To say that change is difficult is an understatement. It explains why some of us are still proudly wearing the hole-ridden t-shirt they’ve had since college (guilty as charged). In a work environment, change is even harder. Especially when you’re dealing with a pandemic and were thrown into a digital transformation seemingly overnight.
We have all had our workflows disrupted, increased uncertainty anxiety, and an entirely new approach to communicating in the workplace. As a leader, how can you overcome these challenges to inspire teams and help a forced transition occur as smoothly as possible?
Whether it’s shifting the organizational structure or navigating a sudden move to remote work, a clear strategy and open communication are crucial to success. These aren’t to be taken lightly; research has found that 70% of the time, organization changes fail—that figure is staggering!
In this post, we’ll discuss the six strategies for change management to help your organization avoid common missteps. We also encourage you to download the Change Management Grid Tool to make them more actionable.
1. Ensure You’re Addressing a Specific Problem
There’s an old saying, “if it isn’t broken, why fix it?” Identifying and addressing real (not perceived) pain points will assist you in gaining organizational buy-in.
Teams may complain about their tech stack, but the reality is that they are comfortable with their existing tools. They know where the blindspots are; they understand areas that run the risk of impacting their workflow. Convincing them to adopt a new solution is an uphill battle unless it is clear how it solves an immediate need. Make sure the fix you’ve identified solves for the specific need.
For example, if an organization has an issue with understanding the impact of marketing programs, a solution for pipeline management should not be the top priority. Leadership would be better served by finding a marketing attribution solution. The result will enable the marketing team to focus on optimizing the campaigns with the most impact rather than losing time extrapolating data, thus addressing a real problem.
2. Clear, Frequent Communication
Don’t blindside employees when changes are occurring. Being transparent and providing communication at regular intervals eases concerns, and builds trust. When there is uncertainty, it leads people to make assumptions based on incomplete information about what changes may or may not be taking place. In other words, a lack of information fuels the rumor mill, which becomes a roadblock as you work toward a solution.
Partner with your corporate communications function to define and document policies for internal messaging to ensure the right information is conveyed to employees. Help your managers develop a talk track that explains why a change is necessary and how it will positively impact employees. There’s no need to over-engineer it; limit it to 3-4 easily defined points. When messaging is straightforward and concise, it’s easier to dispel any myths or half-truths.
3. Find Internal Advocates
Creating buy-in is easier when you have internal advocates to help promote upcoming changes. Identify potential influencers whose opinions are highly regarded in the organization. Explain why the change is necessary for success and ask for their input in advance of the rollout. This helps to create ownership, and this group of people becomes cheerleaders for change. It’s also a way to increase engagement among A-players, something my esteemed colleague, Geoff Schuler, wrote about recently.
The added value is that addressing this small team of advocates also provides an opportunity to receive feedback and refine future communication before it reaches the rest of the organization. This select group understands the internal pulse and the potential frustrations associated with change. Leverage them to help develop talking points and ask questions that the leadership team may not have considered. As a leader, this additional insight into potential roadblocks is invaluable.
4. Training Isn’t “One and Done”
If you’ve ever been in a pinch and tried to open a bottle of wine with a knife, you know firsthand that tools are most effective when used for their intended purpose. New technology tools are no different. The fastest road to adoption is through effective training on how to correctly use the technology. But you can’t stop there.
Continue to develop familiarity and confidence with a new tool through ongoing training. You wouldn’t use something that made your job more cumbersome; therefore, you can’t expect employees to adopt a tool they don’t understand how to benefit from. The inevitable result is that they will revert to old methods that seem more efficient or safer, defeating the purpose of the change. It also wastes a lot of time, effort, and money.
An added benefit of intentional training is the opportunity it provides to gather feedback in real-time. The discussion and questions that emerge in training sessions deserve attention and can provide insight into the effectiveness of the communication strategy. Another avenue for feedback are surveys. Anonymous surveys allow employees to rate the implementation process and provide more candid feedback. This way, project teams can understand what did or did not go well and address any pain points as soon as possible. Any feedback that is received should be used to help leaders evolve and prepare for future implementations.
5. Quantify the Effectiveness of Change
As with any project, measuring success is vital to understanding the return on your investment of both time and money. Reporting back on the impact of the change should be done at varying levels in the organization. For an executive audience, focus on high-level business impact, typically time or cost savings.
Thinking about the management level, you might use DICE. According to the Harvard Business Review, measuring the DICE factors to quantify the effectiveness of change: Duration, Integrity, Commitment, and Effort. Each of the four elements represents a key factor in ensuring a successful implementation. The ideal outcome for an organization is to predict the effectiveness of a project by focusing on the DICE factors. In the simplest of terms, DICE reveals the commitment to a project, defines the duration, and prioritizes communication.
At the individual contributor level, DICE is still useful, but you might also consider how to communicate the impact on a more personal level. Did it help reduce hours spent on a particularly painful reporting process? Perhaps it improved deal velocity? Whatever the result is, be sure you communicate that metrics that matter most to the audience your addressing. The long term benefit is that you’ve built trust, and gaining buy-in for any future projects may prove easier.
6. Don’t Forget to Sell It
Adoption of any new process or technology doesn’t happen without planning and effort. Successful change management requires strategy, communication, and buy-in. If employees sense a change may increase administrative or “busy” work, it will negatively impact adoption. Selling the benefits of a new process or technology is a step in the change management process that cannot be skipped.
Creating buy-in is essential to ensure a change is successful. As with any selling activity, providing clear data supporting the need for a change and the positive impact it will have is essential. When teams believe a solution will improve a process or solve a problem, change management is almost headache-free.
In today’s world, change is necessary for an organization’s long-term success. Focusing on continuously improving the change management strategy ensures future success. Regardless of the size or scope of a change initiative, it’s important to remain proactive.
How well does your organization effect change? Download the Change Management Grid Tool to make a lasting impact.