Kurt Theriault, principal; Linda Maxwell, principal and co-founder; Bob Theriault, principal and co-founder

Change agents

Why consulting firm Business Efficacy focuses on a company’s leaders, not its staff, when real change is needed

Change. It's often an empty promise or threat at the sign of any dysfunction in an organization. "We need to make changes," implies that everyone will be together in contributing to positive change, but too often leaders really mean that someone else should change.

Perhaps it's because change creates general anxiety around our notions of failure. If we have to change, does it mean we're not good enough? From the top down, this anxiety can lead to lack of change ... or change that is too slow to bring necessary results to stay competitive and profitable.

Business Efficacy understands the dangers of announcing change without a clear understanding of who and what is involved and where it will lead. Since 1993, the Minneapolis based consulting firm has worked with sales leaders to accelerate change by starting with people first, then processes. It carries on a venerable tradition in the Twin Cities for leadership and change management that started in the 1970s with organizational change gurus like the late Larry Wilson of Wilson Learning Corp.

"Change accelerates much more quickly when all levels of management are involved and committed to the change," says principal Kurt Theriault. Rather than starting with the sales force, Business Efficacy starts with various layers of management, including frontline management, executives, regional managers, and division managers to identify behaviors that would create better results. Having an impact on one manager leads to an impact on 10 to 20 team members  accelerating change.

Most business owners and sales leaders take a "do it fast" approach by implementing traditional solutions such as changing people, compensation, software, technology, and training. When things are not working it is typically because there is a lack of role clarity, sales structure, focus, process, procedures, and accountability. Leaders must have more clarity on what needs to be changed and a willingness to change.

Once they identify critical behaviors, the team at Business Efficacy helps clients choose resources and processes that will support those behaviors, building a road map and timeline of "bite-sized" steps with 30-, 60-, and 90-day benchmarks, as well as various increments beyond. Showing results in stages is critical, because people will resist change until they experience some success from the change. "Management has to create a plan for accountability during change management to maintain the momentum," says Linda Maxwell, a principal and co-founder. Through individual coaching, professional development, and communication, leaders and their teams gain the skills to pursue their stated goals.

It might not seem that Business Efficacy has discovered something extraordinary about change management. But in reality, the hardest part of leading organizations to new levels of growth is helping leaders get out of their own way and accept the need to change. By helping leaders define what matters most to the organization, Business Efficacy has built a business around the idea that change can be very good.


John P. Palen is CEO of Allied Executives and works with CEOs, business owners, and executive leaders on leadership development and business performance improvement through peer groups, coaching, and educational workshops.