Probing questions for your change management candidate

The methodology topic is a great one to use when interviewing potential change management consultants. My experience is that there’s a large group of “change” consultants who are merely rebranded MarCom (marketing communications) types.

  1. Challenge them to give you an example of how they used a change methodology.
  2. Bonus points if they can discuss how they integrated it with another framework (e.g., project or implementation methods).

Adapted from my LinkedIn comment to Rick Rothermel’s blog post.

Know your interviewer’s background

I had the opportunity to conduct a series of mock interviews with [mostly] new students at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.  They were entering the MSIS (Master of Science in Information Systems) program and were on the whole an impressive bunch.

I can see why Kelley ranks so highly on career placement: they put students in front of prospective employers on Day 3.   Sure, they’re mock interviews, but it must focus one’s mind pretty quickly on the task at hand.  While at Babson, I considered my MBA program as essentially a 20 month job search.  I’m not sure that all of my classmates did the same.

To the point of the post: one consistent miss on the interviews was regarding my background. Only two of the students I talked to either asked me about my background or maneuvered the conversation in a way that surfaced it. Many of these folks had ERP or consulting experience. Wouldn’t it have been useful for them to have known that their interviewer worked for 12 years at SAP? Even a brief question — ” How did you end up working for Mead Johnson? — would have done the trick.

Note that one interviewee did Google my name… and pretty quickly figured out I wasn’t the Scottish footballer.

Is operational proficiency overvalued?

Great Fire -- Narragansett Pier Casino

Great Fire of 1900 -- Narragansett Pier Casino

Most of the tips in The Intelligent Leader blog’s Management Tip of the Day are thought-provoking.  However, Wednesday’s tip (here) got under my skin a bit.  And not just because the idea that “risk taking” wasn’t a valued trait seems quaint considering how intensely the Wall Street Casino is burning right now.  And I think most of us will agree that raw ambition is a mixed blessing and that inspiration is a virtue in leaders.

However, I believe that a strong understanding of operations and initiative management must be part of the package a leader brings to the table.  To that end, I can’t let the perceived swipe at operational proficiency go by without some comments about how it fits into leadership and hiring. 

  1. Execution makes “opportunities” real.  How else do openings identified in confusing and ambiguous times get exploited?  Strategy + Execution — one without the other is useless.  The hiring executive should ask the “operator” to give an example of how he/she made strategy concrete via execution.
  2. Policies and procedures have their place.  They can, of course, stifle innovation and initiative if they monitor and control too closely.  Or even, they can focus on the wrong topics.  Again, interviewers should ask probing questions about how the candidate operationalized innovation, especially focusing on lessons learned about over-control and its consequences.
  3. Risk taking is an essential part of the leadership package.  Risk management is a blind spot Continue reading
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