Elise Olding

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Elise Olding
Research Director
6 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Elise Olding is a research director in Gartner's Program and Portfolio Management (PPM) group. Ms. Olding provides research on a worldwide basis, advising clients on BPM implementation practices. Read Full Bio

Change Resistance is a Myth!

by Elise Olding  |  April 9, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

Yes, that’s right! I believe change resistance is a myth. It’s an easy way for those leading change to blame the organization for not changing. I’m going to suggest that as a change agent, the buck stops with you. To be effective with “Big Change” you will need to be adept at influencing change and make this #BPMshift. If your organization isn’t changing – examine your tactics.

If you gave someone in your organization 10 years of salary, do you think they would change? When an employee gets married, has a baby or moves – do they change? Of course they do! We are confronted with changes all the time, and regularly adapt to embrace them. Research points to neuroplasticity well into our adult years. As human beings we are built for change and will change!

I’d like to assert that “change resistance” is the by-product of two things:

  • A lack of choice
  • A fear of the unknown

People aren’t resistant to change, they are afraid of the unknown and not having a choice. Play with these two levers in your organizational change activities and you can begin to crack the change code.

Choice:  In the examples above – getting married, moving, etc., these events involved some element of choice. (Well hopefully!) The individual is an active participant and makes choices about how things are done and when. Create points of engagement and inject the opportunity for those involved in the change to have input about how things will get done.

Fear of the Unknown: We fear what we don’t understand. It feels “safer” to stay in a place that is uncomfortable, than to move towards an unknown state. Increasing the certainty of what the end-state looks like can decrease this fear. It’s not necessary to get into all the details, but frame the journey from where people are today to where they will be tomorrow. Tell a story about what tomorrow will “feel” like as an employee.

Some Ways to Start

Do a Pilot: Rather than a big bang change, start small by doing a pilot. Initiate the pilot in an outlying group – outside of corporate or in another country. Once you have some successes, share these. The success stories can help to increase certainty that this change can really happen.

Make Participation Optional:
Don’t mandate change, invite employees to participate. This gives them a choice. Leverage the early adopters to “encourage” the laggards to get on board. Peer pressure is very persuasive as is competition – particularly in the ranks of business leaders. Use these liberally.

Paint a Picture of the Future:
Create a story about what work life will be like in the future. What will be the “employee experience” – that is, how will it feel to come to work, to accomplish outcomes, etc.?

What Changes from Today:
Create a “From/To” diagram. What are the five defining attributes of how things works today and what are five defining attributes of how they will work in the future. This helps frame the change journey, again giving more certainty about the future. It also gives enables employees to assess where they are in relation to each change pair and create an action plan for them to make the changes.

These are just a few of my ideas and future research will cover some of these topics in more detail. What are your tactics? What #BPMshift will be needed to enable our organizations to deal with the increased pace of change? Please share!

Follow me on Twitter @eliseolding

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Category: BPM employee engagement Gartner Organizational Change     Tags: , , ,

Introducing BPM Shift – BPM is Dead, Long Live Big Change!

by Elise Olding  |  April 2, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

At Gartner we believe that BPM practices as we know them won’t cut it in the future. Tinkering for efficiency has run its course. Digitalization and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just a few of the disruptions that will require RADICALLY rethinking work. Companies that didn’t exist 10 years ago have massive market capitalization. The pace of change is increasing and our BPM practices aren’t evolving at the same pace. We must jump the chasm or perish. We need a shift. At Gartner we call this “BPM Shift” and it is part of our emerging Business Transformation agenda entitled “Big Change.”

Our working definition is:

  • Big Change involves significantly altering ongoing operations in a high risk environment characterized by elevated volatility, ambiguity, disparity/diversity and novelty/scope.

What are some concepts that will frame the shift? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • There is no longer a front and back office – all of your enterprise is the front office
  • Every employee is customer facing
  • Hierarchy will fall to the wayside – emerging organizational structures like holocracy will replace traditional org structures
  • Our view of end-to-end processes will be obliterated – order to cash will not exist
  • Behavioral analysis will replace process analysis

Your Turn – Calling for Participation

Today we are launching via Twitter and our Gartner BPM LinkedIn Group an open brainstorming invitation. What #bigshift do you envision? What are your thoughts?

To participate on Twitter – use the hashtag #BPMShift 
To participate on our LinkedIn group click here or find “Gartner Business Process Management (XChange) under Groups. (OK, and yes, the name does need to change!)
Please also comment via this blog.

Let’s invent! We want to hear your radical ideas and scathing comments!

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Category: BPM digitalization employee engagement Organizational Change process improvement     Tags: , , ,

Distractions: The Next Stop for BPM

by Elise Olding  |  December 10, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

For decades process improvement has focused on efficiency. The thing about efficiency is it is finite. What’s next? I think identifying and removing distractions.

In a digital world, the process model is dead and will inhibit capitalizing on “business moments.” Gartner describes these as “competition that appears from nowhere, disrupts, disappears, or transforms.” A focus on increasing creativity, harnessing innovation and capturing business moments will require a different approach.

Might we be spending more time at work being distracted from what we need to do than actually accomplishing what we set out to do? Even if distractions erode 20% of a workday, this comes up to a lot of brain power left on the table. Jackie Fenn and I completed a Gartner Maverick Research project. Some interesting research we found suggests that in general, we focus on a task for three minutes before being distracted. It then takes more than 20 minutes to get back to that task. (Gartner clients see Maverick* Research: Living and Leading in the Brain-Aware Enterprise )

This will definitely require rethinking BPM techniques. A process model won’t identify distractions. A forward thinking healthcare provider used co-creation and observation (e.g. following people around) to understand what happens when nurses distribute medication. Nurses were interrupted many, many times on their way to distribute medicine to a patient. Sometimes this resulted in giving the wrong medication to a patient. Working with the nurses to brainstorm solutions, a “do not disturb vest” was identified as the solution. The nurses now don the vest when distributing medications.

We need a “do not disturb” mode for many activities in our daily work – from making strategic decisions to solving a customer problem. A number of organizations are starting groundswell movements to help focus and let other employees understand what a co-worker is trying to accomplish during the day. This can help mitigate interruptions. What can you do?  Some ideas:

  • Stop accepting a solution and doggedly seek the root cause. Do not just automate paper intensive work without challenging why it’s needed. Challenge if standardization is what is needed – is the process brittle or adaptable? Is the process broken because those doing it can’t focus on getting the work done because they are being constantly interrupted?
  • Get outside the process model – literally. Go and hang out with the employees in the area you are tackling. If you are helping to redesign sales, go on sales visits, help input information and do administrative paperwork. Observe how many times a salesperson is pulled in multiple directions and distracted away from what they were trying to do? What errors occur from these distractions? What useful information is not recorded or lost because of limited time? Assess how many distractions are interfering with optimal performance and ask the salesperson what are the distractions. How much time is an employee spending “doing their job” vs. time addressing email, IM interruptions, etc.
  • Don’t try to “fix” things until you have a good understanding of the bigger picture. (I’m not saying don’t make things better, but don’t make something that’s useless easier to do!) Look at the other factors that may invisibly influence how the work is done – the wrong metrics, lack of accountability, fractured decision making, etc. Align the work that is being done with the outcomes.
  • Can work processes be redesigned to let others know that an employee is focused on a task and should not be disturbed?

Your thoughts? Anyone looking into this now and want to share?

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Category: BPM Gartner Organizational Change     Tags: ,

Is Using Jargon Hindering Your Communication?

by Elise Olding  |  November 21, 2013  |  1 Comment

A big barrier to communication is using language that you are familiar with but may not mean anything to your intended audience. It’s easy to fall into this trap, whether it’s the dreaded TLA’s (three letter acronyms) or technical IT terminology. Whatever the source, it makes for a one-directional conversation and often one that ultimately causes the receivers to shut down and tune out. It makes communications complicated, can leave the receiver feeling foolish because they don’t understand and may be afraid to ask for clarification. All this leads to a “threat” response – not at all the purpose of communication.

A client called today to discuss how to move a business transformation forward. They were challenged with reaching their stakeholders and getting adoption. Given it was a technical implementation it was loaded with jargon and acronyms.  There was a big “AHA” here – on both our parts! Sometimes for me it takes an interaction to realize there is a nugget of value in there, so thought I would share.

So what can you do?  Here are a few tips:

  1.  Jargon check your communication. Look for acronyms and technical language that you may be comfortable with, but your receiver may not. Try it out on someone you trust who will give you feedback.
  2. Step back.  Rather than telling your recipient about what you are going to do, start the conversation with what are their challenges? Create a conversation hook from the start. Let them lead and answer their questions.
  3. Frame your conversation from the business outcome perspective.  How can what you will be doing help them achieve their goals and address their challenges? And…do you even know what those challenges are?

And…the definition of jargon is “gobbledygook” and “nonsense” – so it merits taking time to either remove it or get your concept across in plain, understandable language.

What other tips do you have? How do you “jargon check” your communications? Love to hear from you.


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Category: Communication employee engagement Gartner Organizational Change     Tags:

Brain Awareness Will Be Essential to the Enterprise of the Future

by Elise Olding  |  October 3, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

Would you be OK with your neurologist surfing the Internet and responding to email while doing surgery on your brain? So why is that behavior the norm in important executive meetings that determine the future of a company?

Beliefs about how we work, and when we work, are being shattered by cognitive neuroscience research. Enterprises that understand the limits and needs of the most valuable and underutilized asset in their organizations — the brain power of employees — will capture a competitive advantage. Profits will follow. The brain-aware enterprise will structure work, configure office space and take into account the holistic needs of employees. It will recognize the many factors that cause unwarranted stress in the organization, decrease cognitive functioning and reduce employee performance.

The path toward a brain-aware enterprise has started with sessions at The World Economic Forum at Davos, and through initiatives at organizations such as Intel, Google, Facebook and NASA that will soon spread to other organizations around the globe.

This Gartner Maverick research was conducted by Jackie Fenn and me. It takes a peek into the future of a company that has based its culture and leadership around brain awareness. It then examines the underlying principles behind leading with the brain in mind, and identifies the opportunities and challenges of creating a brain-aware organization. These are organized into five key principles that will guide the development of brain-aware enterprises:

1. Brain state can be manipulated directly to optimize performance.

· The first step in developing a brain-aware enterprise is to acknowledge that the brain is something that can be actively observed and deliberately influenced. Practices like mindfulness are being practiced at leading organizations such as Google and Intel.

2. Knowing how to categorize brain states is essential to self-regulation.

· In enterprise settings, managers are always (and usually unknowingly) creating threats for their employees, and are experiencing threats as leaders. A key element of self-awareness is having the language to describe one’s own mental and emotional states, and to recognize (and influence) them in others.

3. Brainpower is a limited resource, and requires planning and scheduling.

· The human brain consumes a massive amount of our energy for its size, and tires easily. Structuring one’s day to take advantage of the two to three hours of quality cognitive power, where distractions are limited, is key to optimal performance in the brain-aware enterprise. This will require personal discipline and cultural change.

4. Peak brain performance demands mental, social and physical well-being.

· Brain-aware enterprises are realizing the importance of developing the “3D employee” by focusing on mental, social and physical well-being. The studies that show the relationship of the brain to exercise, sleep, nutrition and social interaction are a growing body of research, and create a compelling case to look beyond just an employee’s job performance. Brain-aware enterprises will look to strengthen social connections between employees, the enterprise and social responsibility. Napping at work will be in vogue: studies have shown that a short nap can reduce errors, and have a refreshing effect that can last a number of hours.

5. Building new neural pathways is essential for long-term change.

· Even when we embrace the principles of a brain-aware lifestyle and workplace, it is extremely challenging to make the long-term behavioral changes required to shift a culture. Leaders need to very consciously go “out of pattern” — even when old management styles are suboptimal, people tend to revert to long-established habits of leading and communicating. The easiest way to avoid old habits is to create new ones, and to reinforce them regularly. As techniques to analyze — and to even influence —brain states evolve further, technology will become an increasingly powerful way for enterprises to drive and to support critical behavioral change and performance enhancement.

Leading enterprises are already beginning to capitalize on this trend and we believe: By 2020, 50% of the highest-performing leaders and employees will routinely monitor and modify their own mental state to optimize their effectiveness.

The fact is that people can really work smarter, rather than harder. The brain-aware enterprise will adopt these techniques and reap the profits.

If you are a Gartner client read our research here. Jackie and I will be glad to discuss with you further.

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Category: employee engagement Gartner neuroscience Organizational Change Uncategorized     Tags: , , ,

Move to the “3D Employee” and Embrace Well-being

by Elise Olding  |  June 26, 2013  |  1 Comment

There’s an abundance of chatter these days about employee engagement. It has become the “fix” for many of the ills identified in our workplaces. I would propose that this view represents only part of what is really needed. The “3D employee” needs mental, physical and social well-being. This goes beyond having clear objectives and being acknowledged for a job well done. We’ve got to expand the engagement playing field and embrace holistic well-being to fuel creativity and productivity.

The 3D employee gets enough sleep, exercise, optimum nutrition and time for play. At work, the 3D employee needs time to singularly focus on assignments without distractions. The research on multi-tasking is compelling yet we continue to pile yet more work on our employees and wonder why productivity suffers.

David Rock lays out an interesting concept called the “Healthy Mind Platter” that includes seven ingredients for optimum brain functioning. Rock states “We’re entering an era of an epidemic of overwhelm. A time when too many people’s mental well-being is being stretched through multi-tasking, fragmented attention and information overload.”  I think we can all relate to this.

One CIO I recently talked with bought FitBits for her team. They get out for at least two 15 minute walks each day. Some meetings have evolved into “moving meetings.” The team loves this. Again, the emerging research is certainly supporting taking exercise breaks and changing the scene from monotone conference rooms to spur creativity.

Stay tuned as a number of us at Gartner explore these topics in our upcoming Maverick research. Jackie Fenn and I are working on “Living and Leading in the Brain Aware Enterprise.” Carol Rozwell and Deb Logan are doing complementary research on socially centered leadership. See Carol’s blog for more. We will be publishing research of our findings in September and conduct workshops at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo events in October and November.

Comments?  Any 3D employee experiences you want to share?  What would you like to see added to your workday to support well-being? Comment on the blog or answer via Twitter @eliseolding

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Category: BPM employee engagement engagification Gartner Organizational Change     Tags: , , , , ,

Is A Lack of Accountability Eroding Effectiveness?

by Elise Olding  |  April 29, 2013  |  1 Comment

Accountability is at the foundation of business success. Many organizations implement technology or new business processes but don’t consider their current cultural norms for accountability. What’s the cost of overlooking this? 

As an example – I use a parking app on my mobile in my hometown. The other day I returned to my car as the parking enforcement officer was creating an expensive parking ticket for me. I showed him my phone clearly displaying I had 15 minutes left. He told me I wasn’t on his list. Upon closer examination we discovered I was in zone 222 and parked in zone 221. (The app states you can park anywhere in the city with a valid session.) I showed him the nearest sign to me was 222 but he still left the ticket and told me to contest it.  

Given we live in cities struggling with tight budgets this seemed crazy. Now my ticket will need to be processed by someone at the parking citation center which will cost the city money they don’t have. The parking officer had new technology, but no new accountability. In the old system, once a ticket was written, it was not an option to reverse it. He now has the information he needs and the knowledge that this ticket would likely be reversed yet not the accountability to be able take action. Had he been able to use his judgement and remove the ticket from his handheld the cost would be zero and everyone would be happy. 

When I talk with clients about why they aren’t getting the expected benefits from their technology implementations, many times one cause is a  lack of defining accountability. If the culture of accountability isn’t there to begin with, implementing new business processes and technology aren’t going to magically change people’s behavior. And, as in the case of the parking ticket, you may actually be incurring increased costs.

Mastering organizational change skills can be daunting, but perhaps starting with identifying the need to establish a culture of accountability can be a good place to start. Ask if employees are equipped with the education and information they need in order to make the decisions that let them be more effective (and likely happier) in their jobs. Assess if responsibility is aligned with accountability and the authority to take action in order to achieve the full effectiveness from process and technology changes.

What are some of your experiences with a lack of accountability?

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Category: Applications BPM employee engagement Gartner Organizational Change     Tags: , , , , , , ,

Vision Alignment Challenges? Create a Collage

by Elise Olding  |  April 8, 2013  |  2 Comments

The challenge in many organizations is that we have a strong propensity to jump to the solution.  When the going gets tough merely having a solution in mind doesn’t get us out of the quagmire – particularly when it may not have been the 100% right solution to start with. It’s easy to lose our way, let the scope of the program expand, waste resources and money and leave our organization feeling like there is a lack of direction. All this quickly contributes to lack of adoption, change fatigue and that “here we go again” feeling.

How do you get everyone on the same page? Hours of meetings obsessing over mission statements and words can be frustrating leading to passive-aggressive behavior and mixed messages. To achieve the benefits from a transformation effort it’s critical to communicate a cohesive message. This starts with the leadership and executive sponsors. The trouble is – how do you do this? Herding cats is possible. Read on… 

I recently returned from a Gartner engagement with a government agency. (The perception is that often government is “different” and not “good at change.”) They struggled with a multi-year program that could be moving at a faster pace. In addition, while the executive sponsor team worked together and each had their vision, they didn’t have a cohesive shared vision that would align their decisions and engage their employees. It was the classic communication and organizational change challenges I see across many clients and conference attendees.

How do you cut through years of culture and baggage?  It’s not by doing trying the same techniques over and over. A mission statement or scope document won’t help.  This group bravely agreed to try something completely different – co-create a collage that captured their joint vision of the future and another that depicted where they are today.  

We had about 30 magazines for the group of 10 and a blank poster on the table.  The instructions were simple: find pictures that represent a feeling or experience and cut them out.  Each executive pulled out several pictures. They then began to lay them out, explaining their portion of the story.  This iteration happened over the course of the next 20 minutes. 

It was amazing to watch. The images were compelling and the stories convincing. There was complete collaboration and sharing of ideas, building on the narrative as each picture was placed on the poster board. At the end of the allocated time, we went around the room – with each of them talking about one component of their vision and story. The final product was a story that encapsulated the spirit of the massive transformation they were undertaking and the guide rails for how they were going to do this.  

We closed the session with each executive writing their commitment. I was impressed by the depth of the commitments. Many were focused on the need to better communicate and engage their employees, rather than just focusing on the external outcomes from the program. The executive team is going to use the collage going forward and share with the organization.

Why did this work?  Because it created a “toward” response, the group collaborated and co-created a common vision. There was no hierarchy or dominant leader since everyone had a picture to contribute and even the “quiet” ones participated – who are often the good listeners and synthesizers. It created a shared emotional experience and also built a shared story. There’s a lot more neuroscience behind this and I will leave that for a later time. I highly recommend Dr. David Rock’s book “Your Brain at Work” for the detailed insights and explanations. The key is the “toward” response and co-creation which builds trust and commitment. 

Look for more written Gartner research on this topic in the near future.  In the meantime – I’m happy to discuss further and welcome your comments. What techniques have you used?


Category: BPM employee engagement ERP Gartner Organizational Change Strategic Planning Uncategorized     Tags: , , , ,

Communicate Better – Tell, Listen and Adapt

by Elise Olding  |  March 11, 2013  |  1 Comment

Just returned from a couple of days visiting executives in some of the leading organizations in Spain. Amazingly, it’s not technology that is top of mind for many of these executives. It’s organizational change. Why? Because any technology implementation requires a change in the behavior of those using it. This skill is not one that has been well developed in many IT types.

The research I have been doing defines a framework for how to think about communication. It consists of three easy concepts: tell, listen and adapt and was well received with the executives I met with.

Executives are usually very good at telling. This style of communication is top down and directive. It creates the imperative for change. What it lacks is the motivation needed from others in order to achieve the desired change. It is only part of the equation.

Listening is seldom used as part of a communication strategy. Listening means asking for feedback and ideas. This can be done through two way conversations, social media and other interactive methods. Peer advocates, who represent a stakeholder group are an effective way to ach into the orga ization and promote this discussion. Middle managers are also key and as well just be engaged do that they can have discussions with their employees and support them in the change process.

The final and necessary component is to adapt. Once the feedback has been heard, the direction of a program or project many need to be modified. The adapt step is critical to acknowledge listening. Without it, employees will soon become frustrated and disillusioned, feeing that the requested feedback is not being heard. Adapting in the face of valid feedback shows employees that their input is valuable and critical to success. It is also critical to the organizational change.

Consider using an organizational change methodology. It may not be a perfect fit, but you can tailor it along the way to best suit your culture.

Change is a processes and it happens one employee at a time. Respect the pace of change (or change cadence) in each stakeholder group, and apply the concepts above to get better at supporting organizational change. The benefits will pay off for years to come.

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Category: BPM EA Gartner Organizational Change Strategic Planning     Tags: , , ,

Has BPM Lost Its Luster?

by Elise Olding  |  February 6, 2013  |  10 Comments

It seems each week I’m hearing more and more challenges – political battles, lack of support, methodology wars and skills shortages. Some highly acclaimed enterprise-wide BPM programs have bit the dust recently. Is the shine is wearing off BPM? 

I have some thoughts about why this is and will keep the list short:

  1. Tinkering – many BPM projects tout results from automating paper intensive routine activities, many times with little, if any breakthrough re-thinking about the work. This is often because the automation is at the task or activity level. Getting a bunch of people in a room and asking them how to improve their work in a two hour meeting can’t possibly yield innovative results.
  2. BPM is Special – some organizations create a BPM empire from scratch and don’t play nicely in the sand box with already mature disciplines like enterprise architecture, project management and applications development. Some seem surprised to discover that business analysts can do process modeling! BPMers tout breaking down process silos while they blindly build their own methods, governance and competency centers.
  3. We Do BPM - the BPM group becomes a bottleneck because they are doing the detailed work. Pretty soon transformation teams, aligned with strategic processes begin to sprout up – especially in large organizations.
  4. One Process For All – standardization has become synonymous with BPM. Whether right or wrong, I hear many execs refer to “standardizing business processes” as their view of what BPM achieves. As an expectation, this road is fraught with politics at the front end and shadow processes at the back end.
  5. Cost Cutting Mode – doing things more cheaply is not always the answer. Bloomberg Businessweek, 1/28/13, alludes to Boeing’s focus on cost savings as one factor in the Dreamliner challenges. Efficiency is a short term win – there’s only so much efficiency you can wring out of your organization. Then what? Effectiveness is boundless and radically rethinking how work is done creates long term value that pays forward.

The advice here is obvious – think bigger, play nice with others, tackle unstructured and knowledge work, embrace effectiveness and focus on long-term value. BPMers need to radically rethink what the role of visibility, accountability and adaptability will be for the future of their organization. How can you make these  enterprise competences? Get out and understand the work your enterprise does, find the unknown opportunity. Invent, rethink. Promote everyone being responsible for improving and innovating, not just the elite few. Be really good at communicating – really, really good.  This includes listening.  

This blog really isn’t about how giving advice on how to fix this. Hopefully your blood pressure is going up and you are murmuring how wrong I am. I’d like to get your thoughts – are you hearing the rumblings?  Can you add to the above list? Are you in violent disagreement? Do you have a success to share? 

Want more?  Come to the BPM Summits (London, Washington DC, Sydney) where I will be presenting “Stop Tinkering, Start Innovating.”  If you are a Gartner client – set up an inquiry and let’s tackle your challenges and put you on the path to process success.


Category: BPM Gartner     Tags: , ,