their own personality and style and must work within their company’s strategy and culture as they assess and build their high performance team. But here are some constants that can be found in every high performing team. These are the five building blocks that form the foundation of that rare but achievable great team at work:

  1. Purpose, Roles & Responsibilities
    Our organizational alignment research found that team clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing teams. If you want to create a great team at work, start by clearly articulating the reason the team exists, why was it formed in the first place, and who is responsible for what.

    Unless each member of the team can describe in a concise sentence or two the rationale for the team, its purpose within the scope of the business, and how their role contributes to overall success, the team will lack the kind of focus that consistently lifts performance.

  2. The Definition of High Performance
    Great teams are characterized by individuals who do not settle for “good enough.” Each member strives to do their very best and continuously improve. When you are on a team where excellence is the bar, there is a definite energy that boosts the level of everyone’s contribution.

    Make sure that your team clearly defines and agrees upon what would constitute high performance – not just normal performance – for each individual and the team as a whole.  Then agree upon how high performance should be measured and monitored.

  3. Complementary Skills & Attributes
    Not only does a great team have to have all the capabilities required to do the job, but they also must mesh well together. Each team member should understand how their work contributes to the whole effort and how the team’s skills are interdependent.

    And because today’s work teams are far more diverse, dispersed, and fluid, the team mix, approach, and size need to be continuously reviewed, optimized, and improved to promote engagement and play to people’s strengths.

  4. Trust of Character & Competence
    One of the most critical building blocks of a great team is trust – trust that the team leader has the ability, will, and resources to get the job done; trust that the team leader will provide whatever support is necessary; trust that each member will do their part.

    Remember that team trust can be given, earned, and broken. Great teams trust that team members will follow through, have solid judgement and discretion, have each other’s back, respect the psychological safety of each other, and are doing the right things for the right reasons.

    How does your team trust stack up?

  5. Transparency & Accountability
    And the final element is transparency. Teams that hold secrets from one another and who do not know where they stand have lost trust and accountability. Team members want and need to know how the team is progressing toward targets and where they may need to adjust plans to meet targets.

    Just make sure that increased transparency and accountability is balanced by the right levels of psychological safety, trust, empowerment, and collaboration.

The Bottom Line
A great team is a beautiful thing to watch and to be a part of. As a new manager, check your team against the five necessary elements above. Are you creating the environment required to help your team to thrive?

To learn more about how to build a great team at work, download 6 Ways to Foster Better Project Team Collaboration

A New Challenge
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a whole new challenge for companies – how to engage employees in challenging times. Businesses need to learn how to keep their employees engaged when they are no longer at their regular work sites and their corporate lives have been turned upside down.

Employees are understandably concerned about the health and safety of themselves and their families. They are under extra pressure as they work at home while often juggling extra parental and household duties. The future is uncertain in terms of when they can get back to work as they once knew it. And if it will never be the same again, they wonder what the new formulation will be like and where they will fit in.

The Good News
The good news is that most companies were thoughtful about addressing the basic safety, stability, and security needs of employees during the first phase of the pandemic.  According to a recent McKinsey survey, 78% of employees believe that their organization reacted appropriately to the crisis. It is quite remarkable how urgency and clarity can create high performance.

The Challenge
The future is uncertain, the vast majority of employees’ daily work lives has been materially affected in the last few months, and people have widely varied experiences and perspectives about their employee experience.

The Opportunity
The crisis has opened the door for companies to strategically rethink the employee experience to better align with shifting people and business priorities.  Company leaders can support their employees and keep them engaged during these times of stress and uncertainty by continuing to focus, actively involving stakeholders, taking decisive action, being employee-centric, and creating transparency.

In Terms of Support
The most important way to show your support is to keep in touch, listen to what your employees are struggling with, and do what you can to help.

Securing Ongoing Engagement

The Bottom Line
Fully engaging employees is a challenge in the best of times. Now as we transition out of shelter-in-place orders, are your employees feeling valued and ready to come back?

To learn more about how to engage employees in challenging times, download The Top 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Employee Engagement


Does Selling as a Competitive Advantage Make Sense for Your Company?
Perhaps the most powerful attribute of a good strategic plan is how the company plans to distinguish itself from the competition in a way that is not easily replaced or replicated.  With the pace of change and disruption today, it is certainly not easy to get ahead and clearly differentiate yourself.

For those struggling with how to stand apart from the pack, the encouraging news is that Gartner Research reports that over 50 percent of customer loyalty is driven by how you sell – more than the impact of your brand, product, service, and price combined.   Wow.

The even better news is that how you sell (your sales experience) is the one thing your company can still design, improve, measure, and control in a way that is difficult to replicate or replace. This creates a wonderful opportunity for sales driven companies to use selling as a formidable competitive advantage for growth and profitability.

The Sales Challenge
Let’s start with the current state of sales.  Even though U.S. companies report spending over $15 billion each year on sales training, most sales reps are struggling.  A recent Selling Power survey found that only:

Combine that with the sobering fact that buyers report that over three-quarters of solution sellers do not clearly understand their key issues, are unclear how they can add meaningful value, and are not well prepared to answer questions or to share relevant case studies to substantiate what sets them apart.

That sounds like a wonderful untapped opportunity to strategically invest in selling as a competitive advantage that is hard to replace or replicate.

Steps to Use Selling as a Competitive Advantage

  1. Create Strategic Sales Clarity
    It is almost impossible to use selling as a competitive advantage if the very essence of your sales strategy is not clear enough, not believable enough, or not implementable enough in the eyes of your leadership or sales team. It is hard enough to change sales skills and behaviors.  It is almost impossible if everyone is not on the same page in terms of target clients, value proposition, and the critical few strategies to meet you objectives.

    Is your sales strategy clear enough?

  2. Design a Healthy, High Performing, and Aligned Sales Culture
    Think of your sales culture as how sales-related things really get done – the way salespeople think, behave, and act. Our organizational alignment research found cultural factors account for up to 40% of the difference between high- and low-growth companies.

    Before you embark on sales skills or sales product training, first make sure that your sales team is healthy and engaged enough to want to take their performance to the next level.  Then make sure that the way your sales team measures, communicates, and rewards performance is fair, accurate, meaningful, and aligned.  Lastly make sure that the way your sales and service teams treat customers, make decisions, view risk, create loyalty, go to market, and get results aligns with your business and sales growth strategy.

    Is your sales culture helping or hindering your growth strategy?

  3. Teach Your Sales Team How to Sell Solutions
    Product sales is about the features and benefits – what your product does, how it is built, and how it compares to alternatives in the marketplace. Solution sales is about how your organization’s capabilities solve a pressing customer problem or achieve an important customer strategic objective better, faster, or cheaper than the alternatives.

    If you want use selling as a competitive advantage your sales team must have the experience, knowledge, attitude, and business acumen to:

    Identify what matters most to your target buyers.

    Link your offering to their most pressing needs.

    Articulate how you can help them to succeed better than anyone else in a way they can understand.

    Can your sales team consistently position and sell complex solutions to your target buyers in a way that makes sense?

  4. Model, Reward, and Reinforce the New Sales Skills and Behaviors
    Based upon over 800 sales training measurement projects, we know that sales training without the proper reinforcement only changes the behavior of 1-in-5 sales reps. To ensure that new sales knowledge, skills, and attitudes transfer to the job, you must invest in:

    Sales Support Resources – Make sure your sales teams have the necessary time, information, tools, technology, supporting sales processes, and structures to sell in a differentiated way.

    Sales Reinforcement – Make sure you provide and align sales success metrics, incentives, consequences and recognition with the newly desired sales skills and behaviors.

    Sales Coaching – Our research shows that sales reps who receive frequent sales coaching outperform their peers 4-to-1.  Invest in sales coaching if you do not want your sales training investment to waste away.

The Bottom Line
In a buyer-driven world, sales organizations need to adapt and sell differently if they want to remain relevant.  But if you truly want your team to sell in a way that differentiates you from the competition, you and your team must align your sales strategy, culture, and talent in a way that sets you apart from the pack.

To learn more about how to use selling as a competitive advantage, download Unique Value Proposition – Are You Setting Yourself Apart from the Competition?

It is Not Easy to Design Corporate Training that Works
In the 1970s, the ADDIE model for instructional development was the standard. The acronym stood and advocated for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation in that order.

But not all of us think, work, learn, or behave in a linear fashion like this very structured model. In fact, one of our most experienced and successful instructional designers combines divergent and convergent thinking with engineering and a more artistic workflow. It is much better aligned to his creative process and has helped many instructional designers to design corporate training that is effective.

Here’s How It Works
He uses the metaphor of sitting in front of four shoe boxes labeled objectives, activities, content, and performance test items. As he designs a learning solution and thinks of potential ideas, he writes them down and categorizes them in the appropriate box. Sometimes he comes up with lots of content. Sometimes, he generates several ideas for experiential training activities. This is his divergent thinking phase.

From time to time, he balances the divergent thinking sprees with disciplined convergent alignment activities. He makes sure that for every index card in one shoe box, there are corresponding index cards in the other boxes.

An Example in His Own Words
This example shows how he fills the boxes labeled Objectives, Activities, Content and Test Items to end up with a training design that is both innovative and effective.

“I am currently designing a training package on conflict management. During a recent flight to Denver, I read an article about the differences in the way men and women communicate. I wrote down the content topic of gender differences in conflict resolution on one of my mental index cards and threw it in my content shoe box.

Later, I pored over a copy of Deborah Tannen’s book, went on a Google rampage, talked to a few researchers, and came up with a checklist on how to use appropriate communication strategies when managing a conflict with a person of the other gender. After I got my content shoe box overflowing, I looped back to fill the other boxes.”

Training Objective
“The content suggested a training objective: Adapt to the differences in conflict-management patterns between men and women. This suggested a role play exercise as a training activity.”

Training Activity
“Two people role play the same conflict scenario in three different ways: both as men, both as women, and one as a man and the other as a woman. I also came up with the idea for a final test.”

“Another role play with a new scenario to be scored with an objective rating scale.”

The Process
Start with any one of the four components (objective, content, activity, and test item) and pursue the idea to wherever it leads you. From time to time, stop meandering around and align what you have in the shoe boxes either by creating suitable items for the other boxes or by throwing some unaligned items out.

The Principle
Aligning the four components of a training package is a powerful instructional design principle that has been clearly articulated by educators, trainers, and designers. Your creative design efforts don’t have to reflect the final structure of the training package. Go wherever you want but remember to line things up from time to time. And when you are ready to hand over your training package to your client, other trainers, or participants in your workshop, make sure that the structure of your training is saliently displayed.

The Bottom Line
There isn’t just one way to design training that works. But you do need to cover all the bases in the end, and the instructional design components need to work together. Gather your inspirations for content, activities and tests and align them so they meet clear business and learning objectives. Ready, set, go!

To learn more about how to design corporate training that works, download The Top Better, Faster, and Cheaper Instructional Design Tips

Time to Assess and Rethink How Work Gets Done – Is Your Culture Helping or Hindering Your Strategy?
There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the world and the way we operate as individuals, as businesses, as countries. To slow down the spread of the virus, a global shift was required in the way we think, behave, and live our lives.

While we are still awaiting a vaccine, it is hard to tell what the new normal will look like. But we can be sure that there will be changes. The question is just how deeply and widely those changes will impact our way of life. What we do know is that now is the time to assess and rethink how we want our ways of thinking, behaving, living, and working to evolve and improve. We are likely to have to change both our strategy and our culture.

Culture in the Corporate World
We think of corporate culture as a company’s collective values, beliefs, and behaviors. Once considered the “soft” side of employee life, company culture is generally acknowledged to be a significant factor in long-term business success.

Culture and Strategy Work Hand in Hand
As corporate strategies and operations are redesigned to accommodate the new normal of business, organizational culture must also adjust. Why?  Because your strategies and plans must go through your people and culture to be successfully implemented.

Any misalignment between your strategy and your culture will derail the best laid plans.  One cannot work without being aligned with the other. People need to adopt new behaviors and ways of working that align with the desired changes.

4 Ways to Achieve a Shift in Corporate Culture
Cultural transformations are not at all easy to achieve. But there are four actions business leaders can take now to prepare as the corona crisis wanes.

  1. Understand Your Current Workplace Culture
    Assess your current workplace culture. Where are the trouble spots? What aspects of your culture are most likely to help or hinder organizational health, high performance, or strategy execution?

    Some answers may lie in the lack of transparency, a disconnect between stated company values and how leaders actually behave, a lack of trust, too many layers required to make decisions, or misalignment across ten key strategic dimensions of culture.

  2. Agree Upon Your Desired Workplace Culture
    Once you understand your current culture, your next step is to clearly articulate your desired organizational culture in terms of health, performance, and strategic alignment.  While we believe that both leaders and employees should own the culture of their organization, we also believe that the same people responsible for designing the company strategy should be responsible for defining the desired culture to best execute that strategy.
  3. Prioritize the Cultural Shifts that Matters Most
    Once you understand your current culture and have defined your desired culture, your next step is to prioritize the critical few cultural shifts required to better align your culture with your strategy.  Cultural shifts are not easy.  Pare down the list to the one or two big moves that will have the biggest impact.
  4. Prepare People Leaders
    Once the culture shifts have been agreed upon, the next step is to prepare people leaders with the tools and practices to connect the What (Strategy) and How (Culture) for their teams.  The more you can actively involve employees affected by the changes in the design of the solution, the better.

The Bottom Line
Business leaders are responsible for not only navigating a crisis, but also for preparing for the end of a crisis. Companies that are ready to meet the challenge of shifting strategy and ensuring cultural consistency are the companies that will succeed as the world opens up again. Are you doing all you can to align your employees’ behaviors with your new strategic direction?

To learn more about whether your culture is helping or hindering your strategy, download The 3 Research-Backed Levels of Corporate Culture that You Must Get Right to Thrive

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