In today’s world, businesses face the reality that change is constant and inevitable. Building change resilience can help your organization stay ahead by embracing true top-to-bottom business transformation.
Faster delivery models, new technology and rapidly changing conditions require today’s businesses to operate in a state of constant change.
Forbes magazine notes that in April 2020, Microsoft’s CEO said, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” Organizations must build change resilience to keep up with this new normal while avoiding employee confusion.
In this blog, we’ll explore a few important yet often-overlooked organizational change management (OCM) components you need to have in place to thrive through transformation, along with examples of how they work in action.
1. Create a change story that builds a compelling need for change.
You can break transformation projects into multiple sprints and span over weeks, months and sometimes years. Change takes time, while new technologies and disruptions are emerging at a faster and faster pace. In today’s world, frequent business transformations are essential, so how can we make them easier without causing fatigue? Developing a change story offers a way to help mitigate negative reactions to change by preparing stakeholders for the long haul.
At the macro level, your change story answers what is changing and why. In addition, this story should speak to who it impacts (stakeholders) and how and when the change will occur (change journey). Your change story also serves as the basis for your elevator speech, and you should develop it with active engagement and input from the Scrum master and leadership.
Example: A large consumer products company wanted to expand its products to customers. The transformational effort consisted of several projects tied to multiple acquisitions. They developed a change story that:
- Outlined a new organization that would operate with one purchase order, one invoice and one truck delivering an expanded number of products.
- Identified parts of the business the change would impact.
- Considered stakeholder sentiments towards the change by documenting what the individual milestones would mean to them.
Sharing your change story to all impacted stakeholder groups built employee resilience for the transition throughout the multi-year program to successfully implement your business’ desired results.
2. Leverage user stories to build an understanding of stakeholder impacts.
User stories typically describe a user’s role, associated actions and the value they deliver at the individual stakeholder level in simple language. This helps ensure your team understands the business’s sought value and how it wants to operate. This approach allows your team to walk in the stakeholder’s shoes within a particular business scenario.
From an OCM perspective, user stories help complete a change impact assessment. This detailed assessment maps out a description of each key change, degree of change, enablers and barriers to change and other important points for every role affected. A change impact assessment is critical to get to “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) messaging. The assessment (along with user stories) then drives the development of stakeholder specific engagement strategy.
An article on change management by the Forbes Coaches Council notes, “leaders often minimize the change or, more specifically, the impact of the change on engagement and productivity. Leaders have had much more time with the change and have rationalized the impact of the change for themselves.” A change impact assessment (along with user stories) can help you avoid overlooking the effects of transformation on your employees day-to-day and drive the development of a stakeholder-specific engagement strategy.
Example: A leading insurance organization understood what a new regulatory change meant for their policies but needed to understand what the change meant to the thousands of agents across the country. They conducted a change impact assessment based on the user stories and grouped agents into tiers:
- Agents in the first tier were heavily impacted and warranted a high-touch engagement model with direct support.
- Agents in the lower tiers were less impacted and warranted only basic communications and training.
Collecting user stories and allowing them to guide this approach resulted in over 95 percent of agents surveyed agreeing they had the support they needed to handle the regulatory change.
3. Focus not only on what is changing but also on what is staying the same.
With multiple deployments and milestones throughout a transformation, it is common for organizations to experience tunnel vision, only focusing on and talking about the looming transformation. As important as it is to communicate what will change within the organization, it is equally important to reinforce what won’t.
Things that are not changing, such as day-to-day activities, organizational structure, purpose and mission, company policies or informal networks, can become anchors that stabilize and center your employees. These anchors help to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with multiple changes.
Example: A commercial real estate technology consulting firm decided to transform its operating model. They wanted to shift from a siloed, product-focused organization to a functionally based, globally centralized services organization.
- Despite all the changes, leadership regularly reminded the employees to stay focused on providing quality services to their customers while the organization defined and implemented changes around them.
- Leadership also spoke of how the work itself was not changing – they were only changing the way they were organized and how they would go to market.
This approach resulted in employees focusing on quality delivery instead of the most recent organizational announcement.
4. Continue with OCM beyond the end of the initial change.
Changing people’s attitudes and behaviors is not something you can always do in weeks. It can take months and sometimes years. Often, sprints are boxed between one-week to one-month timespans that do not allow the necessary time to gain the support of impacted stakeholders.
For this reason, it is important OCM activities continue to reinforce the future state behaviors through continued leadership engagement, communications and training, as well as updating job descriptions and leveraging performance reviews, rewards and other encouragement as needed.
Example: A pharmaceutical manufacturer went live with a new process and tool for quality management. When the first quality issues arose post go-live, the staff did not use the new process or tool. Instead, they executed the old process by going to the nearest quality booth to report the issue. At that exact moment, the tactical execution of the change management approach started.
The quality representative showed staff how they could log an issue in the new tool, gushed about the enhanced visibility, highlighted the newest features and shared how to stay updated on the ticket. Person by person, individual behaviors changed. The approach resulted in quality representatives dedicated to investigating, resolving and eliminating quality issues instead of simply logging them because they intentionally reinforced the change even after go-live.
Needing Change Resilience is Here to Stay
A recent Harvard Business Review article titled What It Takes to Lead Through an Era of Exponential Change points out, “Much as we might like to think 2020 as an anomaly, it may not be.” With more Agile-like delivery models and new innovations, the pace of change will likely continue to quicken, making change resilience essential. A thoughtfully designed and executed OCM strategy – emphasizing the four components above – will increase stakeholder adoption and value realization from your ever-growing list of projects and company initiatives.