This article is a continuation in our series on how to effectively implement and manage change.
I have found there are certain techniques that can be applied in order to encourage the support and engagement of others in implementing change. The most important of these techniques is in the area of communication.
When initiating change, it is important to address five fundamental communication questions in order to engage key stakeholders:
1. What’s the reason for change? I recall when I was younger and I asked my parents if I could do something, the answer was often “no.” When I asked “why,” the response was often simply “because.” This response drove me nuts and I always responded with “Because is not an answer!” Most people who are involved in or impacted by change want to know why the change is being implemented. The reasons may not always make sense, but by dint of providing an explanation you invariably diffuse considerable resistance.
2. What will happen if there is no change? The most common objection you will receive from anyone who is impacted by change is “Why don’t we leave things as they are?” It is important to clearly identify why the status quo will not suffice in order to eliminate to overcome this objection. You will find that most simply want to feel that you have heard their objection, and by providing a clear response you deliver this acknowledgement.
3. What’s in it for them? What are the positive outcomes for those involved or impacted by the change? Identifying and explaining the positive outcomes of any change and their impact on stakeholders is the most important step in building engagement. Just like convincing your kids to go to bed early so they are rested for an early morning adventure, if those involved in a change do not understand what is in it for them, you will have a difficult time convincing them to support the change.
4. How will the change be kept on track? Identifying how the change will be monitored to ensure success is also an important communication discussion point. Most impacted by change have seen or been part of a failed change initiative. It is important to clearly communicate how the change will be monitored, and what will be done to ensure it remains on track. Doing so will give others the confidence that you will be monitoring the change to ensure it moves in the intended direction.
5. What is the plan if the change is unsuccessful? If the change fails, what will happen? Is a return to the status quo possible? What are the impacts? It is important to encourage others to support change, however the reality is, you need to provide confidence that you do in fact have a back-up plan. Ignoring this step or stating “there is no going back” provides stakeholders with the feeling that regardless of whether results are good or bad, you will pursue implementing the change. Not having a back-up plan is irresponsible and stakeholders will identify this immediately.
Communication is a fundamental factor in successful change. Addressing these five questions with all the stakeholders involved will ensure the engagement and support necessary to successfully implement any change initiative.
© Shawn Casemore 2012. All rights reserved.
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