Change Agent Tip #18: No Way Without Know How

Nov 30, 2011 No Comments by

In my last post prior to the Thanksgiving break, I wrote about a “Recipe for Readiness” Change Agents can follow to improve their chances of success when guiding change.  My ingredient list included four things:

  •  Knowledge
  •  Skill
  •  Capability
  •  and Motivation.

It’s Not Enough to Know: In the previous article I also shared that knowledge includes a blend of awareness, understanding and the ability to place the facts about a given change into context. It’s critical that stakeholders be given a chance to know what’s going on with regards to the change from their frame of reference – and that knowledge is not by itself sufficient to enable readiness.

The second key ingredient to building readiness for change is skill. The dictionary has a fairly clear definition of the term:

 Skill is …the ability to do something well, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, and aptitude. 

They’ll Also Need Know How: All of the preparation we’ve discussed so far has to do with knowing the “what and the why” of your change.  Skill is more about the “how”. It picks up where the awareness, understanding and context leave off and includes the element of practical application. If you agree that skill is an important ingredient to change adoption, consider how six ways you might build the skills your people will need in order to be ready for your change:

1. Training: Classic training programs that re-iterate the context for your change and thoroughly explain the future-state are the most obvious tool for building the skills of stakeholders. Many organizations use centralized training based on common role performance scenarios to deliver large amounts of change-related content economically.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Expensive classroom sessions are becoming less and less the norm as Web-based courses, distance learning, online workshops and self-service learning opportunities become more refined and more effective. These techniques work very well for most change situations. Many stakeholders will pick up most of the skills they need through a mix of these approaches.

Five More Skill-Building Ideas Beyond Training: I advise against relying solely on training to prepare stakeholders. Don’t overlook the following skill-building techniques that can fill in the gaps and raise the competency of your change targets:

Change Agents don’t have to be Superman to be a hero to their co-workers... By using techniques like Mentoring, Champions and informal learning events, they can help do some pretty heavy lifting!

2. Champions: Consider identifying “Change Champions” within your various stakeholder groups and building their skills in advance of the general population. Give your Champions plenty of attention through the learning process so they can accurately represent the change out in the field. Leverage these local experts and their local relationships to create more face-to-face learning interaction than a centralized training team could possibly perform.

3. Mentoring: Mentoring is customarily viewed as an on-going one-on-one exercise where one person who has already “learned the ropes” provides individualized instruction and feedback opportunities to another person who is newer to the same situation. Few organizations can afford to place classic mentors like this into every situation to hand-hold each stakeholder until they are ready. I’m not suggesting that, but rather a more generalized mentoring approach that takes the ideas of training, Champions and measurement discussed above to another level.

4. Informal Events: I’ve seen organizations build ground-level skills through informal “Learning Lunches” where someone who “already gets it” explains the new state of affairs and leads a discussion that helps raise everyone’s level of understanding and skill. 

5. Practice Settings: Another common preparation technique that works well with technical/system changes is to host an open practice lab that makes the new system available for people to play with it. One or two subject matter experts can address the needs of dozens of individuals in this setting while stakeholders can stay as long as they need in order to feel comfortable with the new material. 

6. Measurement & Adjustment: Don’t hesitate to get a solid read on the self-reported readiness of stakeholders – especially in key areas where you know there will be significant amounts of change or the introduction of significantly more complexity than people have been accustomed to. Site visits, interviews and simple online surveys are useful for this process. Look for trends in the responses that point to trouble spots that may need extra help and attention. – then adjust your approach to close these gaps 

The key to making the most of change readiness measurement is listening for the particular areas where individual stakeholders are struggling and providing the targeted help they need.

It’s Not Even Enough to Know How! As a Change Agent, it’s your job to help stakeholders build change readiness by applying the general awareness and specific knowledge they have acquired about your change to their particular work roles.  In my next post I’ll discuss the third ingredient in the recipe for readiness: Capability.


Questions for Chatter:

  1. What other techniques have you used for building the skills of your stakeholders in preparation for a big change?
  2. How can we measure the readiness of stakeholders when it’s nearly impossible to get them to even show up for training?

Incoming search terms:

  • which of the following would not be a reason why the city of st louis would be considered a stakeholder with the st louis cardinal organization?
  • skills of a change agent

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

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