Change Management Starter Kit

In today’s competitive climate, efficiency is more important than ever. With lean teams working harder to deliver your service to customers, you can help to implement improvements by making your change management process as effective and painless as possible. Here are five keys to successful change that really make a difference.

1. Tell Them Why

The days of “because I said so” are over and probably were never part of effective change management in modern organizations. Explaining the benefits of change is as important for external stakeholders as it is for internal stakeholders. If you want all levels of your organization to value an organizational model that cuts unnecessary costs, drives effectiveness, and excellence, it’s more than okay to say that this is your goal out loud. In fact, it should be a mantra if you want your employees to connect to your strategy. Employees at all levels of the organization invested in keeping the organization viable for the future and improving thier job security will respond to an explanation that makes good sense. Showing respect is critical to getting buy-in, so don’t over-spin explanations with a lot of fluff. Be clear, be straightforward and be real.

The “why” grows out of what you do and the culture of the team that does it, so it should feel and sound that way. If you’ve contracted external change management assistance, make sure the style and tone of any communication is vetted by an internal team, leadership, and/or internal project team members. If you can’t imagine the message being delivered by the supervisor of the lowest level worker impacted by the change, rework it until you can. This does two things: 1) it gives those supervisors an easy script to explain; and 2) it doesn’t force them to reinterpret (possibly misinterpret) the change for others.

Over time, as you tie each change back to your organizational goals, teams will recognize those changes as landmarks on the road map you’ve defined up front.

2. Give Them Tools and Knowledge to Do the Job

If you were expecting someone to successfully run a marathon, you would expect them to train, eat right, have the right footwear, and be ready for the marathon route. If they didn’t do that, chances of them crossing the finish line are pretty small, and with that – there would be a lot of luck involved. Like that marathoner, organizations must invest a reasonable effort in developing the appropriate resources (tools, time, and information) a team needs to effectively implement a change and successfully cross the finish line. And they must be willing to support the change going forward. Long-term change takes long-term resources and support. Well crafted communication, training and tools to accompany and maintain a change shows that leadership takes the change seriously enough to support it correctly and that it’s not a flash in the pan.

Some parts of the organization that live to unique requirements or work environments will need and appreciate customized resource solutions that help them implement changes. You can turn those groups into passionate advocates by involving representatives of those teams in the development phase and committing to solving their challenges.

3. Make it Fun

All work and no play makes organizations lose valuable employees. The key is to have fun with a purpose. Connecting a fun ‘in-house’ competition to a behavior change is easier than you think (and your best front line leaders are probably already doing it). Want to teach a team to smile and say, ‘hello’ as part of your customer service? Get their peers involved by building friendly competition with a simple game. You can get thousands of employees changing their own behavior and driving change with their teams. Having fun with work can contribute to productivity, drive effective change and put dollars on the bottom line. And a great side effect is that your customers will feel the difference. Customers are as sensitive to the morale and emotional climate of your business as they are to your products and presentation. When employees have fun, organizations have happier customers.

4. Start Conversations

Talk it up. Listen to responses. From the beginning of a change effort (that is, identifying that change is needed), leaders should start conversations at all levels of the organization that provide insight for solutions. Not only does it inform intelligent decision-making, it also creates an environment that is primed and ready for change. Give people a safe place to give feedback and you’ll uncover issues and solutions that would otherwise be hidden from the people with the resources to do something about it.

Expect change to be an iterative process. Any IT developer can tell you that putting a product in the hands of thousands of users will reveal issues and tweaks that small teams of testers would never uncover in months, or even years of testing. This is true for process changes as well. Test it as much as you can, then turn it over to users. Create feedback loops that make performance improvement an opportunity to shine for every employee.

5. Measure and Report Results

There’s an old saying about measuring performance that is reiterated in fresh language over the years. Call it key performance indicators, call it measurables, even call ‘the score’ if you want to. Whatever you call it, it may be the only way you (and the rest of the organization) can tell whether or not your change is having the desired effect. In some cases, you’ll need to develop a new way to measure success, so be prepared to include that work into the scope of the project when you begin. Nothing takes the wind out of the sails of change more than dead silence once the initial storm has blown over.

If you want your change to truly take hold and to become a sustainable part of your mission, you need to continue to evaluate it, improve it if needed, and report your findings to the organization. When creating reporting, make initial goals achievable and then raise the bar once they’re met. This creates forward momentum.

There’s an important element here that organizations forget; your most passionate and committed employees are the ones who made the change happen and they want to know that it worked. By reporting results back out to the organization, (including a thank you with it) you validate that effort for everyone who participated in the solution.

This is enough to get you started. The remarkable, engaged members of your team will help you uncover the rest. Good luck in your next change effort.

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