Organizations of all types initiate change for good reasons. People and teams need to figure out new ways to solve customer problems, improve products, create new revenue streams, and reduce costs. These new ways may require an organization to change. Change, in this context, is the process of transforming a vision into a new reality that delivers the promised benefits.
But driving change isn’t always easy. I’ve been involved in changes of all types, big and small across a variety of different industries. Here are my top 5 tips for driving successful change.
#1: Make sure you have the right person to sponsor your change.
By sponsor, I mean somebody who is going to be the face of that change. It can’t be just anybody. A sponsor has to be a senior leader in the organization; somebody with enough clout, with enough influence, with enough status, to be able to drive your change forward. Without that sponsor, it is highly unlikely that anybody is going to pay enough attention to the change that you’re trying to drive and it won’t be successful. If you want to know more about sponsors and sponsorship, you can check out the blog post……Sponsoring change.
#2: Get communication support early and all the way during the process of the change you’re trying to accomplish.
Communication is the biggest factor that lets the change initiative down because we underestimate the amount of information that people require in order to transition effectively through change. Because the change makes sense to us, because we’re the ones driving it, because were the ones involved in and leading it, we forget that we have a greater understanding of the change than other people do. They will need more information and more communication than we’re likely to initially give them. So don’t skip on the information. Involve a communications person if you can. If that’s not possible, make sure you have the time, space, and energy to be able to put the right amount of effort behind communication.
#3: Don’t stop too soon.
Change is a process. We need to guide people through all the different stages of change before they can fully adopt what we’re trying to get them to do and be proficient at it. It takes longer than we think it does. Identify the point at which you’ll finalize all the concrete pieces of your change. By that I mean if you’re putting in a new system, then that point is when the system is launched, or if you’re changing a process, that point is when those processes are in place. That’s the end of your change, but it’s the beginning of your people coming to grips with what you’ve just done. Your change efforts need to go on six to twelve months, roughly speaking, after the end of of your change to ensure that people fully adopt what you want them to do and they become good at it.
#4: Don’t mistake lack of commentary for buy in.
Sometimes the most vocal people, even negatively vocal people, are actually more engaged and more bought-in to what you’re doing than the quiet ones are. If somebody isn’t saying anything at all, that does not mean that they are supportive of the change. You need to find out from them directly how they feel about what it is you’re doing and whether they actually are on board or not. A wave of quiet people who aren’t on board is as much to handle and, in some ways, is a bigger deal, than a couple of highly vocal people.
#5: Use those vocal people.
If somebody is highly critical and highly vocal in a negative way about what you’re doing then that means that they care, but they’re not bought-in. They don’t understand potentially what you’re trying to do. They don’t understand the consequences of it and, somewhere along the line, they don’t have the desire to move forward. But, they are engaged with you. They are engaged with what you’re trying to do and they are passionate about what’s being done. If you can involve them in your change process then a couple of positive things can happen:
- Firstly, they may have a perspective or a view point that is actually very valid and that will help shape better change, shape a better solution, then you would have done without their input, so by involving them, you actually do make the change better.
- Secondly, if you can use them, convert them, and if they buy-in to what you’re doing because they’ve had input (they’ve had a chance to explain their concerns, and their fears have been remedied in some way), they will be huge proponents and influencers because people will look at them and say, “well, if that person has now bought-in then maybe I should too.”
So don’t neglect or exclude people because they are negative.. they might just turn out to be your secret weapon!
So those are my top five things to think about when you are driving a change initiative.
Good luck with your change initiatives, and if you think we can help, want us to provide coaching to your change leaders or change training to your people, connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.