Use these six steps to ensure your next initiative successfully marries good change practices with a sound strategy.
How many times have you seen a leader sharing a bold, new direction or necessary change for the company and within a few months this new vision is struggling to stay afloat? It’s not easy for employees or leaders to transition to a new way of doing things. As Peter Drucker once said, “culture eats strategy for lunch.”
How do you prepare your organization so your strategy is not lunch? Make your organization more change-flexible by introducing basic change management practices to manage the people-side of change. This doesn’t mean you have to build a new change management department overnight, but building basic change structures into your organization’s DNA will allow you to support growth, accommodate falling revenues or implement any other strategic objectives.
Most employees can distinguish a bad strategy or uncoordinated change effort. And, as leaders jump away from your maiden voyage, so will employees. So prepare for your next major change initiative by ensuring you marry good change practices with the following guidelines:
1. Develop a sound strategy and create a “Go-To” or Change Agent Team.
Start with a good strategy. That sounds simple enough, but it needs to be vetted and developed through key leaders and influential and knowledgeable employees that can support and evolve the strategy prelaunch. You can have the best change structure, but the strategy has to be effective on its own. To make your strategy solid, you need input from multiple levels of impacted employees to build a better solution. Great leaders create great leaders who in turn create great engaging strategies! Once the initiative begins, this Go-To team can become your Change Agents to support the change with their teams.
2. Design a clear and concise one-page Case for Change.
Or, in other words, the who, what, why, where, when and how for your initiative. Use a strong change resource to create this message and vet with your Change Agent team. Beware vague, unrealistic or deceptive messaging! This sounds simple enough, but over the years, I have seen so many initiatives with unclear, poorly directed or misaligned visions. Employees will sniff this out and your initiative will lose credibility or create confusion. If your leaders are engaged and can clearly articulate the vision without laughing, you are probably close.
3. Develop a multi-level communication structure that works with your culture.
Who do you need to communicate to and when? What do you need them to do? The development of a multi-level communication campaign is required to effectively answer these questions. For example, you may have a project team, steering committee and executive committee meetings where you share information and ask for their support. But what about the impacted groups? You need to consider a multi-level and multi-message approach. This could be in the form of road shows, fairs, intranet sites, digital displays, posters, emails, lunch and learns, training invites, etc. Once in place, you can use this structured time and time again.
4. Build a culture that celebrates the small wins and measures progress.
Change is a process, not a one-time announcement. The sponsor and project team need to share the good news. As the word spreads, more employees will become excited and engaged in the initiative. This also includes keeping a pulse on the overall perception of the initiative. Use your Change Agent team to gauge what’s working and what needs to be adjusted. How is this initiative being perceived across the organization? This can be as simple as meeting with your change agents and developing pulse surveys or as complex as dashboards on employee compliance.
5. Reinforce the right behaviors.
Recognition reinforces those behaviors and engrains them into the culture. For example, try praise (acknowledgment at meetings, thank you emails, or annual review performance comments) or small gifts (dinner or gift cards). Understand what recognition has worked well in the past for your organization and incorporate these ideas. And finally, don’t forget to address challenging behaviors. If you have a leader that is not supporting the effort, you need to have a conversation and start moving towards alignment.
6. Engage the appropriate change and project resources.
Whether you are staffing this internally or externally, gather the right team to lead this change. If you rely too much on internal employees that have five other roles, they won’t be able to give your initiative the time it requires. And if you don’t have change expertise in-house, bring in an external change resource. Change Management is truly a mix of science and art. This person understands how to align leaders and employees, address change challenges, measure progress and develop effective communications, engagement and training strategies and tools.
Start building these steps into your initiatives to support a changing culture. It will take time, but if you put these steps in place you will have stronger alignment, engagement, acceptance and success, which translate into better return on investment and a much more enjoyable change journey!