A Layman’s View: Four Basic Tenets of Change Management

There have been whole books written on change management, and within Tekara I am not even considered the change expert.  So why am I writing a blog about change management?  The goal is to provide a layman’s perspective.  With over 20 years of consulting, I have observed a few basic tenets of change management, four to be exact.

1.  Everything Involves Change

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This may seem obvious, but it is remarkable how often we forget about this enduring truth.  As outlined in the graphic to the right, it is the nature of organizations to try to continually improve – all this effort requires some degree of change.  It may be a big change, such as major organizational realignment or the revamping of critical operational processes.  But it can also be as simple as shifting email servers. No matter the size of initiative or task, it is vital to recognize that change is occurring, and that people will be impacted.

2.  Change is About People

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Specifically it is about helping individuals understand the change and supporting them to move up the adoption curve (as drawn to the right).  It is important to note that everyone will not be standing at the same point along the curve for any given change.  And not only is this normal, but it is OK.  The key is to identify where people are on the curve and use those further up the curve to help those further down the curve.

One of the best ways to create understanding and identify where people are on the adoption curve is through conversation.  If you can provide clarity around these questions, you’re off to a really good start:

  • What is the change about?
  • What is driving the change?
  • What will change?
  • What will not change?
  • What are the benefits of the change?
  • More strategic decisions and adjustments throughout the year (understand and make tradeoffs)
  • Who will be impacted by the change?
  • Why is this change important to the organization?
  • Why is this change important to the individual?
  • What are the costs/risks of not changing?

3. Change Must Be Embedded Into Work

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No matter the size of the project or task, the strategy and tactics for dealing with change must be interwoven within it.  The change that is occurring needs to feel natural to those it is impacting.  This will allow the change to feel innate which helps to diminish people’s resistance. On the other hand, if change is presented outside of the project, people are likely to feel as though something is “being done to them.” This feeling is a breeding ground for resistance.  An analogy is the difference between learning by sitting in a classroom and then going out to apply the learning, and using experiential learning where the theory and application are integrated into the same experience.

For example, say you’re switching email servers, you could inform your team the switch will occur on a particular day, tell them why and then give them instructions on how to connect to the new server.  Or, you could bring the team together to communicate the purpose of switching email servers, present a compelling vision of how this will impact the future, outline the details of the plan, inform people of how they will be affected and what role they will play, and express your personal investment in the project and how you will ensure the switch will be successful.

Which of these action plans is likely to be more effective in creating the desired outcome of a smooth and easy transition for every team member to the new email server?

4. Sponsorship is King

Lastly, for change to be effective it requires appropriate sponsorship from leaders.  This area of change management is complex enough to warrant it’s own blog post, but here is a teaser.

The importance of sponsorship in a nutshell: if leaders do not express, model, or reinforce the vision, it will not happen.  Without seeing and hearing it from the leadership, people begin to think it is not important to the organization, and the change that is trying to take hold is set up for failure from the outset.

 

Tom Dent