Stop Projects From Failing by Conquering Change Management

You, as the reader, will learn one important thing in reading this today: effective change management as a key ingredient in preventing the perception of failed projects and change initiatives.

There are a multitude of factors at play to see a project or change through successfully from start to finish. First, it is important to understand how far out the initiative reaches. Regardless of the business, change needs to be identified and addressed at all levels: program level, organizational level, project level, and product level. This hierarchy touches on changing the approach to company vision (program level), changing people/ roles and processes (organizational), specific project scope changes and changes in technology, and product or service features (product level). At any one level there are multiple variables to keep in mind and sometimes missed variables can lead to delays or ultimately, failed projects. So, what is the key to achieving a successful initiative?

Out of all the factors, Leadership plays a key role in program and project success. To combat project stress and/or ambiguity across the organization, a leader should facilitate project success by:

1) Establishing clear expectations of the project (not just the due date) and it’s alignment with the organization’s overall objectives.

2) Prioritizing all major enterprise efforts and emphasizing the need for organizational resource planning. Budgets for key projects should include back-filling key operational roles so the Subject Matter Experts are working on the project. Asking your best functional resources to work the project off the side of their desk seldom works and can be a key contributor to failure.

3) Ensuring a culture where two-way communication is encouraged:

1. The people who are setting the scope, budget, and timeline need to listen to feedback from the people who will be responsible for executing those deliverables before committing to a plan. To encourage unity and team accountability, the people setting the direction need to be held equally accountable as the people delivering.

2. Encourage a culture of Relationship Change Management by ensuring the team is having an ongoing dialogue with key stakeholders. This open dialogue should be present at every phase of the project from the team selection through post-implementation support in order to ensure buy-in and ownership. Those efforts with a dedicated Communication and Change Management role, where activities are tracked in the project plan, will have better results.

3. Practicing honesty with oneself. Too often, as leaders, we want to believe something will cost less, take less time, and provide more benefit than the reality. C level executives need trusted messengers who are closer to the work to provide them with unfiltered information, especially if the news is bad.

4. Spending more time ensuring the key roles are filled with people who have the right experience, skills, and natural behaviors to ensure success.

5. Holding people accountable which also includes enforcing a culture of quality assurance. Motivate team members using both the carrot and the stick methods. Bonuses tied to project deliverables can be very effective if they are meaningful and permeate all levels of the project. Removing a problem person from the project catches people’s attention as well.

As a leader, it is important to remember that the two-way communication should be incorporated in every aspect of the project and organization. This will ensure that your organization is operating on the most accurate facts and can therefore, affirm the success of a project or change initiative. Setting up such a unified culture is most effective when it starts with the leader.


Why Trust in Teams Increases Performance

It never ceases to amaze me how many organizations rely on groups of people (teams) to deliver significant outcomes for their business, yet invest little resource into understanding the behaviors, communication style and working environment needs of individual members.
Great teams are built on trust. They trust each other and they trust those that lead them. (Trust = the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.)

Trust doesn’t appear over night. It takes time. It requires the sharing of personal knowledge. It’s built upon respect, empathy, and a certainty that the relationship is being developed in a mutual way.

Trust increases communication and open, honest communication is essential to building a high-performing team.
Most organizations know the importance of building teams through 1) a shared vision, 2) ensuring that team members have clear roles and responsibilities and 3) are led by a leader whose people skills are honed and mature. But few invest the time or resources into understanding the behavior and communication style of the individuals within a team. Trust cannot be built if team members don’t know each other at a deeper level. If they don’t know how to communication with colleagues and if they haven’t shared how they wish to be communicated!
Trust begins not with knowing how talented a person is (though talent is important to have in a team) it begins by uncovering the core of a person, the behavior that is inherent and will remain steady under pressure. When that is revealed, relationships can be formed in an open and transparent way ? then trust can begin to be built.
Trust is fragile and can be lost quickly through negative experiences which makes it all the more important for it to be built on a firm foundation of communication, information sharing, ideas and opinion sharing, constructive criticism and problem resolution.

Understanding each other’s communication and behavioral style builds a bridge between people that makes trust much easier to be formed in team relationships.

Unlocking inherent behaviors not only reveals communication and decision making styles it also uncovers values. So why is revealing someone’s values important in teams? It ensures leadership can introduce guidelines that line up with the individual’s values which ensures teams are far more likely to respect and follow them.

Market Mood blog

Markets are not Predictable but Human Behavior Is

There are many research studies out there which demonstrate that the markets cannot be predicted by advisors and investors. The role of the advisor should be about managing the behavioral biases of their clients. The advisor is in a key position to influence the behavior of clients.

As human beings we all have certain decision-making biases that are hard-wired into us from early in life. These hard-wired behavioral biases can be predicted, as they are inherently part of our DNA which is scientifically measurable. The biases will usually reveal themselves in times of higher market volatility when a person is under more pressure or when a major life event takes place.

The key for investors is not to churn their accounts too much in times of volatility. For some advisors and investors whose DNA is more wired to be “fast-paced,” overtrading will be a greater temptation. As an investor, it is important to know how much your account is being actively managed. Active management can equate to overtrading and in the end could be costly or even destructive if not properly moderated.

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The other bias to recognize is that investors have a much greater aversion to losses than gains. Those investors whose DNA is more wired to be “patient” and “risk-averse” will feel the pain of losses much more; so managing their emotions in times of volatility is very important. These clients will need a portfolio that is very different from those that are higher risk-takers.

To know how to advise and communicate with each client uniquely in times of volatility, the Financial DNA Market Mood Dashboard will provide you with the insights for each client. Some clients will feel a level of exuberance in down markets since they see it as a buying opportunity and others will be fearful.



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Building a Client Centered Financial Services Firm

In recent times our firm has been taking a proactive stance in helping Financial Services and Insurance Firms all over the world transform to be more client centered using a human behavior matching methodology. To become client centered at the core, the client’s interests must be put first in the building and deployment of all of the firm’s processes through the client lifecycle and how it charges for services.

Our approach is to help the firm build a “relationship based compliance culture”. The inherent tension between growing revenues on a sustainable basis and improving compliance can be solved by behaviorally matching the firm’s teams with the clients and solutions offered. Communicating and presenting solutions on the client’s terms not only enhances the level of engagement, but it also means that the solutions offered are more suitable.

Ultimately, such a client centered approach is sustainable increases in revenues of over 23% per year and substantial productivity gains. Further, this approach will help reduce the compliance and litigation costs.
So, what strategies does your firm have in the following areas to start transforming toward become client centered?

  • Development of quality human capital (increased productivity),
  • Increasing client engagement (generating sustainable revenue); and
  • Real time monitoring that the solutions offered are suitable for the client (meeting compliance obligations).

image3 The hidden obstacle to building a client centered firm is a lack of human behavioral awareness and behavioral management capabilities at all levels of the firm to “Know, Engage and Grow” every employee and client on a real time basis. Independent research shows that 87% of business issues result from poor communication. We are approaching the problems of Financial Services and Insurance Firms with the delivery of Behavioral Relationship Management Solutions powered by powerful behavioral insights that have been independently validated since 2001 by a team with more than 100 years of experience. Our proprietary solutions are delivered on a robust and highly secure technology platform which enables behavioral insights to be made practical and scalable across a whole business.

The New Behavioral Economy for Financial Services Firms

So imagine a new world whereby your firm has a technology system powered by behavioral insights and the business processes to match the different behaviors of high performing and engaged advisors to clients and solutions offered on a real time basis. Put another way, your firm has the capability to put a “tailor made suit” on every client on a scalable basis. What this means for the client is a customized lifelong service experience and for the firm increased productivity and the mitigation of business risks. This is a proven “win-win” for both the client and the firm.


Current Business Issues for Financial Services and Insurance Firms To Overcome

We have identified the following business challenges for Financial Services and Insurance Firms which can be solved through the use of behavioral driven solutions driven on a scalable technology system:



Deployment of DNA Behavior’s Behavioral Relationship Management Solutions

Moving into the new world that we envision requires the installation of behaviorally smart systems into your firm’s technology platform. In specific terms, the mission is to deploy the Business DNA Discovery Process into your firm’s human capital management systems. In addition, to integrate the Communication DNA and Financial DNA Discovery Processes into your firm’s CRM, financial planning software and suitability compliance monitoring systems. This is what we call a “Relationship Compliance System”. This interconnected system helps align your firm’s service and product delivery processes through the client life cycle with the documentation required to meet suitability compliance. Ideally, this system is a centrally managed technology platform.



Utilizing the DNA Behavior Discovery Processes will provide many important features including:

  • Leaders, advisors and employees productively using their strengths
  • Advisors that are personally equipped with the “soft skills” to master the need to continuously engage with different clients and family members through different life and market events
  • Advisory teams that are able to cohesively work together in serving different clients
  • Viable business continuity and succession plans that allow for growth and client service sustainability
  • Customized internal home office-advisor-client communication
  • Matching the behavior of clients advisors to clients and solutions offered for enhanced engagement and productivity

Moving beyond the use of persona models based on demographic data to customization based on personality (behavioral) insights
Re-framing of how solutions are presented to engage different communication and learning styles

  • Improved online gathering, production and retention of “fact find” documentation at all stages of the process by integrating client behavior discovery
  • More consistent and objective process for enhanced financial personality discovery of clients, recognizing all their behavioral biases and not just the risk profile.
  • Continuous home office compliance monitoring of changes in client and market situations to solutions offered
  • System alerts to spontaneous changes in investment portfolio strategies based on life and market events
  • Better management and alignment of advisor behavioral biases in serving clients
  • Enhanced financial literacy of clients so that they are able to more confidently make committed decisions for sustainable wealth creation.

To learn more, please watch our video, or go to or email us at


Using Personality to Communicate with Different Persona’s

Is your business gathering data to build a persona model of its ideal clients based on demographic data? There is an increasing trend towards businesses creating persona model client categories based on insights into the known income and spending patterns of people along with their job positions, ages, education, home suburb and other public information. These firms often say that they are adopting a behavioral approach to their sales and marketing activities. Although, in reality, they are only capturing surface behavioral information.

Building a persona model of the client is still a very rational “left-brain” approach to sales and marketing. What is missing is knowing what the client really needs and how they wish to be related to at an emotional level. We advocate that businesses should incorporate a “right brain” approach to know how to communicate with clients?based on their personality style. Let us address this key point to show you the future of marketing and sales in the New Behavioral Economy.

Knowing the persona of the client may at best tell you “what” they want. The persona models assume that everyone in each category is the same based on their demographics. For instance, retail companies gather this data to know what type of clothes or vacations certain people (ie persona’s) want. Certainly, this approach has merits for a basic and perhaps even necessary level of client segmentation. There is no point selling a product or service to a person who is not even capable of paying for it. For instance, retail companies gather this data to know what type of clothes or vacations certain people (ie persona’s) want. An insurance or bank may gather this information to offer certain types of insurance or investment products to their prospects and clients. However, is this persona model approach achieving the optimal result of providing each client with customized life-long experiences?

Gallup Organization research in 2009 shows that those firms who are able to emotionally engage their clients will increase revenues by 23% a year over those who do not. A personal model approach will help client segmentation but will not boost emotional engagement. Emotional engagement can only be boosted by the business adopting strategies which help the employees demonstrate that they understand the core of who their clients are. This is why we recommend a personality based approach which involves the client completing a short online questionnaire that has been independently validated. Such an approach will help the firm and its employees serve each client on their unique terms. Further, if the right technology platforms are used the data will be scalable across the whole business on a continuous basis.

Therefore, we recommend:

The New Behavioral Economy Formula of: Persona Model (What to sell) + Personality (How to relate and sell).

Introducing personality discovery to the sales process in a scalable way will have a significant impact on sales. Even if your firm only increased its sales by 1% in year 1, the bottom line return will be huge. But, there is no reason why you cannot increase sales by 10% or more a year.

A personality based approach to marketing and sales assumes that each client is wired differently. Meaning that regardless of their assets, income, living conditions, education or age they will have a pre-disposition to make certain types of choices, have certain purchasing biases, and communication needs. Put another way, 2 people within the same persona model will have different emotional triggers and communication styles based on how they are wired. They will want to be related to differently. Typically, there are 4 broad quadrants where 92% of people have a dominant personality style. Although, given each person is unique they will have secondary factors, and more specific sub-factors.

Lets take a simple example of an insurance life protection policy offered to 2 people in the same persona model. Some people will need to know how the policy being offered achieves their goals, others their lifestyle, others security for their family and others the details of how it impacts their retirement plan. At a broad level, the policy has the same objective however how each person needs to hear the offering to buy it is different.

The same example can be used in gaining insight into how an insurance firm will distribute a new insurance protection policy to its field force. The advisors and agents in the field who meet a minimum sales quota are not the same personality. So, to be successful in sales they need a customized approach for being related to by the home office (or their general agent) and being educated about the product. Then, a customized approach needs to be developed for how each advisor or agent builds relationships and sells the product to their different clients.

In summary, building a persona model of your firm’s prospects and clients is a positive first step in segmentation. However, given it is rational in nature, such an approach will not build sustainable client engagement. That can only come from understanding the personality of all your employees and clients.


Is Your Client Susceptible?

You spend a lot of time developing a trusting relationship so you can create a customized portfolio and financial plan for your clients. But it could all unravel in the blink of an eye!

There are three often over-looked financial personality factors at play with each of your clients and these are often hidden deep beneath the surface:

  • Emotionally driven
  • Determination
  • Desire to spend

How do you know which of your clients is more susceptible to the financial talk shows, the evening news or the negative financial headlines in newspapers and magazines? Some of your clients are more easily “dragged down” by this negativity and actually start believing it! Others can look at a headline or “sound byte”, not read much of the article but come to their own inaccurate conclusion.

Now imagine a couple arriving together for their first annual review with you. The one is extremely concerned that the markets are fluctuating a lot. And, since it is so close to retirement he worries that if you continue with the portfolio you have designed it will mean major cutbacks in lifestyle spending. The other feels comfortable with the portfolio but she is concerned about your fee structure given all the recent press on advisors charging too much and damaging returns on retirement plans.

Of course, prior to your meeting, you don’t know any of this is happening with your clients. So you have to spend your time “re-selling” this couple on your strategy so they don’t loose faith in you or the commitment to the plan.

What if you could identify in the on boarding meeting with your clients those that are more emotional or whether they are attracted to the headlines? Your entire approach would change to be more client centered to engage that client on their terms.

Your staff could produce a list of those clients who were more emotionally affected by market swings so a quick phone call from you would be the perfect strategy. Perhaps your newsletter could be tailored to headlines and bullet points to get more clients to read it. Most importantly, you could prepare for your annual meetings knowing in advance the emotional state of your clients.

Don’t react. Be proactive and become a behaviorally smart advisor to build trusting relationships that will keep your “susceptible” clients engaged for life.