There is No “I” in Change
Election season is in full force, and, as you would expect, one of the more prominent themes of this year’s campaigns is “Change.” Our candidates are going to reform healthcare, immigration policy, corporate tax laws, education, and so on and so forth. I don’t have an issue with our candidates running on a platform of change, as I believe that positive change should be embraced and even celebrated. However, the one thing that troubles me when I hear most of our candidates speak about “Change” is the frequency that our candidates use the word “I” when they speak about their plans for change.
In order for large scale “change” to be accepted and, in the best cases, embraced, change must be a “We” thing—it cannot be an “I” thing. This is not to say that everyone impacted needs to participate in the decision-making process, be an advocate for the change, or even agree with the change. In large scale initiatives, that is not feasible. However, each impacted individual must understand the reasoning behind the change, and they should have the opportunity to be involved in shaping how change is going to impact them, their organization, or their country.
For the purposes of this article, I am going to focus on Organizational Change, as I don’t have the time or battery life on my computer to continue down the path of discussing National Change. To increase the likelihood of your organizational change initiative resulting in complete cultural adoption, here some best practices:
Get Your Key Stakeholders Involved as Early as Possible
One of the biggest failures I see when working on enterprise or organizational change management initiatives is that there is often a strong sense of “I” in the early stages of defining and initiating the organizational change initiative. Individuals or small groups of leaders will decide what needs to happen, define the benefits, and convince decision makers that a change is needed. Often, key stakeholders or those impacted most by technology, process, or organizational changes are not engaged or even identified until after the planning has been completed and the execution begins.
The stakeholders who are most intimately involved and/or impacted by the proposed change are critical to the success of a change event. Leveraging their subject matter knowledge in developing the “Whys” and “Whats” of a change event will immediately ensure that your stakeholders are accountable. This goes a long way to ensuring the successful execution of the proposed change. By allowing stakeholders to ask and answer the questions “Why is this change taking place?” and “What’s in it for me?” stakeholders will feel ownership of the business benefits identified in the business case. They will be champions of the change within their organizations and will want to help their group adopt and embrace the pending change.
Plan How to Engage the Rest of the “We” in Driving Change
With your key stakeholders onboard and fully accountable for the success of the change event, the next critical task is planning how to communicate the change to all the other impacted parties. As soon as an initiative moves out of the planning phase and into the execution phase, it is imperative to begin thinking about the rest of the “We.” That is, who else will be impacted by this project, when and how does it make sense for them to be informed about the change, and how should they directly affect the change?
By completing a Change Management Plan that includes an impact analysis and a communication plan, you will ensure that you understand the rest of the impacted areas and that the appropriate steps are being taken to involve them in critical project deliverables (e.g. Business Requirements and Business Process Redesign Documents). It is also important to plan the volume, schedule, and channels through which you will communicate with various types of impacted individuals. Most importantly, you should plan for the training of impacted areas, as appropriate.
If you would like to see an example of a Change Management Plan, e-mail us at email@example.com and we’ll send you a sample template!
See Your Change Through and Execute the Plan
Now that you have built your approach to the “We” and identified the means and frequency of communication, your change event should not be as daunting or as lonesome. By getting your colleagues and co-workers from all impacted areas vested in the project at a very early stage, you have positioned your project to create more informed and effective project deliverables (e.g. requirements, designs, business processes). Shared accountability for the success of the pending initiative should be felt throughout the organization, positioning your change event for success. The final phase in ensuring that you are enabling your organization to be successful is to stay focused on the end goals, see the change through to the end, and continually revise and execute your Change Management and Communication Plans. Depending on the size and complexity of your change initiative, dedicated program or project management help can prove to be invaluable in staying the course and identifying potential risks and mitigation strategies as early as possible.
As you are following the campaigns and their promises of change, or perhaps even planning a significant change at your current organization, understand the benefits of creating an environment conducive for change. Furthermore, recognize that the first step in creating an environment conducive for change is to create an environment of inclusion. In other words, make sure that change is a “We” thing and not an “I” thing.
If you would like to learn more about effective Change Management, or you are about to lead a change initiative, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!