Happiness, The Messy Middle & 13 Change Management Insights from the ACMP Conference

Change Management 2016, the annual global conference organized by ACMP (The Association of Change Management Professionals), brought together more than 1,000 participants from 27 countries and 6 continents to learn about the latest trends in the industry. This year we sent five of our team members to the conference in Dallas, Texas to expand our knowledge, capabilities and wisdom around all areas of change leadership.

We were not disappointed! For three days, from the opening keynote delivered by Shawn Achor, New York Times bestselling author and happiness researcher to the closing session from Brené Brown, New York Times bestselling author, research professor and expert on vulnerability, we were captivated and inspired.

Our team attended 33 of the possible 45 sessions at ACMP 2016. Here are some of our takeaways:


  1. Happiness is one of the greatest competitive advantages in the modern economy. Those who are happy experience 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales, 3x greater creativity, are 40% more likely to receive a promotion, 23% fewer fatigue symptoms, are up to10x more engaged and are 39% more likely to live to age 94. With six daily exercises, we can re-train our brains for a happier outlook. (Shawn Achor)
  2. We often put happiness on the wrong side of the if-then equation. “As soon as ______ , I’ll be happy.” This formula is broken because every time we succeed, we move the goal post. Instead, we should use happiness as fuel to drive us towards our desired results! (Our own CEO, Cheryl Fields Tyler, reminds us not to postpone joy.)
  3. Embrace resisters and convert them to assisters by creating opportunities for people to be a producer in situations where they are used to being a consumer. Get them involved and engaged. Discover what gifts they have to offer (because they all do!).
  4. The qualities people look for when it comes to sources of information have changed. These days, it’s more important that information be timely, than be meticulously verified or come from an authoritative/reputable source. (ex. of the 80% of adults who are active on Facebook, 30% use it as their primary source of news. That news doesn’t necessarily come from the Wall Street Journal, but it’s served up by people they know in real time). We can apply this to change management by using people all over the org to spread the word rather than relying heavily on official messages from exec sponsors.
  5. “When you’re stuck, turn to curiosity, not criticism first. That’s where the magic happens.” (Jean Nitchals)
  6. In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. Our brains are hardwired for stories, and are chemically rewarded whenever we get an “aha” feeling. So, it’s important to be the one to tell the story, and to bring someone along with you on the story, to ensure you get the outcome you want. Learning to distinguish between “What I know” and “What I think I know” and “What I want to know” is essential to prevent assumptions and misunderstandings from derailing our communications, relationships and change efforts.
  7. Where does change management sit in your organization? IT? HR? Marketing and Communications? Project Management? — Ideally, it should sit wherever the passion, momentum and access to leadership resides.
  8. During times of change, we need to be architects. We need to construct the correct scaffolding in order to help everyone move in the same direction and succeed.
  9. As change managers, continuously learning to manage change for and in ourselves is what leads to our ability to provide compassionate support of our clients’ efforts to lead change. The two are inextricably linked. If we ask our clients to do the work, we ourselves must willingly accept the challenge. And to do so with grace, an open heart, and a belief that authentic vulnerability is a strength … we can then invite our clients to consider the same.
  10. Be mindful of the environment you’re creating around the change. Establishing a level playing field means everyone is playing the same game and are all invited to an interesting space to accomplish a common goal. (Simon Foster)
  11. Planes reach a point where they don’t have enough fuel to fly back to where they started. They can only go forward no matter what they have to fly through. The same goes for change initiatives. (Brené Brown)
  12. Trends in change management these days seem to be: mindfulness in leading change, sponsorship for change, storytelling and imagery, measuring change, and the push vs. pull of change management.
  13. Feeling safe allows us to behave differently, act more intelligently, approach situations more creatively, and play more deeply. (Simon Foster)

Here is the deck we presented to our team after returning from the conference: