Not only is change a distinctive feature of the 21st century enterprise, but it is also one of the key ways in which organizations secure their continued effectiveness and competitiveness. From introducing a new leadership vision, to integrating a merger or acquisition, to revitalizing key internal management systems, to implementing new technologies, to downsizing or executing a crisis management program, to launching new products and services, the faces of change are many. All share a challenge: ensuring that the change process becomes the engine of new, more effective, better aligned organizational behavior.
Change mandated from on high without a clear vision, a sound transformational process that is culturally sensitive, and a well thought-out implementation plan inevitably fails. By contrast, change that is driven by a compelling vision, the right sense of urgency, stakeholder engagement, and flawless execution is likely to successfully energize and propel the organization toward the desired strategic outcomes.
At GuideStar, we recognize that each organization is a unique culture facing a set of clear, distinct internal and external challenges. As a result, we devise customized change management plans by determining each organization’s readiness for change - identifying points of resistance and roadblocks as well as areas of strength and support. Knowing which groups are likely to embrace the changes and which are likely to resist and why, and then taking these forces into account in the implementation plan can mean the difference between success and failure
Undertaking an organizational change program without the benefit of a readiness audit is akin to flying a plane without instruments into a blinding storm in high mountains. Our scientific approach to the art of change management combines qualitative, high-touch research and quantitative survey analytics to conduct insightful and accurate change readiness assessments. These in-depth analyses provide the architects of the organization’s change with the information they need to optimize stakeholders’ buy-in and support.
Our change management approach builds on the premise that internalized, personal commitment needs to occur in a critical mass of motivated employees to generate the behavioral changes needed to make change a reality. If many of the people in the organization are merely going through the motions, results will be mediocre at best. In this sense, we do not believe in lighting a fire under people, but in lighting a fire inside them. That is, we want to help people develop the ability and desire to do new things not because they have to, but because they want to.
There are three key steps to our approach:
- Focusing people on what needs to be done and why
- Energizing a critical mass of people to action
- Reinforcing accomplishments to sustain change
Change begins when a powerful and clear vision is communicated using the right mix of messages, media, and tools to bring about understanding and agreement, the catalysts for initial action. To ensure success, strategic communications must be borne from specific knowledge of the resistances and opportunities that exist in the organization with respect to the change process. Where the hardest opposition hides; where potential change agents can be corralled; what is required to get by-standers involved. And so on. This is why we advocate a process of smart design in which analytics and research intertwine with implementation and action.
By expressing awareness and acknowledging the key role of people, communications increase understanding and agreement first; motivation, confidence, and commitment second; sense of urgency, willingness to take action, and the ability to produce the right set of behaviors third. As this sequence suggests, the change programs that we advocate are to resonate with a necessary process of internal transformation so that people may enact the change and the change is actually long-lasting.
We employ a cascade strategy that often includes two phases: bringing onboard management; bringing onboard employees along with other key stakeholder groups. For example, the program may start with a leadership conference to share, address, and discuss the imperatives for change and the new vision, create a network of “champions for change”—a critical component of the change management process—and develop a strong group “esprit.”
Typically, the process cascades down to include employee meetings that focus on the vision for change, the impact of change, and the specific circumstances of the steps that will lead to the purported change; create ownership and motivation; and encourage employees to offer and share ideas.
In other cases, a big event strategy may be desirable. For example, if the change process needs to be accelerated, or if the initial program rollout has failed to engender the necessary level of enthusiasm and focus, a big event may win immediate attention and inspire stakeholders. After the event, several follow through activities are also implemented to secure sustained commitment, proper behavioral enablers, and continued understanding of the progress being made.
As part of the change program, the organization is also expected to engage external stakeholders. The financial community, the company’s shareholders, customers, suppliers, local communities and other groups all have important stakes in the change endeavor and its success. As such, they need to be an active part of the change process.
In sum, our change management approach is intelligent, comprehensive, ad-hoc, and strategically oriented. It starts with planning –analyzing the various stakeholders, anticipating resistance, assessing readiness, articulating a vision. At this stage, a change management team is selected and delegated responsibility to direct the effort. This is normally a multi-disciplinary team where corporate communications and HR partner along with any other key functional areas of the organization that will be most affected to assure that communications, professional development and compensation/incentives are integrated in support of the change program.
It continues with initiating the process of change—designing an effective communication program to gain understanding and agreement. It follows with implementing the change, a stage in which, while communications continue, the required structural, staffing, and system modifications are made. It proceeds with sustaining the transformation by achieving important milestones and providing recognition and rewards for significant progress made. Finally, it closes the cycle with assessing the overall impact of the programs implemented and leveraging the benefits of the changes achieved as the organization evolves from the older “current state” to the new “changed state” going forward.
We offer our clients unique help with their change management initiatives by providing a combination of consulting and implementation skills that blend the talents of motivational psychologists, communicators, HR professionals, and change management consultants. Our professionals can help you:
- Articulate and theme your mission
- Assess resistance to change and change readiness
- Develop strategies and methods to overcome resistance and propel change
- Train managers and employees
- Assist with professional development assessment programs
- Create company-wide events, on-going communications, and spirit programs
- Design and execute "grass-roots" employee meetings and seminars
- Celebrate successes and provide continuous reinforcement
- Stimulate feedback and assess the true impact of change
- Measure the ROI of the change program