Change can be hard.
…but it might not be as complex as we sometimes make it out to be. I use a battle-tested list of five questions to draw out the details of a client’s change before planning the communication and training elements of the roll out.
theBigRocks Big Five
Most of the change impacts you’ll need to address with stakeholders can be uncovered by consistently asking a few key questions. You’ll need to start asking them early, stick with them diligently and apply them to every functional area of the change. Here are what I call the Big Five stakeholder questions about any change:
1. What’s new?
2. What’s going away?
3. What’s staying exactly the same?
4. What’s staying, but in a different way?
5. What are we not sure about yet?
Here’s a bit more detail about each question:
Consider what will be new for each stakeholder group. Will they have a new software system to use? New rules to follow? New products to promote? Take a good hard look at the proposed change: especially if you’ve been working with it for so long that YOU are already adapting to it! Consider the welcome additions as well as the new things that will potentially meet resistance. One good way to tell if you’ve captured all the new changes is to invite a few of your stakeholders into the process and ask them what they notice. These first impressions can save you a lot of trouble downstream.
What’s going away?
Is your change designed to bring efficiency to a process by removing steps or eliminating positions? Will an old computer system be retired? Will any old rules no longer apply? Some stakeholders will be glad to see negative items go away. Also consider the stakeholder perspective that you may be taking good things away. Some psychologists suggest that all change is first viewed at the personal level as a loss… so what will your stakeholders be losing with this change?
What’s staying the same?
Just as important as the list of new things coming for stakeholders is the list of things that will remain unchanged. Policies are a good example of things that sometimes do not change – even with the introduction of process changes or new technology. This can be important at a personal/psychological level since most people look for stability in the midst of change. Anything you can offer to reduce the stress of change is bound to help.
What’s staying, but changing?
Good candidates for this category include vital processes that will be done in a different way under the new regime, but are still essential to the operation of your business. For example, introducing a handheld device that plans a driver’s route and tracks deliveries may not eliminate the need to get some form of signature when delivering a package… but the signature may be entered on a device instead of a form. Consider process adjustments such as electronic / online records that will replace paper documents and file cabinets. Paperless pay stubs, online vacation requests and employee self-service for human resources transactions are also good examples.
What are we not sure about yet?
Finally, it’s OK if you don’t have an answer right away for every component of the change. In fact, in many cases, you will not know exactly how the change will impact a given stakeholder group until you actually start introducing it in their area. Ideally, you should ask the questions above several times during the planning and roll-out process and build a progressively clearer picture of the impact your change will have on people. Be sure to keep track of these unanswered questions and update your stakeholders as you fill in the blanks.
Questions for Chatter:
- What happens if you wait too long to start asking these kind of questions?
- What other questions do you think might be helpful?