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Engaging with those affected by Change: how to make it easier

By the time the C-Suite are good to go with the Change Programme, they’ve been thinking and discussing for some considerable time. There’s also been some conscious/unconscious expectation creation.

Additionally, there’s likely to have been some “leaks” about the coming Change Programme. This means those affected by the Change Programme are already forming opinions about the impact the programme will have on them.

NOTE: once these views have been formed, it takes significant effort to change them if necessary.

What I mean here is attention is required for effective engagement to manage, as far as possible the reality of the Change Programme gets “out there” in the required way.

Let’s have a look at the “traditional’ change communication process:

  • C-Suite decision
  • Town Hall Meeting(s)
  • PowerPoint slide set disseminated to management for cascade to their reports
  • The required actions would take place.

From my experience working with many organisations – public & private sectors – the assumptions associated with the “traditional” process outlined above are flawed, sometimes in the extreme.

Here’s a thought:

What is seen as important and urgent in the C-Suite is not necessarily replicated or even accepted as the C-Suite “urgent & important” cascades down and across the organisation.

Why so?

 People come to work for a variety of reasons and align with the aims of the organisation in very personal ways.

Implications?

What seems a “great idea” in the C-Suite may not be so “great” as it moves through the organisation.

How to manage the “greatness cascade/expectations” idea: here’re a few suggestions.

  • Sponsor: This is more than a title. Sponsors do stuff and as a member of the Change Team it’s important that there is agreement of the “stuff expectations” by and from the Sponsor.

    In conversations with many change professionals a consistent theme is the almost 100% opinion that they have SINO (Sponsors in name only). As part of Front-end Loading conversations, the expectations of what you want from the Sponsor and what the Sponsor wants from you.

    Key to this is the ability to have mature, professional discussions as the change programme rolls out.

  • Change Agents: Particular care in their selection is vital for the management of the “greatness cascade”. Often Change Agents are selected without due consideration of the skill-set required. I’d suggest that a high level of people skills should be the predominate requirement.

    Why? These are key people in the effective engagement with the change across the organisation. They are the ones who talk and more importantly listen to colleagues about the facts & feelings regarding the change. They also require the 3Cs: capability, competency and capacity to do the job of Change Agent.

    Oh – you mean they have their day job to do as well?

  • 1 & 2 Level positions with people responsibility: In most organisations, these are the positions responsible for the delivery of service or product delivered by the organisation.

    They are almost always extremely busy with operational delivery, measured on that and almost certainly under pressure if not stress. Then the organisation “dumps” a change programme on them.

    Where do they get the time and inclination to manage their change programme responsibilities?

    As part of the culture supporting the change, how do their managers work with them to create the “space” to allow the 1 & 2 level people to have the time to engage with their people on both current operational requirements and the benefits to be gained from an effective change programme delivery. (They do know the expected benefits, don’t they?)

Just remember: People do what you measure, just be careful what you measure! Back to the C-Suite……

Attributed to W Edwards Deming.

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