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August 30, 2023 | 32 Mins Read

An Organizational Scientist on Building Effective Teams & Managing Change

August 30, 2023 | 32 Mins Read

An Organizational Scientist on Building Effective Teams & Managing Change


Sarah welcomes Dr. Josh Elmore, Principal Consultant at Court Street Consulting and Adjunct Professor at both Columbia University and the City University of New York, to discuss how concepts of industrial and social organizational psychology factor in to what’s demanded of today’s leaders in building strong teams and leading through change.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we're going to be getting an organizational scientist's take on building effective teams and managing change. I'm excited to welcome to the podcast Dr. Josh Elmore, who is principal consultant at Court Street Consulting, also an adjunct professor at both Columbia University and the City University of New York. Josh, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Josh Elmore: Thanks so much for having me, Sarah. Excited to be here.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, thank you for being here. I appreciate it. So before we get into the thick of it all, tell everyone a little bit more about yourself.

Josh Elmore: Sure. So, my background is, as you mentioned, organization science and what that entails mostly is social and organizational psychology, which is the application of psychology to the world of work, how people work in corporate spaces, nonprofit spaces. In general, people coordinating their effort and trying to reach some goals together. So I tend to focus on things like group dynamics and performance and motivation and how do we get people moving in the same direction and that can scale from an individual looking to do their career pursuit, career coaching type of consultation, all the way up to a large scale organization change effort. So I finished my PhD in 2020 and I've been practicing since then. I've consulted prior to the PhD in 2018, I started with some faculty mentors of mine and it's been a really interesting trip learning about how organizations change and how they update the way that they work, and it's a constant effort. So I'm excited to chat about all things change management with you today.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, yeah, that's really interesting. So one thing I learned when you and I connected to prep for this session is that the social organizational psychology was born of industrial psychology. Okay. So how has the evolution from industrial psychology to more modern forms changed the way that organizations and leaders manage people within the business?

Josh Elmore: Yeah. So early days, early 20th century, there was a group of folks, and among them was Frederick Winslow Taylor. And he was applying psychological ideas or ways of coordinating people's efforts through things called time in motion. And so he would go onto factory floors and work with those folks in the factory and try to optimize how many motions they took to do a given task, maybe around assembling something or working on some larger scale production. And at the time that whole space was thinking around productivity and getting to reduce the amount of effort that had to go into any given task.

And over time what you had was different forms of psychology coming out of academia, out of basic research where things like social psychology grew up in the '50s and '60s and were then applied to the organization setting. And organizational psychology became something where you look at the whole system itself as opposed to just individuals. Today we have a field that's called industrial organizational psychology and we call it IO psychology for short. And we, and I say we, I mean my colleagues in organizational psychology world, they tend to use the I and think about the individual. And so when we say industrial, we're thinking about individuals, and organizational, we're thinking about systems. And so I'd say that industrial psychology began with a focus on individuals, how do you select the right person for the job? And that exists today where we look at selection or job analysis, but it's expanded into other domains.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. Very interesting. Okay, so if we were to take a look then at what is the modern focus? So if you were to get people up to speed that are listening to the podcast on what is being taught today, I think about this, I got my MBA 13 years ago and it's like you don't always think about how much has changed, what the core focus areas are, what the best practices are, what new discoveries or topics or themes or teachings have been uncovered, et cetera. So when you think about the industrial organizational psychology realm today, what is the modern take or what's most important for people to be aware of when it comes to teams, systems, and groups in the workplace?

Josh Elmore: So I think speaking back to that evolution and the gradual drive towards our understanding, and it began in this psychology research, but it quickly became something that management was talking about and using, and folks from organizational psychology were coming and helping consult to organizations and apply. And you had things like for instance, like the Hawthorne studies, which was an experimental design where they tried to, some researchers went into a factory to learn what effect lighting had on the output of factory workers. So they would change the lighting. And what they found was actually the factory workers produced high output no matter what. And the researchers were confused, they were thinking why was there no change when we changed all the lights? And what actually mattered was the fact that these folks were being paid attention to. And so that's when we learned that attitudes matter.

And so over time when we go into these organizations and you learn that, oh wait, people have different motivations. They need to be given incentives, they need to be given opportunities to grow and stretch themselves, and these are more modern takes on, we use them a lot. You see them everywhere where folks are talking about learning and development and performance management. But these are relatively new ideas. And I'd say that those are the things that A, we take for granted. And B, are the indicators of the evolution of the field in the regular world where HR is an advanced people function. And I'd say people like Peter Drucker talking about management in the '50s, '60s, and throughout the 20th century, how he talked about knowledge workers and he talked about what we call the future of work. He was always talking about the future of work.

And I'd say there's pieces that are still held onto to this day that are very important for industrial psychology, social psychology, organizational psychology. But those speak to those three levels that you mentioned, right? Industrial psychology, thinking about people, individuals, how do you put them on the right track, social psychology, thinking about teams, how do these groups work together? And then organizational psychology, how does the system work and how does it interact with other systems? A lot of times you live in... We spoke about the field service industry where you have lots of different organizations that are interdependent and have to coordinate their efforts together. And so that is similar from an organizational psychology perspective because you need to coordinate your efforts. And so I'd say that in general the thinking around social psychology is an idea of scaling from the individual perspective to the team perspective to the organizational perspective. And we call that levels of analysis.

Sarah Nicastro: And they're obviously all very interconnected. So that makes sense. It's interesting because when you spoke about the roots of industrial psychology and talking about really a focus on maximizing productivity, which obviously is important, but I think I shared this with you, in our space in field service, if you go back 15 years ago when I started interviewing service leaders, that was really the focus. There was not a whole lot more to it beyond just managing costs, maximizing efficiency, maximizing productivity, et cetera. And obviously a lot has changed including, and maybe most importantly, the recognition of service as a potential profit center for businesses and as a integral piece of the customer experience.

And so with that happening, then a lot of other variables have become important and things that leaders and businesses have to weigh and prioritize. And that also brings about then different skills that the employees need to have if they're playing a role in a profit center versus just executing a task in a cost center and then different skills that leaders need to have to be able to draw that out of folks. So it's really, really interesting. Now taking the team piece of this, okay, so you mentioned a lot of the work that you do when you consult with organizations is on team facilitation. So can you just talk a little bit about when someone wants you to come in and do team facilitation, what does that mean? What does that look like? What are some of the common areas of focus? What are maybe some of the common pain points in making sure you have engaged and empowered teams? Can you talk a little bit about that part?

Josh Elmore: Yeah, I'd love to. And just briefly, I want to speak to that earlier point that you were making around this idea of the evolution of field service from cost center to profit center. And it's a really interesting idea around this idea of having to push down costs versus how do we develop new opportunities to build business. And when you're doing that, you can look to analogous industries that are seeking to grow and build. And tech is one very clear analogy of organizations being born and then evolving and growing and scaling. And in those cases, you look at the practices from a Google or any of the tech firms that are huge and numerous, not necessarily today because they're cutting back a lot, but in not so long ago they had all the tech perks, they had everything you could think of, never leave our campus, always be here on site.

We're going to do your laundry for you, we're going to feed you. And what does that give you? It gives you the ability to have your basic needs met, but then also it might give you the sense that this place caress about me, I'm going to care about it in turn. And so you can get a really rich dynamic between organization and the folks who are actually bringing the work to life for them when you leverage all of the psychological experiences that feed into self-actualization, right? If we think about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, basic needs are just at the very bottom, but self-actualization is at the top.

And so if you're thinking about how you want to get folks on board and moving in one direction towards some big large goal, how do you help them self actualize? Is it learning? Is it giving them the ability to test out stretch goals or making sure they don't burn out by giving them enough vacation time or checking in with them, giving them mentorship. So all of these holistic practices that you can use that are also speaking to the idea of more indicative, more modern human resources and people practices. Right. Makes sense. I just wanted to speak to that idea.

Sarah Nicastro: No. That's good.

Josh Elmore: And so from my team perspective, for me, I really love working with teams because we talked about that individual perspective, the team perspective, the organization perspective. And I like teams because when you work with a group of people, you can make high impact because working very closely with them, not one-on-one, but you're working closely enough with them to where you can have a pretty direct impact around how they're doing their work, helping them check in, helping them check in with their team. And when you do that with a group of 15, 20, 30 people, they go off and do that. If they learned something and enjoyed the work, they go off and do that with their teams. And so all of a sudden you have a huge intervention with a very quick or bite-sized engagement. So I like working with groups because water falls down and upward and it can permeate the system.

And so the way I frame those engagements right now is there's a lot of changes in the way that we're working today. Remote hybrid organizations are constantly having to reevaluate how they've arranged themselves, and that speaks to larger change management challenges. But it also speaks to on the ground, how are people dealing with the new policy of how we work? How does your team come together and do its work? Is it remotely? Is it hybrid? Is it full-time in person? And if so, how do you pursue your work given this new paradigm we're in? And so that's what I do with leaders and managers. I help them bring their people together and check in on how they're doing, how are they communicating, how are they making decisions? Are roles clear? Have they grown or changed shapes or maybe their mandate has changed?

And if so, have they talked about it? Does everyone know what's the plan? How does the team's goals align with the organization's goals? Right? Giving folks the ability to have space to talk about the things that are not necessarily every day work topics that get discussed over and over. Oftentimes that space needs to be intentionally developed, and that's what I'm focusing on right now is helping teams develop an intentional space to work on the more foundational challenges and opportunities.

Sarah Nicastro: Now, would you say that the need for that work typically surfaces due to a problem or simply because it's recognized as an opportunity?

Josh Elmore: I'd say it depends, right? I think lots of times folks that are managing a team have some level of view into what's going on with everyone, depending on the configuration, how are you working, how much contact do you have? Is everybody getting to do things on their own because maybe they're a bunch of experts and they don't really need to coordinate their effort very much. So oftentimes it might be around a lack of knowing what's going on and things may be popping up. Oftentimes I talk with leaders around symptoms, right? They'll tell me that there's conflict on the team, and conflict can come from a lot of different places. So sometimes it's like, okay, well let's understand where that's coming from and let's talk with folks and get on the same page. I call it building a shared understanding. Let's build a shared understanding of what's happening because everyone's realities are different.

And so it could be what's perceived of as an issue. And oftentimes maybe a leader's been given a new business unit, maybe they have to bring something to life and drive a whole new direction, which is great. And it's an opportunity and it's hard. So having some support and having the ability to get folks together and start coordinating your effort and building that continuous practice of just checking in and making sure that everyone's on the right boat and you're all heading towards the same destination, and also creating space to where people can think creatively and bring up challenges as they come along so it doesn't build up.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that makes sense. Now, obviously the work you would do in that process is quite individual to the organization you're working with, but that being said, I'm wondering are there any commonalities that typically arise in terms of the root of some of the conflict or the challenges or the best practices that you end up helping these teams create as they go forward?

Josh Elmore: Yeah. At the end of the day, it always comes down to the most fundamental features of a team. Are we coordinating our effort together? Are we communicating enough? Are we giving each other feedback? Are we making sure that I'm doing what we've agreed upon, that it is that I should be doing, that you are doing what we've agreed upon that you should be doing. And no one is feeling that too much work is landing on their back and things aren't distributed enough. And so it comes back to just team hygiene, really. In the same way that you build a relationship with a friend or a colleague and you have this rich, very healthy dynamic, if you can think about that dynamic that you've created with that person, how did you create it? Was it that you have frequent conversations? Is it that you're tuned in to the same challenges of maybe your industry?

And if so, how did you get there? Do they have the same education as you? Did they take a class that you've also taken? How did you get to a place where you're both on the same wavelength? And so you can think of these simple terms of same wavelength and use them as a barometer of, all right, are things going well or not? And if not, start to figure out, okay, look at good examples. To your point, there's a lot of uniqueness between everyone's challenges, but from the reason that there's a whole science of social psychology is because there are some rules. And so I'd say because we are all different individuals, the way that we have healthy relationships with people is different from anyone else.

How we build relationships with folks is different. So you need to look at examples of where you've been successful at building strong relationships and take those lessons and then apply them in other circumstances to more or less, and getting feedback from whoever you're working with as well. Because what works here may not work there, but there are general principles around just good hygiene, good communication, good checking in.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Okay. So then if we think about change management or change leadership, which as you mentioned earlier, closely intertwined because one, obviously it impacts teams, but also it seems ongoing and constant at this point. So it's something that folks are always navigating. So when we talked about change management, you mentioned there's sort the model and the mindset. So can you talk a little bit about why both are important?

Josh Elmore: Yeah, and I think speaking to the idea that you mentioned at the outset of framing the question where you mentioned I change management or change leadership and change leadership and those, you can use those as similar analogies to the idea of change management, the model, change leadership, the mindset, and why would we make this dichotomous of view? I mean, definitely go hand in hand, but if we wanted to pull them apart and say, okay, I'm a leader. I've been handed this new business unit, we have a whole new mandate, I got to turn it around. We need to work towards some new set of goals and metrics and everything.

How do you do that? You have two, three, four or 500 people working for you or coordinating effort in the unit that you have. And it could even be just a small team, but at the end of the day, you need to have vision. But your vision should be rooted, not just in start with, what do you see? How did you get here? You're working with some other set of leaders, you've been given some authority to do some work, and you have context. So what's your context? What are you seeing? What needs to happen? And then how do you share that with everyone else and get their feedback on the current state of things so that you could build a shared vision? So change leadership is taking your context, taking your vision, knowing what needs to happen, turning and getting feedback from the system, from those folks that you're going to be relying on and saying, okay, how do you think we should go about this?

Start the conversation. If you go all the way down to the team, it's seemingly simple, right? Six, five people, 10 people. You can have everyone in the room and you can have a conversation. You could write notes and you can say, all right, this is generally what everyone's thinking. But at hundreds of people you need to build in the practice of continuous listening. That's like working with people analytics and feeding back. What are you saying? What are you hearing back? And that's the leadership piece. That's you projecting vision, but also listening and not only listening, but taking it to heart, integrating it, and then feeding it back to the system like, I heard you, this is what we're doing to address it. Actually, I might bring you in to help us address it. And as you start to do that, that's when you're getting into change management.

Some of those techniques that I was talking about are models of how you produce change, how leadership shows up and listens and gives folks the ability to feed back to them. That's part of change management. And it's iterative. The more you do it, you're managing this continuous shift, steering the ship in this new direction. And so that's why we call it organization development. I haven't mentioned that term yet, but the broader field that encompasses change management, change leadership is organization development. Why do we use the term development? It's because what do you do as an individual if you're learning, you develop. And so that's the same thing you have to do for your system. You need to develop it by helping it learn, understand, and get motivated by whatever it is it's heading towards. And that's by involving people and stepping forward together.

And leaders have to head that up, but in doing so, they're helping to manage a process which is change. And that's when you're building in mindset, you're building in this conversation, people are getting on the same page. Okay, what we're doing, we're engaging in this shared pursuit towards success. However you frame your change management initiative, you're always going to have pushback. And you need to do from a model perspective, stakeholder management, where are you going to have resistance? Where are you going to have folks that are on board and championing the change? And as you build out this apparatus, this scaffolding for the organization, which is out of your leadership in change, you can test ideas, what we call interventions.

You can intervene, you can hold an all hand meeting and get questions. How did that go? What did people say? What did they talk about? Where are people at right now? Let's not jump ahead 10 steps to the ending of this change engagement. Let's listen to where people are right now, meet them there and step forward together. So that's how change leadership manifests to produce managed change and can create a shared mindset of change. For those that are navigating very hard things, change is not easy.

Sarah Nicastro: So I have a couple follow up questions. One is in the mindset model relationship or surrounding it even, where do things typically falter? And I'll explain why I'm asking, right? I have been interviewing people in this space for 15 years, and when I say what went wrong, what would you do differently? 90 plus percent of the time, it is related to change management. So I always say it's one of my favorite and least favorite topics simultaneously because it just always baffles me that it comes up again and again and again and again as the sticking point. Yet it doesn't seem so far. Okay, I think we're getting there, but it doesn't really seem like people are getting it and getting ahead of it. So I'm just wondering if you were to generalize about companies that get it wrong, that don't get it right, where are the most common missteps? What is the missing piece?

Josh Elmore: So, we say changes the process, it starts and it proceeds. And if you think about entropy, the idea that everything, the whole universe is expanding all at once, and things become more chaotic as everything expands. We can say we feel that in the world of work, because it's a process, you have to examine where are things starting? How many components do you have involved in this network of support resistance in the organization? How complex is your organization? At the end of the day, if you think about change, I like to think about it as just one person. You're one person and you have one brain and you have connections in your brain and you make a decision and you can go off and do the action that you've decided on doing. It's very easy or it's easier than working between two groups of or multiple people.

So if we think about going between people, there's a lot that can get lost in understanding between a couple of different people, between functions, between whole systems, and you have to be continuously examining what you're doing, right? Edgar Schein, one of the early thinkers in the world of organization development, said everything is an intervention. So every single thing that you do is an intervention. Every email that gets sent off by leadership, every behavior that seems in contrast or not aligned with this new direction that an organization is heading, people see it. They think, oh, maybe I don't have to go that way. Maybe I don't need to work so hard. Or there can be feelings of not being included. A lot of times from a strategy perspective, you can go to an offsite with your leadership team and get together and make a whole bunch of decisions about what's going to happen in the organization and then just communicate it down and expect it all to happen, as opposed to having that offsite with the whole organization.

What does it look like for leaders to say, these are the broad directions we want to head? How do we get our people working in that direction? So I'd say that change management as a field has a lot of great practices to the extent that organizations put them to use in full force. It's a challenge, right? Because oftentimes when a consultant or a change management practitioner gets called in, it's halfway through the change exercise, they've planned some change, or they decided at a leadership offsite, we're going to do these things. They've sent out the memos, nothing's happening, or it's not going as planned. And okay, we need somebody to come help. And by the time a practitioner comes in and can help, you're halfway through and you got disenchanted folks in the organization. And so it's a process and it's always happening, and it's like a muscle.

It's like you have to use your change muscle. And that's the mindset. If we live in a time of constant change, Bill Pasmore, one of my mentors at Columbia wrote a book called Leading Continuous Change, and he uses the metaphor of a roller coaster. And so if you're always on the roller coaster, then you need to have the ability to think clearly in these very hard times, but also show people how to think clearly or to build a coherent narrative out of what's happening. And so there's a common refrain. I'm not sure how much, and I've looked this up to find how some solid research around it, but there's a common refrain in the organization change world that 70% of organization change efforts fail. And anecdotally, you, it seems like you're hearing that, and in a lot of ways it has to do with how easy is it for us to change as individuals?

It is pretty hard. Now think about doing that in a group and then in a whole organization. And so you have to be very thoughtful. You have to be very deliberate. If you want to pursue a new direction, you got to plan it out and you have to track it, and you have to deal with setbacks and then pivot in and of itself, that's where the leadership idea comes in. It is a full-time job. And oftentimes organizations, they'll find a consultant or two, or they'll have a small organization development function in their organization that work as internal consultants, which is great. Having some folks that can be there to help out and give some insight is wonderful, but you have to treat them as real partners and think of the way that you're going to change as something that doesn't just end.

You've already started it just by nearly thinking it started because you probably told somebody about it. And so especially if this is a subordinate of yours, it's on their mind because you mentioned it. And so what are they doing differently? And so very simply by mentioning something that needs to be different to a subordinate, you could check in a week later and ask them what their thoughts are on that. That's the very beginning of the intervention of trying to change. It's the same way that you reflect on if you got a new job, you would reflect on how's it going, right?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. No, I think that makes sense. And I think it's the leadership piece or the mindset piece is where historically folks in this space at least have faltered because I think it's been viewed a lot as a checkbox. We know we need to do this, so let's make sure it's on the plan. Does somebody have it on the plan? Is it in the budget? Okay, wait, our budgets got cut, let's just cut the change management piece. Do you know what I mean? It's not a mindset, it's not a part of the leadership skillset, it's just something that is on a list because they know it should be on a list type of thing.

Okay, so the other question I had on, you've said a couple of times about the fact that it's continuous. I think another trap is and tied to the mindset of, okay, well, let's just get this over with. Let's do the change management and be on our way. And obviously, as you've mentioned a couple of times, as we know, change today is constant, right? We're in a state of continually evolving and innovating. So with that though, comes change fatigue. So how do we handle that?

Josh Elmore: Yeah, I've thought a lot about this idea, and sometimes I wonder to what extent we are poorly framing what it means to be at work. What does it mean to have a job? If you are at will in your employment, then technically your job is precarious because you can be fired at any time. And yet, we have benefits. We build entire lives around the fact that we have what we consider a stable job, but if there's any evidence that we don't live in, that paradigm is living in continuous layoffs. You look at the way that people who are at will find themselves without a job, they may be moved for that job. They built an entire life around it. And so in some ways, the way we frame how work looks is a little bit misleading. And because we're framing work as this very stable thing, which the evidence signals that it's not. In the past, in the 1950s, people could have a career at a single organization, and some people still do.

There's very large organizations that are embedded and massive, and you can go in and build your entire career there, right? GE, PepsiCo, very large systems. But in general, across most organizations, that's just not the case anymore. You can't build entire careers. And there's some conventional wisdom that says you should jump around to different jobs because that's how you get a raise, right? That's an idea because you move from one job to the other, you get experience, you get more opportunity, and maybe you get a little bit more responsibility. And so looking at the way that jobs work for individuals is an indicator of how organizations also are operating, and it's in a non-stable and evolving process at all times. If you just took a look at an organization and tracked it for a year or two and watched all the things that happened to it, and maybe read its quarterly reports, what did they do? They're constantly doing things. Why? Because they're seeking to make a profit, or if they're a nonprofit, they're trying to pursue some mission. And so they're super energetic.

Organizations in and of themselves, the term organization is a verb, right? It's energetic. And so I think by framing systems and jobs and everything that goes with it in a way that seeks to hold onto this idea of stability, it produces some misleading idea of what actually is happening. And so if we were to shift that back to the mindset that, and that's an idea, I don't have research to support it, but I think it doesn't necessarily make sense to frame things as stable if they're not, it makes more sense to frame things as being fluid and dynamic and agile. And if we do that, then we are coming to terms with it and we can lean into it. What happens when we frame things in a way that it's like we're constantly moving, right? Organizations, startups talk about this all the time, we're innovators.

And so if they're innovators, what does that mean? It means they're moving fast, they're breaking things, they're disrupting, and they can do that because they're small, and everyone has the mindset that things here are constantly changing. And if you don't, so we also have analogies in these nascent organizations, and we've talked about field services or field service, and that's coming out of an established industry, it's becoming something new, but it's embedded in something much more evolved and much more mature as an industry. But it needs to be given some space to have the ability to evolve and to do some change work just like a startup might, right? Especially if they're becoming a profit center. How do you inject some of that opportunity to become innovative and thereby changing, adapting, and infusing in everyone else that this place is making moves. Things are happening here, and it can be exciting. It could be a motivator as opposed to something you should be afraid of.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. No, that's a really good point. I've never really thought of it that way, how with your idea are almost fueling that sense of change fatigue or even resistance in a way, because it's seen to be at odds with what is, but is it really right? Is it really? Yeah, that's interesting. Okay, so you recently contributed to a book on data science in organizational change. Okay? Can you talk a little bit about what you covered there? How data is being leveraged to better understand the psychological behaviors, the impact of change, and how do you see the use of that growing or expanding in the future?

Josh Elmore: Yeah, it was great. It was really nice to be included in this handbook, which is generally a handbook of organization change research methods. And so I was part of a section on leveraging big data in organization change research, and a lot of my research when I was doing my doctoral work, I used advanced analytics like R to analyze larger data sets. So it'd be statistics, but it would also be just taking large amounts of data and examining some insight that could be drawn from, for instance, when I did my dissertation, it was on letters of recommendation, and I examined 1,200 letters of recommendation and did content analysis on them, but from a natural language processing perspective. And I was able to look at to what extent were men and women described differently in the letters of recommendation. I was able to find that men were described as researchers and scientists and women were described more as teachers and students.

And so you can really draw out huge insights from a lot of data by leveraging the tools of data science. And unfortunately, when I gave the topics that I found in the letters of recommendation to 250 faculty members in the geosciences who would've read these letters of recommendation and ask them to rate the topics in terms of how important they are for making a hiring decision, unsurprisingly, they rated researching and scientists as more important than being a student or teacher. And in such a way that they rated topics more expressed more frequently for men as more important for making a hiring decision. And what you get from that is not just one way by which you see the inequalities in an organization setting for the university in this perspective, but it gives you that big picture view into what's happening at the foundation of the way that we do our work, among all of the materials that we use to produce our output.

What are the trends? What are the deep insights that we can draw on and use to learn and update how we work? And so that's the idea of leveraging data science, which I believe is going to be a tool for every scientific field. Every scientific field in the future will figure out a way to leverage data science. It's the modern use of statistics. And so what I do in the chapter is I produce a framework for examining continuous change. So for instance, if you were to send, say you have an organization of a thousand people and in the chapter, I use this example of you are a brick and mortar store and you have stores in various locations, but you want to become an e-commerce store as well. No, excuse me. It's that you're an e-commerce store and you want to become a brick and mortar store.

And I got mixed up there because in general, the idea not so long ago was for brick and mortar to become e-commerce, Barnes and Nobles trying to catch up with Amazon. All of these different organizational changes going on Blockbuster trying to be Netflix and way too late. But if you are, say you're an e-commerce store and you say, I need to open up brick and mortar because I think brick and mortar is important. We're living in a new era where people like to go and experience things, not just on the internet post-COVID, they're going to the mall again. So we're going to open up our stores and malls across the country. How do you do that? Your entire organization are used to being e-commerce? How do you get them to shift to supporting a whole entirely new way of working, which is brick and mortar, that's retail and having real estate and leases and all of these different new things that you have to do.

And so leadership has to get together. They have to think about it, they have to bring people in, and they have to start talking about it. With data science, for instance, you could measure, for instance, say you built a dictionary of all of the words that were associated with the change that you were pursuing, like retail, clothes hangers, lease, right? All of the words that would be included in discussion around this new direction your business is heading. And you looked at a, maybe a department level, look at all of the emails being sent around. So the change starts and you start tracking what is the language that's being used across all of my different departments? Are people talking about this new change? And if they are, what other words are they using to describe it, positive or negative? And then you can start look at positive sentiment around the language people are using related to the changes that are going on.

And you can look at negative sentiment and you can say, okay, it looks like there's some challenges here at a high level. So how do we help this part of the business to manage the change? And what's the big challenge? Let's bring folks together, let's hear from them. So when you start to look at large aggregated data, you can start to see trends across your organization to say, okay, here's where we have some challenges, here's where things are going great. Maybe how do we get the folks that are doing really well based on the sentiment of the slack and email that is being sent around to meet with the folks that things are going poorly? How do they share practices? So the things that you probably would've done anyways can be rooted in evidence. They can be rooted in the actual real things that are happening on the ground.

And so that's what the chapter is about, is taking measurement and then updating it and continuously building what we would call a listening system, a way of gathering a sentiment, gathering taking what we call a pulse people. Analytics is a big element of this, but it's like if you have a people analytics team and they partner with the organization development team or organization change management team, and you bring their forces together and they can start to build a listening strategy around the change, and leadership has a dashboard to say, okay, this is how these things are going. Let's put together some all hands meeting where, because this moment, it feels critical, especially if it's real time. If you can get real time data about what's happening, next week, let's have an all hands meeting so things don't start to get stale, and people start to feel like we're not actually changing. This is not actually happening. Right?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. No, that's really interesting because you mentioned obviously it's evidence-based, but I think it's also being able to get ahead of the time it would take for those sentiments to surface without looking at that data. So if you have this pocket of negative sentiment here, if you're not utilizing those data streams and looking at that input, it might take a lot longer for that to surface and for you to have the opportunity then to go and address it. So very interesting. Okay.

Josh Elmore: Thanks.

Sarah Nicastro: Josh. What, if anything, we missed, I mean, I'm sure there's a lot we could dig more into, and probably some of these topics could be a podcast in and of themself, but anything else I guess for today that we should touch on in terms of team building and change management?

Josh Elmore: Yeah, I think you shared where the field service world is right now, and that it's going through lots of change and having to produce new outputs given new sets of goals and new mandates for how things should be going. And I'd say, I've already said this, but the more that you can involve the people that you rely on to do that work, they're out there in the world. They're putting the technology to use, they're deciding whether or not they're going to leverage the new practice that you're hoping will streamline efficiency, or they're just going to digit for some old ways of working because it doesn't necessarily make sense to them. Learn from your people what doesn't make sense to them? Why might they not necessarily adopt the new direction that you're heading? And the more that you can listen to them and bring them into the conversation, the more you're going to learn, do things in a way that is appropriate given the constraints, and it gives them the feeling that their input matter.

And that's going to build a lot of rapport with your people. So I just wanted to share that. I think being in that process of evolution is not easy. And if it's not easy for you, it's not easy for everyone else. And so if you're a leader, how do you make it easier for everyone else, or at least make them feel bought into the process?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, no, that's really good advice. Where can folks get in touch with you?

Josh Elmore: So I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn. I think it's a great platform for sharing ideas. So you can find me on LinkedIn, just Dr. Josh Elmore. I have my website,, and I am planning on doing a podcast pretty soon on team effectiveness.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Josh Elmore: So if you're listening to this in 2024, then check out, look for the Team Effectiveness Podcast where I'll be talking about all things teams and yeah, always happy to chat about any challenges you're facing. It's my pleasure to learn from the challenges other folks are facing with this work, and I like being helpful.

Sarah Nicastro: Awesome. I love that. Well, thank you Josh, so much for coming and spending some time with us today. We'll have to chat too about podcasting, it's fun. I'm excited for you, but appreciate you being here. So, thank you for your time.

Josh Elmore: Yeah, totally. Thank you so much, Sarah. It's been great. I love talking about this stuff. So happy to be here. Thanks.

Sarah Nicastro: Awesome. You can find more by visiting us at While you're there, be sure to sign up for the Future of Field Service Insider so you can stay up to date on all of the latest articles and podcasts. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.