It’s election time in the US. We’re being inundated with TV advertisements and billboards claiming that the world will quickly turn around if we’d just vote correctly – and the world may end if we mess it up.
Since I live in Florida, a.k.a. “the land of close elections and hanging chad“, you can imagine that I may get at least one visit this coming weekend from a candidate asking for a handshake and my vote.
Or will I?
You see, I’ve already voted using an absentee ballot. And based on what I discovered while reading a recent article by Patrick Gavin of Politico titled “Canvassing Made Easy‘, I may get bypassed while my neighbor next door gets all the attention.
It turns out that the old way of canvassing a neighborhood door-to-door with a clipboard, a stack of literature and a good pair of shoes is on the way out. As Gavin writes:
Smart phones are rendering the old ways virtually extinct. Take, for instance, the Organizing for America iPhone app.
“We think it’s the first of its kind,” said Natalie Foster, the new-media director for the progressive group Organizing for America. “It uses the geo-location feature to determine where you are and gives you information about the most important voters to talk to nearest you.”
What Does It All Mean? When coupled with voter databases and demographic trend analysis, I suppose volunteers can now separate the people most likely to still be on the fence from those hiding behind their fences until after Tuesday.
Campaign workers can literally optimize their routes to track down those “customers” most likely to be undecided and potentially willing to vote for their candidate. No more wasted time knocking on the doors of unregistered citizens or voters from the other party. No risk of missing the house of an undecided independent…
It Works for Change Agents Too: While I don’t have a fancy iPhone app for this, the technique used by these campaigns to hunt down votes is very similar to the stakeholder readiness and tracking method I typically recommend to my clients who are implementing change.
My approach has four simple steps and has been proven to work each time I’ve used it. The four steps are:
- Find Them
- Evaluate their Readiness
- Help Them Prepare
- Reinforce the Change
Find ‘Em: You can’t help anyone until you know who to help and people may not know anything about your change until you take proactive steps to communicate it. See my earlier post on how to build a “stakeholder map“ of those most impacted by your change. The map can be a full-blown database, an Excel spreadsheet or a list scribbled in a notebook – but in each case the dialogue begins with awareness and awareness begins with identification. Now that you know who your “voters” are, start a regular dialogue of messaging and listening for feedback so you can eventually win them over.
Evaluate Their Readiness: Most employees of your organization are as busy as you are. …and you are busy, right? That’s why they gave you this additional change project to do… :o) These busy people may not have prioritized your change into their daily work yet, so it helps to do a little research. You can measure how prepared your stakeholders are by asking them simple questions like:
- “What have you heard about this so far?”
- “What training have you taken?”
- “Do you know where to go for help?”
- “How many others at your location will need help preparing?” and so on.
I highly recommend you do a mixture of surveys, phone interviews and site visits to get a good snapshot of the readiness landscape. I also recommend that you take more than one round of measurements throughout the project.
Help Them Prepare: The most obvious step is the one that usually gets all the attention and resources during a change initiative. Training tailored to each group of stakeholders is vital to helping them get ready. Avoid the trap of giving everyone the exact same dose of learning or using only one method of delivery. For example, you may not be able to afford classroom sessions for thousands of people, but some folks simply do not respond well to online courses… So be ready to mix it up and offer alternatives.
Send in Reinforcements: The last step is the hardest. Take time toward the end of your project to follow up with those who are still struggling and reward those who have successfully adapted. Remember that your initiative is not over until everyone has voted to accept or reject your change. (Yes. They have the option of rejecting your change! More on that in a later post…)
Look for patterns within your map of stakeholders. Is there a particular location that’s still having trouble or a specific group that has not attended training? Are more of the people struggling to adapt coming from a certain job role in your company? Take whatever action is needed – but focus on the few that need the most help instead of repeating broadcast messages and large-scale training events.
Rock the Vote: So while I don’t advocate going door-to-door trying to convince everyone in your company to adopt your change, I do recommend that you diligently track the readiness of your stakeholders. It can be the difference between winning or losing the battle for acceptance of your change.
Big changes are typically an all-or-nothing wager for you and your stakeholders. If you leave people out of the preparation or ignore their readiness needs, they may vote for the opposition… and in that case, I’m pretty sure you won’t get a re-count.
Question for Chatter:
- What if you have too many stakeholders to track individually? How can you still follow up with stakeholders to avoid having them fall through the cracks?