During a recent return flight from speaking at an event in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, our flight encountered several departure delays. The delays were attributed to inclement weather that surrounded us, however fortunately we missed the worst of the storm. As a result of the unforeseen event, these delay required several adjustments to my planned meetings, client calls and other personal matters. Now, I recognize we have all encountered flight delays, but how we deal with them is a direct reflection of how well we manage and adapt to change.
Whether planned or unexpected, change, besieges our lives both personally and professionally. Achieving success despite change is accomplished by remaining flexible and adaptable. As a result, it is critical that we maintain an ability to manage change on a continual basis.
For the past decade we have studied and initiated change in top performing organizations across a variety of sectors and industries. Through these experiences and our studies of the most successful organizational change initiatives, we have identified several key steps to developing an effective Change Management strategy.
Here are the three most important steps:
1. Plans for success.
My greatest travel companion is my GPS. Without it, I would be lost. Having this navigational tool has reduced my time in planning trips, however there have still been several instances where my trusty companion has led me astray. My wife, on the other hand, still prefers to use a map. Archaic, maybe, but guess who is more consistent in reaching their intended destination? You guessed it, my wife (but don’t tell her I told you so). Having a clear plan leads to a consistently successful outcome; therefore in dealing with change, either expected or otherwise, it is important to plan. To be useful, plans should have clear and achievable actions, identify accountability and responsibility, and address management of risk. Without a plan you may find yourself heading the wrong way down a one way street.
2. If you build it, they will follow.
If you want to convince your teenager to clean his room, telling him what he should do is not effective. Explaining the chore in a manner that provides benefit to him (i.e. allowance, keys to the car) is more likely to have a positive outcome. Engaging stakeholders in any change is critical to success. Without their involvement and ultimate buy-in, you will have little support, and the chances of failure increase exponentially. More importantly, stakeholders must be engaged at the right time. Telling someone you are planning to make a change and would appreciate her feedback is much more effective than telling her you have implemented the change already and she will have to deal with any fall-out. Engage through discussion.
3. Tell me only what I need to know.
The best means to ensure a successful change effort is to communicate. Think of it like a political campaign. To obtain the majority of votes, the nominee must communicate varying messages to several different groups including their team, consituents and the opposition. To communicate successfully within a change initiative, it is necessary to consider the varying messages that must be delivered to the numerous stakeholders involved. Pragmatically this means that sending a blind communication to all involved or impacted is insufficient and will only lead to reduced engagement. Communicate frequently and factually.
Like flight delays, there is no way to stop change, and the frequency only seems to increase (at least if you are flying Air Canada), so then the alternative that remains is to embrace change. By applying the steps above, your rate of success in managing change will only serve to improve. Try implementing these steps into the next change that you find yourself engaged in, and watch how rapidly results begin to appear.
© Shawn Casemore 2012. All rights reserved.
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