8 Big Rocks

Oct 31, 2010 2 Comments by

A few weeks ago I posted the following question on a LinkedIn discussion forum for the group “Organizational Change Practitioners“:

“What should you plan for when you’re in charge of making change happen?”

I  received back a wealth of great responses from the group and this week’s first couple posts are inspired by their useful advice.  In keeping with the theme of my blog, of course I called them Big Rocks… OBTW: Here’s a link to the actual discussion thread if you want to get engaged for yourself. There are some great OCM folks there and I’d encourage you to interact with them to pick up some battle-tested best practices.

Driving organizational change is just as much an art as a science. It’s nearly impossible to do it without some form of disciplined, methodical approach. On the other hand, anyone who tells you they have a foolproof scientific method that’s guaranteed to make people “get it” is probably trying to sell you a book. This list is a mix of both approaches.

Great Eight: Consider this list of 8 Big Rocks to keep in mind when you’re in charge of making change happen… Plan to:

Delivering change can sometimes be an uphill climb...

  1. Own It.
  2. Define It.
  3. Align It.
  4. Engage Stakeholders.
  5. Train & Communicate.
  6. Reinforce It.
  7. Handle Risks.
  8. Measure It.

Own it.

1.  Make it someone’s job to drive the change and keep it moving so you can get results while avoiding potential delays. Consider getting outside help to facilitate the change if your organization doesn’t have a proven OCM process and a strong facilitator in-house. If you do get outside help, include a knowledge-transfer component to the project to make sure that sponsors, change agents and stakeholders don’t just play along with the change while the outside influence is involved only to attempt a return to their old ways of doing things as soon as the outside influence is withdrawn.

Define it.

2.  Scope it out – clearly focus the team on what’s in and what’s out of the defined change. This expectation-setting exercise can save you a lot of hassle downstream when people try to pile on additional scope items or deny that something was expected of them. Pay especially close attention to defining what successful change will look like.  Some call this a clearly defined future state. I call this defining the what before getting into the how.

Align it.

3.  Align all levels of the company/organization involved in your change. This is another part of setting realistic expectations.  In this part of the process, we’ll address the specific resources needed to pull off the change (people as well as materials), the specific schedule within which you will execute your plans (including how that schedule meshes with other parallel business activities) and how you will measure the specific results of the change initiative.  As the old adage goes:

You don’t get what you want or what you pay for, you get what you measure…


4.  Engage stakeholders early and often as you seek to understand the current situation and how your change impacts things. Focus on process changes, policy changes, cultural impacts and other things that might require people to adapt. (OBTW: The LinkedIn forum participants listed tons of great questions to ask as you draw this stuff out!) Caution: Be careful as you ask these questions that you don’t promise to fix every problem the stakeholders raise or commit to addressing every stakeholder need for knowledge with expensive classroom training, etc.  This is a listening exercise in which those on the change team can learn as much as those they are interacting with!

This illustrative picture is courtesy of Irish Researcher Kevin Mitchell's interesting blog on "Wiring the Brain" @ http://wiringthebrain.blogspot.com/

More to Come: In my next post, I’ll put up 4 more Big Rocks and offer tips on how keeping an open mind is the key to learning and leveraging all the OCM suggestions you will likely hear as you drive change.

Strength in Numbers: I maintain that we are always smarter as a group than any of us would be as an individual.  So in the world of Organizational Change, as in many aspects of life, asking for good ideas is almost always a good idea.


Question for Chatter:

  1. What’s missing from our list?  Have you found something that needs to be planned for but routinely gets overlooked?

Incoming search terms:

  • the big rocks of change

Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Change Leadership, Stakeholder Readiness, Team Dynamics

About the author

I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!

2 Responses to “8 Big Rocks”

  1. Steve says:

    Thanks Gerri,
    Good point re: baseline measurement. That baseline could be especially useful if you’re doing a pilot rollout with a subset of the overall population.
    You could use the pilot data to get a better idea of how long it may take for subsequent groups to adapt in addition to gathering lessons learned to improve the experience for each new group of stakeholders…
    Thanks for the comment!

  2. Gerri Steadman says:

    Thanks for putting this together so succinctly. One tidbit, I would make sure the measurement includes a baseline of where the group is in the change process at the start of the process. This is a great way to not only capture what is accomplished, but it also provides a tool for the group to learn from, if it is a group. For an overall, organization, that feedback may not be given to the group specifically, but will help in designing the change process and measuring later.

    Thanks again.

    Geri Steadman

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