Implementing big change in an organization can be hard. It doesn’t matter if you have 50 employees or 5,000 employees. Changing an individual’s way of approaching work requires them to believe in the change, understand how to address the change and make the steps to start implementing change without falling back into old habits. Here are a few tips to help you implement successful change initiatives.
Too often, as leaders we see the need for change and then create the ideas and structure on those aspects that will best address the change — and then announce it to the world. Three months later, we might be surprised to see that key components of the change have yet to be implemented, and that people further down the organization might not be aware of the change, or are viewing it differently than was originally intended.
So how can leaders overcome this inertia? Corporate Path Leadership offers four simple steps for speeding up real change.
STEP ONE: Take the time to convey the vision of the change to the key departments that will have to implement it.
This may seem obvious, but with any change initiative there can be hidden traps and opportunities that crop up during implementation. Taking time to meet with other leaders who will implement the change and asking them, “How will this impact your team?” helps to surface issues and enables talk about work around options before the change begins. It also gets everyone on the same page regarding what the resulting change will look like and how it will all come together, while developing sponsors in key places within the organization to champion the change. Some leaders can be frustrated with slowing down the process to plan this facet of change, but the reality is that going slow to plan and adapt to potential departmental change impacts will speed up the change execution process overall, and ensure buy-in throughout the change process.
STEP TWO: Work with each department’s leadership to paint a powerful picture of what the future looks like for them and their staff with the proposed change already in place.
Forbes recently published an article about the importance of sharing stories from the future and we couldn’t agree more.
Employees need to see a glimpse of what life will be like in the future with the advent of the change, and how they will need to think and act differently to make that change come to fruition. It is this inspiration for future change that can be the real catalyst to help employees see why they need to change, as well as how they can individually contribute its success. Too often, a leader can think that their stats and charts of what is important for the company is enough to make employees change their processes. But as the article explains, employees need to see how the change is going to look for them — not just the company. That clear storytelling and vision needs to come from the department leads so they can adapt an overall corporate vision into one that tells a more department-specific change.
“Logic does not have the same power as stories when driving change. Frontline employees are not motivated to make fundamental shifts in the way they are working to increase market share… It has to be a story that engages people emotions and creativity.”-- Judith E. Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results
STEP THREE: Spend time with departments, helping them walk with you to a new world of change, instead of trying to drag or pull them from their world.
We know this can be tough for leaders. Once a change initiative is announced, leaders are often jumping into other challenges and goals. Just because a leader is in the mindset of the new change, doesn’t mean that the change has trickled down to the employees that have to adapt their positions to meet the change goals. The most important component for managing the change process with departments and employees is to constantly reinforce the importance of the vision, reminding them of the what the future will look like for them and finding out where people are stumbling along the way so roadblocks can be removed. Patience and constant communication are the keys to winning this important phase.
STEP FOUR: Communicate frequently, via multiple channels, before, during and after the change process.
It may sound redundant, but when it comes to change management, you cannot over-communicate. The above steps are all about communicating the vision, mission and objectives surrounding the change. Proactive communication needs to happen before the change even starts, regularly throughout the change process and even after it’s complete. Remember communicating doesn’t take place in just meetings or an email. It encompasses individual or small group communication, training, message boards, video, intranets, and other channels that work best for your organization.
Provide all that you know about the change, as the information is available, with a caveat that details may change, but you value instant communication. It’s also important to ensure the communication goes both ways, like a conversation, with active listening on the part of leadership. Give people time to ask questions, get clarity, and provide their input so they can feel involved in the change – which leads to better commitment. Being open to suggestions, and modifying the process for good ones, will all contribute to successful buy-in of the changes by employees. Publicly celebrate positive ideas, approaches and accomplishments surrounding the change.
In the end, the key to successfully implementing big change comes down to four key actions:
- Planning for Change at a Functional Level
- Creating Powerful Stories of What the Future Change Looks Like for Employees
- Patiently Keep Reinforcing Change and Helping People Follow Your Vision
- Communicating Before, During and After the Entire Process
We wish you luck with your change initiatives in 2019!
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