1. Commit to your goals and outcomes: “Say it out loud,” my high school English teacher would say when we each made our commitment to the book report we were supposed to complete by the end of the year. Understanding your goals and regularly repeating them out loud is an awesome exercise for you and all members of your team. It helps with clarity and gets people committed to the change even before the project has started.
2. Get excited about the journey! Be really clear on individual time commitment and expected length for a major change project. It is an important step in helping people frame the journey. Get excited about the curves in the road and (as in the beginning of every great road trip) pack snacks for the trip. Have fun branding the project. Create a unique project logo and/or mascot and make sure it shows up consistently on documents, website, and all project materials. Stage a fabulous kickoff party to create buzz and get people excited about being a part of this team.
3. Get clear on how you are going to make it happen. Being clear on how to accomplish the goals to which you are committing is vital. A clear plan with change milestones increases productivity, stamina, and morale, both for you and your team. Keeping people focused on accomplishing and celebrating interim milestones will keep the team motivated, build trust, and ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction.
4. Manage expectations. If it were easy, it would be no fun at all. Letting people know that it will be a challenging project and possibly a challenging work environment will not scare them off. On the contrary, people thrive when they know what’s expected and why conditions exist as they are. The road is not always going to be clear and well-paved. Your team will be much more effective when they know what to expect.
5. Don’t ignore the past. The importance of knowing what worked in a particular culture and what did not is vitally important to the success of every new change initiative. Recognize the difference between resistance (the story) and important historical learning: “We tried that before and it didn’t work” is resistance; “We implemented e-learning as part of our training approach but half the company didn’t have computers” is important information to consider. Listen and learn. The greater the number of painful past projects, the heavier the effort to open people’s minds to new initiatives (you will need heavier change management).
6. Understand the work. Much of the time in change management, the work is misunderstood or underestimated. Leaders often think that a single Change Management person can do all of the sponsorship coaching, leadership presentations, communications planning and execution, stakeholder engagement and all of the training development and delivery. Avoid this mistake by analyzing the size, level of change impact, and resistance to your change project up front, and engaging the appropriate change management support. If you want your business community to adopt your new initiative, it is your most important resource consideration.
7. Consider building your own “change management approach” to pave the road for the future. Many Leaders understand the importance of implementing a customized change management approach for new project launches. There is immense value in building your organization’s very own customized, recognized change approach, language, and set of tools for implementing change. The organization can implement change more rapidly and efficiently with each subsequent project as people begin to speak the same language, recognize the phases of change and where they are in the process, at any given time. Good Leaders are always thinking about how to gain a competitive advantage, and know that the ability to quickly respond to internal and external change drivers gives them the edge. Just sayin’…..
8. Be an honest politician. One definition of a politician is “a leader engaged in civil administration”. As leader and key representative of the change project, one could argue that you are absolutely playing the role of the project politician. Make sure that you are an authentic and genuine project politician. As mentioned above, people do well with the truth; they are seeking understanding and clear expectations. Candy coating a rough road will only confuse people. They may not continue to trust your driving skills.
9. Get the right “energy” in the seats on the bus. Having the right leadership, the right change management support and the right project team is critical to making your project successful and sustainable. As you are considering key roles on your project team, consider individuals with high degrees of emotional energy—the marathon runners. There are some people that are much more fitted to the 50 yard dash (highly productive in high stress situations) and that is perfect for crunch time. Consider that the Project Sponsor (usually executive leadership), the Project Manager and the Change Lead should be marathon runners with the ability to sustain the emotional energy to keep the project and the team going—mile, after mile, after mile….
10. It takes a village. The truth is, you are only one person. Certainly as a Leader of a major change initiative there are expectations that you will clone yourself and perform the noble feats of several Change Leaders. While that may not be not realistic, by choosing the right team members, you can accomplish amazing (if not super human) results. Spend time quantifying and qualifying the specific roles, strengths, and resources you will need to build the right team. Put the model together to influence other leaders and obtain the right budget. This is one of the most valuable efforts in your project lifecycle. With the right village in place, you really can be “Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…” Who says Superman isn’t real?
Happy New Year!
Tara Seager, Founder & Managing Partner
Ally Solutions Group
The Experts in Change Management