Today I’ll share the final four items on my list of Big Rocks that those in charge of making change happen should consider. These ideas were inspired by the answers I received from members of a LinkedIn discussion forum when I asked this question:
Consider the Source: Here’s a link to that discussion thread if you want to get involved in that dialogue. I’d encourage you to look at some of the other discussion topics there too. I’ve found that the practitioners who frequent these Organizational Change Management (OCM) discussion forums always have good advice to offer. Most are working OCM professionals. Many are authors and leaders in their field. They also tend to back up their opinions and observations with solid examples from their experiences.
The List of Eight: Here are the 8 Big Rocks I introduced yesterday as items to plan for when you’re designated to lead a change. Yesterday I addressed the first four and today I’ll talk about numbers 5-8. So… when you are placed in charge of making change happen, consider how you will:
- Own It.
- Define It.
- Align It.
- Engage Stakeholders.
- Train & Communicate.
- Reinforce It.
- Handle Risks.
- Measure It.
5. Plan for specific communication and training activities that will help stakeholders through the transition and follow up on their concerns. While planning for communications, be sure to include activities that gather feedback on how well your messages were understood. You may need to adjust the messaging based on that feedback. As for training, people learn in many different ways, so be sure to offer a mix of options and measure the effectiveness of the training by verifying that stakeholders will actually be capable of performing in their new/changed roles when you complete the change initiative.
6. Reinforce the change as you go along and especially after it takes effect. One of the most common misconceptions when rolling out a big change is that the change work is done when the project is over. The team typically disbands or moves on to the next big thing while the impacted stakeholders are expected to “just get it”. Instead of repeating this cycle of serial abandonment – build a support structure for the new way of doing things and make it part of someone’s job to help with ongoing questions and support needs.
7. Watch for risks and roadblocks that could sink the change and plan for contingencies to address them. This is another good reason to make it someone’s job to guide the change project. Keep the entire team aware of the biggest risks and what is being done to address them. The most common ways to address change-related concerns tend to rely on the things we talked about above: verifying alignment, communicating, providing stakeholders with learning opportunities and so forth. It is very hard to uncover all of the risks and potential roadblocks up front, so plan to watch for things to pop up and need your attention throughout the project.
8. Measure readiness before and after the change goes live and measure the actual impact that the change has had over time. The business side will probably drive the measurement of business impact from your change, but it’s typically the job of the OCM team to put together metrics of readiness. Gauging stakeholder readiness for change can be as simple as adding an assessment component to the training or adding surveys and site visits with interviews to the plan. Finally, measured results are among the things that business sponsors may demand from you the next time you offer to help guide a change within the organization. If you collect data before, during and after the initiative, you will be far more preapared to answer the question: “What impact did that big OCM investment produce last time?
- First; the same issues keep coming up in the field of OCM, (stakeholder resistance, lack of alignment, poor sponsorship, etc.) so I suspect there will always be a need for Change Leaders and Change Agents to facilitate the process of change adoption.
- Second; OCM theories are a dime a dozen. (I know this because I’ve read over 100 books on it and dreamed up OCM methods myself! So research is great, books are great, blogs are great. But there is no substitute for listening to the actual experiences of stakeholders, leaders and OCM folks who participate in real changes.
- Third; What works is what matters and what matters is what works. The same thing rarely works as well in two different scenarios so it’s a good idea to blend your use of theory with a hefty dose of reality. Be ready to adapt your process to the needs of the people involved in helping you deliver the change.
Finally, 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.
Thanks for your inputs everyone!
Questions for Chatter:
- How often have you seen the items on this list heeded or ignored as a big change is planned in your organization?
- How helpful have you found the advice given on online forums to be?