Change Agent Tip #17: A Recipe for Readiness

Nov 20, 2011 1 Comment by

It’s Thanksgiving week and like many Americans, we’ll be cooking up a huge feast with turkey and all the fixings at our house.  As I think about that once-per-year process of browning the perfect bird, I’m reminded of how much better the results turn out when I follow a recipe …and how some of my worst Thanksgiving kitchen disasters have come when I tried “winging it”.  (Ask my wife or kids about sourdough stuffing…)

Cookin’ Up Change: I’ve experienced a similar cause-and-effect scenario in my work as a Change Agent. I’ve had consistent success when I follow a proven recipe for building stakeholder readiness.  I’ve also faced some tough challenges when I dove into the classic tasks of change-related communication and training without gently blending in a few more subtle ingredients like capability and motivation.

In honor of the feasting season, allow me to offer my recipe for building stakeholder readiness.

The Ingredient List: Throughout the process of building readiness, you will need significant measures of the following ingredients within your stakeholder community:

  • a cup running over with Knowledge
  • a complete measure of Skill
  • an extra helping of Capability
  • and more than a dash of Motivation

Knowledge is King: Let me start with my layman’s definition of knowledge as it relates to the art of guiding change.  I consider Knowledge of the Change to be defined as:

…the combination of awareness of the change and a deep enough understanding of the change for each person to start preparing for it from their own frame of reference.

Awareness of the Change is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the basic reception of your message that change is coming. But awareness includes more than the simple delivery of information to your stakeholders. It also requires a tangible degree of feedback or acknowledgment from the intended targets to verify that the message has been received.

You can count on this feedback to include some questions, and that leads to the second component of knowledge…

Understanding of the Change: Understanding is quite a bit more involved than simple awareness. It includes knowing the core concepts behind the change and internalizing the basic facts about your change such as:

  • who is involved,
  • what processes are impacted,
  • when things will happen
  • and how to prepare.

Context Closes the Deal: The heart of the process for building stakeholder knowledge of your change is true dialogue. The ideal result of that dialogue is that people can place the change into context. Through the give-and-take of you sharing information and them asking questions, stakeholders will gradually internalize the meaning of your change from their frame of reference.

Summary: Knowledge of your change is more than sending out communication. It involves gathering the details, sending out information and gathering feedback using a process of true dialogue. This back-and-forth is critical because it helps stakeholders begin to “own” the change and see their own path to adopting it or rejecting it.

In my next article I’ll stir in the second ingredient for stakeholder readiness: Skill.


Question for Chatter:

  • Have you been involved in a horror story where information was sent out about an upcoming change without the sender circling back to gather feedback on how that message was received?

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!

One Response to “Change Agent Tip #17: A Recipe for Readiness”

  1. Robert Reid says:

    Thanks Steve, just as I was getting drawn into multiple discussion threads (in various Linked-in groups) that were spiraling down the drain of despair this Blog and discussion thread resets the table of hope and Thanksgiving for the blessings we have.

    I realize life cannot always be viewed through rose colored glasses, yet it is important to be energized by a vision of opportunity. Thanksgiving is a perfect picture to relate to a change for Readiness in its visual of bountiful harvest and balance of taste, texture, and contrast.

    Taking a step deeper there is a vivid story to be realized about change management when the United States was first being formed. Thanksgiving was one of the bright spots that focused on elevating collaboration and sharing of resources, knowledge and technique. Of course, there was also much turmoil and many battles to be waged and blood to be shed. Yet amidst it all there had to arise a common vision to yield the birth of a Nation that would prosper and flourish to develop into one of the most giving Nations that have ever risen.

    Temptation will be to tear down this discussion and focus on the negatives of the struggle…my challenge to all is to see the parallel in your change management challenges today and have a vision for Greatness…If you don’t, then who will?

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