Last week, I talked about the inevitability of change and why project and senior managers face challenges in successful change execution. (Don’t Take Organizational Change for Granted – Manage it) I know that you cannot overcome all problems associated with change. However, planning and communication minimize the discomfort.
The first planning step is deciding where you want the organization to be when the change is complete. This creates both the vision and evaluation criteria. On rare occasions, the resulting change vision rests solely with a leader, more often though the vision comes from discussions with people representing several parts of the organization. After the initial discussions, the successful change requires a project leader, a champion and a small group of committed individuals.
The core team tasked with implementing the change needs to spent time creating a “talking points presentation” about what, why, and how. Talking points are sound bites (Yes, just like the politicians use!). They are not paragraphs of text or pages of process – those come later. In creating the key points you want to communicate, address the reasons people resist change – fear, no perceived need, moving people out of their comfort zone – cover those concerns specifically in the talking points. Remember, just as in politics, change is local.
Consider implementing a rolling change rather than a company-wide alteration of process and tools simultaneously. Although the core actions of the change have the same goals for each part of the organization, the impact and implementation details will vary across departments. If you have the luxury of time and resources, consider beginning the change with test cases or single departments and learn how to improve the implementation process as you go along. I have a theory in change management – “Less is more.” Don’t try to get everyone to make big changes all at once, rather go for small wins and changes in perception and behavior.
During the initial planning, create an implementation schedule and make sure that employees know that their feedback and suggestions will be integrated, as the change becomes inclusive of the entire company. Add training into the schedule. Include a time for evaluation at each increment or stage and factor in some time for reflection.
DO NOT FORGET TO SHARE WITH CUSTOMERS AND CLIENTS
Customers and clients do not like surprises, even positive ones. Share the talking points and plans with key customers and stakeholders. Tell them how they will experience the change – sell it. Ask for their input and feedback. Keep the communication personal. Schedule face-to-face meetings; include a presentation at a shareholder’s meeting or in the annual report. Have marketing or business development personnel, customer service staff or business analysts talk with key clients as the organization prepares for change. I just worked with a small health care company and the CEO was excellent at incorporating the clients and stakeholders into the changes he was making internally. The result for his company was increased respect and business.
Share successes and challenges with all stakeholders. Celebrate success!