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:
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?