At times, we find ourselves having difficulties explaining to leaders what change management is, why it is so important and how it adds value. When this happens, we struggle trying to get peers to appreciate the impact change management discipline can have on the ability to successfully lead change and transformation to positively impact our organizations. A challenge the LaMarsh Global team is often faced with is to define this important work using simple and familiar business terms. Because change management practitioners have the tendency to over engineer the process, we fail to communicate what we do in simple easily, understood business language. Really, we are too often to blame for this lack of understanding.
We can better define our change management work by facilitating responses to five easy, but critical, questions as we start our new change management projects.
- What is changing?
- Why are we making the change?
- Who will be impacted by the change?
- How will they will react to the change?
- What can we do to proactively identify and mitigate their resistance to the change?
(1) What is changing?
By asking the Sponsor to define what is changing, we have the opportunity to hear from leadership, directly in their words, a description of the change. Of course, we’ll need to ask important follow-up questions to drive clarity for the creation of a detailed future state. These questions will not only give the detail we need to develop appropriate communications but will allow the Sponsor to be guided and coached in articulating the future state vision. The more time we spend helping the Sponsor think through the multiple levels of detail, the more robust the definition.
(2) Why are we making the change?
Push the project Sponsor to identify the business case for the change. Being able to articulate the impact on the organization if the change doesn’t happen is as valuable as understanding what the change is. Those impacted by the change need the answer to this question before they are willing to embrace the change or even consider it. Sponsors are often eager and passionate to share their perspective on why the change must happen. It also gives you the opportunity to calibrate their expectations if the business case isn’t particularly strong.
(3) Who will be impacted by the change?
Identifying all of the groups impacted by the change will help you understand how each group is unique and common in their issues, concerns and challenges. From this list of impacted groups you can then work with the Sponsor to prioritize who will be impacted most and least. This is helpful because it enables you to strategically leverage your valuable and sometimes limited resources to those groups who are most resistant and/or have the greatest degree of change.
(4) How will those impacted react to the change?
Because groups will be impacted differently, it is likely each will react differently to the change. If we anticipate how they will react, we can minimize any surprises and focus resources on those groups who will have the most issues, concerns and challenges — or overall resistance. Equally important to identify are those groups who will not resist. We will want to look for opportunities to leverage acceptance and adoption to convince others.
(5) What can we do to proactively identify and mitigate resistance to change?
If we know who is impacted and are confident we understand how they will react to the change, we will want to use that information to plan early communications about the change. If we address the common and unique resistance issues of the various groups at this time, the launch of the change is better accepted and we have a greater probability the change will be successful and our future change plan actions will be valued.
Whether you have thirty minutes or three hours to meet with your Sponsor and project team, you will want to find real answers to these important questions. The more effort you put in, the more detail you can capture and the more robust your change management plan will be. Models and methodologies are important in defining and implementing change. If you are not quite there yet, even spending time with Sponsors answering a few basic questions will provide additional insights that will add value and make a difference in the change process. My experience has been that this hands on approach to engage leaders and Sponsors in the change process helps them appreciate change management because it quickly and easily produces tangible, actionable results.