Effective change management requires the ultimate war-room strategy. You must win over the hearts and minds of the people and ensure those hearts and minds lead to hands doing things in the new way for the long run. Setting and implementing this strategy shouldn’t be squeezed into the precious few spare minutes of your day. It’s too important. I know that you know this, and likely your senior leaders do as well, but getting leaders to allocate resources, including your time, into change management can be a challenge.
This 4-part blog series will give you the language to build a compelling case that will open the door to a fruitful discussion with your senior leaders regarding the change management you need in your organization. As you read, you’ll learn:
- What change management is and is not;
- A metaphor you can reuse to describe why change management matters;
- How to remove the mystery of change management by describing the work that will take place in three distinct phases;
- How you’ll use internal data to make evidence-based decisions; and
- How you’ll calculate and report ROI.
With this knowledge in hand you will be able to concretely answer the questions that your leaders have and secure the change management support you need.
Blog 1: The Change Management You Need
Seek First to Understand
As a change management practitioner, I often need to explain what change management is. However, as Steven Covey advocates in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I try and “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Therefore, I begin this kind of conversation by aiming to understand what my client’s perceptions of change management are. Often, I’ll hear something along the lines of “that’s the thing you do to get adoption, right?” The frequency of this answer is revealing, as it has demonstrated to me that there is a lot of ambiguity and a lack of understanding of what change management is and what adoption really means.
Change management, at its core, is about changing mindsets, changing behaviors, and then reinforcing and sustaining those changes over time. Good change management, however, also needs to address the complexities of modifying behavior, impacting culture, and gaining real return on the initiative that is being invested in. At EK, our change management experts take “good” change management a step further, practicing what we refer to as Integrated Change Management (ICM).
Integrated Change Management
ICM is the act of integrating leadership support, employee engagement, messaging, processes, success-metrics, and training to ensure swift and sustained adoption of the new way. What makes ICM different from the standard, traditional approach is that we are not just sending out comms and crossing-our-fingers with the hope that people read the material, make the necessary changes, and become advocates rather than resistors. We put in the necessary work and then reap the gains. This is an approach that can be applied at the business-unit level or at the enterprise-level when multiple strategic changes are occurring at once. Additionally, our practitioners also recognize no organization is operating with unlimited time, resources, and funds, as many traditional approaches might suggest. Every organization has restraints, and ICM works within this reality to deliver the target outcomes.
Many organizations have adopted siloed ways of working. Siloes were originally designed to help teams work more efficiently removing layers of the organization that might distract, detain or otherwise impede the work of a team. People become well-adapted to the processes in their silo and it can create the time-savings that organizations originally intended. Real issues crop up however, when teams need to work across silos. There aren’t tried-and-true processes in place for working across silos, but more importantly, and more often, the relationships are not in place. Relationships are an incredibly undervalued aspect of organizational productivity, the ability to manage change or knowledge transfer.
Because siloed work is incredibly common in today’s workplace, EK’s practitioners begin by getting the structure and processes in place for people across departments and divisions to work efficiently together and build the needed relationships that ‘adoption of the new’ will require. Otherwise, we all know what will happen: hastily drawn up communications plans, strategic visions lost in translation, and mid-level managers struggling to convey to their individual contributors what is expected of them, resulting in a lackluster adoption rating. These are predictable risks that can be mitigated with ICM.
One Boat One Team
To better visualize how ICM works in practice, our consultants use the metaphor of a crew team and the sport of rowing because crew is the ultimate team sport. Every rower must operate their oar in sync with their teammates, entering and coming out of the water at the same time, because every stroke, from each rower, affects the team’s success. It looks easy and effortless when it’s done right, but crew demands that individuals come together to achieve a shared objective. There is no room for individual stars or people chasing personal goals. It requires a “one boat, one team” mentality.
Like crew, committing to long-term change takes grit, stamina, discipline, focus, steadiness, and, yes, sometimes even strength – strength to stand up to possible resistance. One of my colleagues at EK, a former rower and coxswain at the University of Oxford, says of her experience on a crew team: “Despite all the preparation, if you are not in sync, it does not matter how hard you try.”
When managing change, it does not matter how strong each individual leading the change is. What matters most is that all the players are in sync. This ranges from establishing a clear and succinct purpose, to understanding what metrics most signify ROI, to operationalizing the change into the day-to-day reality of the organization. Spending the time upfront by laying the groundwork for change is where you’ll see the most return on investment of effort.
Change management is not simple, but it doesn’t have to be hard. There are ways to work with your organization instead of against it to set up the right structure, processes and relationships to support change at either the business-unit or enterprise-level. This scaffolding has to be set up at the beginning of the initiative, do not save change management for the tail end of the engagement. It is a lesson that too many organizations have learned the hard way. Let’s do change differently this time. Let’s do ICM.
In the upcoming blogs, learn in detail how our experts execute ICM, and set yourself up to take the right steps at the right time, guiding your organization towards success and bringing the vision state to reality.