“Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.”
– King Whitney Jr
Change can be challenging to enact, so challenging that due to the “human factor” 60% of change initiatives will fail. Change that succeeds is by design — careful planning and action mitigates the risks of change, and provides understanding and engagement at all levels, which will drive the success of the implementation.
1. Appeal to the logical/rational and emotional purpose for the change
Provide enough information to allow employees to find their own meaning of the change, and resist the urge to skip the step of discovery by dictating conclusions. Look for opportunities to engage employees in designing or implementing the change — but be sure you mean it! Hollow offers undermine the trust you’ve worked to establish for the change process.
2. Send out Strong Messaging
Craft messages that articulate all the whys and hows — why the change is needed, why the company and employees will ultimately benefit, how the change will solve a problem and help achieve company objectives. Be clear about the whats, wheres, and whens- provide the practical information to make the change and build confidence that every individual knows what is to be done. Ensure information is meaningful to every person who will need to commit and drive the change. A sense of urgency is created when change connects to the big picture.
3. Use a structured and planned approach to making change
More than a couple of memos — a change management plan is a detailed and complete list of tasks and things to do. A too simple plan can cause things to get complicated later because impacts were not anticipated and managed. A clear plan articulated as a series of steps as opposed to one event provides direction and action at every stage, and keeps the entire team engaged with their attention fixed down the road. Provide clear projections through the use of metrics that measure what it will look like when the change is complete.
Don’t just exhort the troops — that only works in football movies.
4. Leverage the front line manager layer — where change really happens
Your leaders can provide the energy and optimism to keep people motivated, or set a tone of criticism that works against the change. Managers are your direct line to the company buy-in, John Kotter suggests that with 75% of managers in support, a change will succeed. Managers know that their words really matter and everyone is taking cues by watching for their commitment to the change.
5. Keep constancy of purpose
Change takes time, as your change plan already indicates. Don’t get bored and move onto the next change, thinking the first one is done — by maintaining momentum and adjusting actions as results and impacts emerge, you reinforce your commitment to the change and provide the follow-through that shows managers and employees that they will not be left holding the bag with a change still in transition.
And when the steps have been followed and the process complete, the hurdles jumped and the unexpected managed, when you’ve measured the impacts and followed up on all the follow ups, enjoy your confidence in the change, knowing that your company is stronger, braver and ready to take on the next challenge.