A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan (Part 3 – Building the Communication Strategy)

This is the third post in my series about managing change in large organizations. You can read my first 2 posts here:
1. A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan
2. A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan (Part 2 – Building the Engagement Strategy)

As mentioned in my last post, a typical change management strategy consists of 5 tracks: (1) Engagement, (2) Communication, (3) Training, (4) Coaching and (5) Transition Management (including resistance management). This post focuses on the second track: Communication.

Goals of Communication
My intent with communication is to consistently provide meaningful information to the right audience at the right time. To do this, I find it necessary to cater the communication messages to each of the impacted departments within the organization. If required, I develop different communication messages for users playing different roles within a department as not all departmental employees will be impacted the same way. Of course, catering messages right down to the individual is a lot of work, but no one ever said managing change was easy!

The timing and content of the messages will take into account the audience’s current knowledge of the project and their level of readiness to support the change. With this in mind, I typically move the organization (and its organizational employees) through 3 stages of communication:

Stage 1 – Communicate for project awareness
Pre-requisite: none

In this first stage, I focus my communications on the “why” of the change. These early communications explain the nature of the change, why the change is being made, and clearly state the risk of not changing. Although the “What’s in it for me” (WIIFM) may still be loosely defined at this stage, I try to include the impact of the change as much as possible.

Stage 2 – Communicate for training and education activities
Pre-requisites:
– Ensure that the impacted stakeholders understand the “why” for change
– Ensure that the impacted stakeholders have the desire to support the change effort.
User-adoption and training challenges increase exponentially if these pre-requisites are not met.

In this second stage, communication focuses on the information, training and education necessary for people to know how to change. This type of communication includes information about behaviours, processes, tools, systems, skills, job roles and techniques that are needed to work in the new world.

Please note that other change management strategies, such as coaching and resistance management, are required to get employees to a point where they are ready to support and actively participate in the change initiative. (These will be covered in separate posts.)

Stage 3 – Communicate to reinforcement the change
Pre-requisite: The target audience needs to have the knowledge and abilities to execute the proposed change. Put simply, you cannot reinforce something that people don’t know how to do.

In this third stage, communication focuses on reinforcing the change, celebrating successes and encouraging new ways of working. My primary goal in this third stage is to increase the momentum for change and to anchor new behaviours in the organization. Reinforcement messages include public recognition and celebrations that are tied to the realization of the change.

I may be getting ahead of myself in this post, but if this helps, here is a template I use to highlight the key messages per communication stage: template.

Measuring Communications
An important part of a communication strategy is to measure the effectiveness of the communication towards the organization. Measuring the success of communications lets me know if I am getting through to people. This can be as formal or informal as you want it to be – it all depends on the organization with which you’re working..

Below are some guidelines for measuring the success of your communications at each stage.
Measuring Stage 1 (Project Awareness)
Here are some standard follow-up questions I use in this communication stage:

1) Have you heard of the change?
2) What is the purpose of the change?
3) Do you know how this will this impact you?
4) Are you ready and willing to support the change effort?

I use these questions to gauge the level of awareness, understanding and desire towards these changes. This also helps identify the stakeholders who are ready for training.
As a side note, I recommended training those that have an adequate level of awareness, understanding and desire to adopt the change. Also, conduct training as close to the implementation date as you can. I know this gets complicated when there are waves and waves of people to train, but it always pays off to have the relevant information available when it’s needed.

Measuring Stage 2 (Training and Education)
To measure the effectiveness of communication at this stage, I add a few questions about training andcommunications in the post-training survey. These questions can be as simple as the following two questions below:

1. The communication I received prior to training was:
1. Far too little
2. Too little
3. Just right
4. Too much
5. Far too much
 
2. What would you add or change to the pre-training communications?
[Add comment section]

Other measurements, such as gauging the effectiveness of training classes, will be discussed in the Training post. Please stay tuned.

Measuring Stage 3 (Reinforcing New Behaviours)
I use these types of measurements when the workforce is starting their transition to new models, practices and processes. After communications have been sent, I follow up with the following questions. Again, this can be as formal as a survey or as informal as a hallway chat – it all depends on the corporate culture of the company .

1. Do the impacted stakeholders understand the new behaviours that need to be exhibited?
2. Can they articulate what they are stopping, starting and continuing to do?
3. Are people regressing back to old processes, systems and behaviours?

That pretty much sums up my communication strategy – in a nutshell. As always, comments are welcome. Stay tuned for my next posts on the other 3 change management tracks: training, coaching and transition management.

Posts related to this series – Change Strategy:
1. A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan
2. Part 2 – Building the Engagement Strategy
3. Part 3 – Building the Communication Strategy
4. Part 4 – Building the Training Strategy
5. Part 5 – Building the Coaching Strategy
6. Part 6 – Building the Transition Strategy

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Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan (Part 2 – Building the Engagement Strategy)

Building an Engagement Strategy
This is the second post in my series about managing change in large organizations. You can read my first post here.
 

 

 

A typical change management strategy consists of 5 tracks: (1) Engagement, (2) communication, (3) Training, (4) Coaching and (5) Transition Management (including resistance management).  This post focuses on the first track: Engagement.

Once I have completed the groundwork in understanding the organization described in my initial post, I can begin to create a strategy to engage the impacted stakeholders.  Successfully involving key stakeholders upfront will save valuable project time and ultimately improve user adoption.

Below is a diagram displaying the 4 change roles I like to assign organizational employees during times of change. It is helpful to not only identify and engage the stakeholders that are impacted by the change, but also those that are in a position to guide and monitor others through the change journey.

Note: Each of these change roles are defined in more detail in the Roles & Responsibilities section below.

How to Engage the Impacted Stakeholders

Below are some of the guiding principles I use for engaging stakeholders:

1. Assign internal resources to stakeholder engagement roles as often as possible. It is much easier to implement change within an organization when the change is led by internal resources.

2. Active and visible support from senior management is one of the most crucial factors in the success of a change initiative. For this reason, assign the highest possible ranking officer as the primary change sponsor for your project or program.

3. Assign departmental directors (or equivalents) as the secondary change sponsors. For large changes that impact multiple divisions, directors are the link between executive leaders and the change agents (managers) guiding the front-line employees through change. The directors are tasked with creating a supportive environment for the change and actively promoting the user-adoption plan with their departmental managers.

4. Studies have shown that the direct supervisor has more influence over an employee’s motivation to change than any other person at work. For this reason, assign the change agent role to the direct supervisor (or manager) of the change targets (end-users).

5. Where feasible, create a straight sequential line from the primary change sponsor to the change targets. An increase in organizational layers between the two ends of the stakeholder engagement spectrum (from primary change sponsor to change targets) increases the chance of miscommunication and conflicting messages. For example, managers that are unaware of the upcoming changes may continue reinforcing behaviours that counter the new ways of working. This will give the opportunity for the change targets to regress back to old ways.

Roles & Responsibilities

Primary Change Sponsor

The primary change sponsor is the individual with the authority to initiate and legitimize the need for change, set the strategic direction, and provide resources (budget, people and technology) to achieve the planned financial targets and goals.

The primary change sponsor is asked to own the following responsibilities.
• To help remove barriers when required.
• To determine measurements of success.
• To participate in activities that will show his support for the overall change program/ initiative.  Active and visible support by senior management is one of the most crucial factors in the success of a change initiative.
• To influence his executive peers, getting them to believe in the change he is sponsoring, and having them communicate key message within their own departments.

Secondary Change Sponsors

Secondary Change Sponsors are tasked with creating a supportive environment for change and actively promoting the user-adoption plan. Their departmental managers typically act as change agents. The secondary change sponsor’s job is to operationalize the strategic direction set by the primary change sponsor. They are the link between executive leaders, including the change sponsor, and the change agents in their department.

I usually assign director-level resources to the secondary change sponsor role. A director’s authority can be utilized to allocate time and resources, such as managers and direct supervisors, to guide and monitor the end-users (change targets).

The secondary change sponsor is asked to own the following responsibilities.
• To mobilize their department towards change by allocating time and resources.
• To understand and communicate the change vision and need within their own department to build buy-in and commitment.
• To monitor the progress of change adoption and create a supportive environment.
• To acknowledge resistance and work with the departmental change agents to resolve or reduce resistance to change.  Keep in mind that resistance to change is normal. It is the prolonged resistance that should be addressed or eliminated.
• To report back to senior management, including the change sponsor, on the issues that are impacting daily operations.  This information helps identify any widespread issues.

Change Agents

With a solid understanding of the upcoming change and the change management tools at their disposal, the change agent manages and guides his/her team through change.

I usually assign the change agent role to managers or direct supervisors. Studies have shown that the direct supervisor has more influence over an employee’s motivation to change than any other person at work.

The change agent is asked to own the following responsibilities.
• To lead the change and to display personal commitment towards the change.
• To execute the tasks assigned to them in the change plan (or to provide recommendations to increase user adoption for their team).
• To engage their direct reports in daily discussions about the change.
• To coach their direct reports on new standards.
• To measure and manage resistance to change.
• They measure performance, manage resistance to change and celebrate successes.

Change Targets

The change target is the end-user impacted by the change.  The change target is any individual impacted by the change that does not fall into the other three stakeholder engagement roles.

The change target is asked to own the following responsibilities.
• To manage and report on their personal response to change.  Feedback from the change targets will help the project team evaluate the change plan and make the necessary changes to stay on course (if required).
• To integrate change into their daily activities.
• To apply new skills and behaviours and work with new structures (if required).
• To achieve results and celebrate successes.

Assigning 1 of the 4 roles above to the impacted stakeholders helps me understand the depth and breadth of the upcoming change. It also helps me place the impacted individuals into different groups by role and attach activities, such as training and coaching, to help the change initiative move forward. Specific activities related to the engagement strategy will be discussed in a future post after I have described the other 4 tracks on strategy (communication, training, coaching and transition management).

Posts related to this series – Change Strategy:
1. A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan
2. Part 2 – Building the Engagement Strategy
3. Part 3 – Building the Communication Strategy
4. Part 4 – Building the Training Strategy
5. Part 5 – Building the Coaching Strategy
6. Part 6 – Building the Transition Strategy

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A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan

 

I don’t believe change management is rocket science. In fact, I don’t even believe rocket science is “rocket science” if you take the time to break the work down into manageable components. Below is the approach I follow when managing change in large organizations.

 

1. Understand the “why” of the change
First, take the time to truly understand why the organization needs to change. It is very easy to jump ahead and start looking at how employees need to change prior to understanding the reasons for the change. Sooner or later you will be forced to return to this step as many of the employees impacted by the change will want to know the reasons for the change. From my experience, it is much easier to get people onboard with a change when they understand the reasons why. I start my investigation with the following simple questions:
– Why is the organization changing?
– What are the external/ internal forces pushing it to change?

2. Understand the characteristics of the proposed change
Second, understand the characteristics of the proposed change. I make an early attempt to identify the number of employees that are impacted by the change. I do this by recreating the organizational chart on an 11×17 sheet of paper and highlighting all impacted departments right down to the individuals. I also attach a few comments to each of the impacted groups, describing and summarizing the intensity of the change per group.

I also take a look at senior managment’s level of involvement to see if there is appropriate support for the change iniative. Getting the right level of executive support is paramount. Executives need to show active and visible support for the change initiative for project benefits to be fully realized. For this reason, any member of the senior management team that is impacted by the change, but isn’t an official sponsor of the project, should be kept informed of the progress and major decisions at a minimum.

3. Assess the organization – are they good at adopting change?
Third, look at how good the organization is at adopting change. While getting a grip on the “why” of the change, it is also important to gauge the organization’s ability to adopt change. I start this type of investigation with the following simple questions:
– Has the organization tried to implement this solution previously?
– Are there negative or positive feelings related to change in this organization?
– Is there a structured change management approach or do people just “wing it”?

My investigation consists of interviewing key individuals, looking at the success rate of previous projects and possibly conducting survey/ questionnaires to measure the pulse of the organization towards change. Equipped with this information, I’m able to create a catered change management strategy for the organization. For example, it may be suitable for a company to have their employees trained on change management principles and practices prior to any major changes in the near future. It may also be necessary to coach key managers and have them transformed into change agents so that they can better prepare their employees for the transition from old to new behaviours.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post explaining the remaining steps in my approach to change management.

Posts related to this series – Change Strategy:
1. A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan
2. Part 2 – Building the Engagement Strategy
3. Part 3 – Building the Communication Strategy
4. Part 4 – Building the Training Strategy
5. Part 5 – Building the Coaching Strategy
6. Part 6 – Building the Transition Strategy

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Can Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory Be Used To Motivate Employees Through Change?

In 1968, the Harvard Business Review magazine published one of its most popular articles in the history of its existence – One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?
(vol. 46, iss. 1, pp. 53–62). This article described Frederick Herzberg’s study on the elements that lead to satisfied employees and the elements that lead to dissatisfied employees. Frederick Herzberg explained his research using a two factor theory.

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory Explained
To summarize Herzberg’s two-factor theory, the factors that make an employee satisfied at work are different than the factors that make an employee dissatisfied.

View the video below for a quick summary of his model:


Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player

 

Herzberg’s model was based on a set of interviews targeting accountants and engineers from Pittsburgh. The participants were asked to describe experiences at work when they felt exceptionally positive or negative feelings, and to provide the reasons that gave rise to those feelings. It was discovered that the factors leading to job satisfaction were different than the factors leading to job dissatisfaction.

Based on Frederick Herzberg’s research, the elements that lead to job satisfaction are:
– Achievement
– Recognition
– The work itself
– Increased responsibility
– Advancement
– Growth

The elements that lead to job dissatisfaction are:
– Company policy
– The relationship with your direct supervisor
– The work conditions
– Salary
– The relationship with peers
– A lack of job security

Criticism towards the dual factor theory
This model has been criticized for making the assumption that satisfied workers are more productive than dissatisfied workers. Despite this valid criticism, I put the essence of this model into good use when I focus on increasing employee engagement during change initiatives. I use Herzberg’s top two elements for job satisfaction, (1) achievement and (2) recognition, to create a greater sense of positive involvement during change.

When employees are given the opportunity to achieve a task, and receive recognition for this achievement from people whose opinion they value, the initiative as a whole will gain momentum in the right direction – one small win at a time.

Thinking about my own experiences, I am much more apt to adopt a change when I am given the opportunity to achieve a new task and to be recognized for my achievements. I’m not saying that achievement and recognition is the sure way to successful organizational change, but it’s a simple and straightforward way to help move the change in the right direction. Next time you create a training and rollout plan, break down new tasks in a way that they can be comfortably achieved and make sure the management team and other change leaders praise new behaviours at the right time. You may see a big improvement. What have you got to lose?

My Favorite Change Models: Part 3 – William Bridges’s Managing Transitions


This is the third and final post on the topic of my favorite change models. The first post in this series was Kurt Lewin’s 3-Step Change Model (Unfreezing the Organization). The second post was John Kotter’s 8 Steps to Leading Change Model. This third and final post describes my experiences in applying and referencing William Bridges’s Managing Transitions approach on various change engagements.

So Who Is William Bridges Anyway?
William Bridges is a recognized authority on managing change in the workplace.  He initially pursued a career in humanities until he later re-focused on change and transition management. In 1993, he was listed as one of the top independent executive development presenters by Wall Street Journal in America. (Source: William Bridges & Associates)

Transition Management Explained
William Bridges describes three major phases an individual passes through during the transition from old to new behaviors:
1. Ending, or Letting Go
2. Neutral Zone
3. New Beginning
(Source: Managing Transitions)

You can view the video below for a quick summary of his model:


Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player

Here are some additional tips for managing employees in transition.

Acknowledge The Losses
It’s important to recognize and acknowledge the loss that employees feel during the transition process. This acknowledgement helps alleviate some of the anxieties that may be tied to employees transitioning to a new state.  Just imagine having a great relationship with your direct supervisor and having that taken away during organizational re-structuring.

This same scenario happened to me some time ago. I had reported directly to the Director of Organization Development. It was a great working relationship. Unfortunately, this working relationship dissolved one day when it was announced that the organization was being re-structured after the dismissal of the top three executives of the division, including my boss.

Not to my surprise, the new director possessed a different leadership style. I have to be honest in saying that I wasn’t able to replicate my enthusiasm at work with my new boss. And that’s ok. This experience made me realize that great working relationships are not easy to find. Once you find colleagues with whom you really like working, stick with them as much as you can.

In the end, I still respected the new director and was grateful that he gave me some time to “grieve” my loss and discuss what we each thought was important in a work environment.

Encourage Creativity In The Neutral Zone
In William Bridges’s model, the neutral zone is the in-between phase where employees recognize that the “old” is out; however, the “new” is not yet fully operational. Creativity and calculated risks should be encouraged during the change implementation to help mitigate and resolve unexpected challenges along the change journey.  I’ve learned through trial and error that the best laid plans will never cover all challenges on a change initiative.  There are simply too many unknowns.

Kurt Lewin once said – “If you want to truly understand something, try to change it.”. In other words, it’s only when you start implementing change that you gain a deeper understanding of the impact to the organization. It’s a period of time where you may find out that people who initially supported the change start opposing it and people who initially resisted the change become the greatest supporters (Source: The Change Monster, Jeanie Duck). Creative problem-solving and a little bit of calculated risk-taking will help resolve the unexpected issues that arise in the neutral zone.

Create Transition Monitoring Teams (TMTs)
TMTs, usually comprised of 7 to 12 employees, are focus groups created for the purpose of providing real-time feedback on the change initiative.  TMTs are a good way for the project team to hear back from employees that are not part of the project team regarding the perception of the change initiative in real-time fashion.

A word of caution when creating TMTs: make it clear from the beginning that TMT members do not hold any decision power on the change initiative.  Their purpose is to report on the feelings and perceptions of the change project. With frequent feedback from the TMTs, the project team can re-calibrate the change plan as necessary.

Create as many TMTs as you see fit for you change initiative. This will show the employees that the organization is listening.

This was the last post in this series discussing my favorite change models. I hope you’ve enjoyed the articles and will benefit from them.  As always, utilize more than one change model on any given change engagement to cover more angles. I wish you the best in your current and future change initiatives.

My Favorite Change Models: Part 2 – John Kotter’s 8 Steps to Leading Change


This is the second of three posts on my favorite change models. The first post in this series was Kurt Lewin’s 3-Step Change Model (Unfreezing the Organization). This second post describes my experiences in using and referencing John Kotter’s 8 Steps to Leading Change on various change engagements.

So Who Is John Kotter Anyway?
John Kotter is a professor at Harvard University and is regarded as an authority on leadership and change. He did both his undergraduate and master’s degrees at MIT before completing his doctorate degree in Business Administration at Harvard University. (source: Kotter International)

John Kotter has authored several books on change management:
1. Leading Change
2. Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions
3. The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations
4. A Sense of Urgency

Leading Change – Explained
John Kotter outlines eight steps that organizations need to take to successfully implement change:
1. Establish a sense of urgency
2. Create a guiding coalition
3. Develop a change vision
4. Communicate the change vision
5. Empower broad-based action
6. Generate short-term wins
7. Don’t let up
8. Make the change stick

You can view the video below for a quick summary of his model:


Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player

Here are some additional hints for applying the 8 Steps to Leading Change Model.

Establish A Sense Of Urgency
Similar to other models, building a sense of urgency is a necessary step to implementing change successfully. If you don’t find a way to make the change exciting, compelling and necessary, you may find the implementation phase a little more challenging than it should be. When I formulate my communication messages, the “urgency” undertone is created by my thorough understanding of the organizational challenge(s) that want to be resolved (or the opportunities to be won). I do this by digging deep within the organization to uncover the history of the problem, the audiences impacted by the upcoming change and the reasons why the organization needs to change – such as the cost of change vs. the cost of doing nothing. With a thorough understanding of the purpose of the change, I can communicate the change initiative to the organizational stakeholders with a sense of urgency that is catered to each of the stakeholder groups.

Get The Right Organizational Leaders To Promote The Change
I cannot stress enough the importance of getting the right organizational leaders to sponsor the change initiative. From my point of view, designating the appropriate set of leaders to steer the change initiative in the right direction is paramount to the overall success of the project. The best case scenario would be to have the CEO and the executive leadership team support and steer the change initiative. If this is not possible, I would recommend having at least the departmental leaders and managers of the impacted stakeholders to actively commit, show support and promote the change. If not, it will be easier for the impacted employees to regress or hold onto their old behaviors and old technologies simply because the employees may observe conflicting behaviors or assigned tasks from their managers that contradict the change initiative.

I’ve been on both sides of this continuum.  I was able to work with the appropriate leaders and managers to push a change initiative forward, but I’ve also been part of other change projects that weren’t properly backed by the organizational leaders. In the latter situation, I found that I received plenty of lip service where people would seem curious about the change, but not give any real effort in exhibiting the new behaviors.  In short, there was no commitment to move the change forward. When this occurs, it is a slippery slope that results in one project extension after another.

Of course, the project goals were eventually met once the appropriate leaders got involved. To avoid this drawback, ensure that the right leaders and managers are actively promoting the change at the start of the initiative and make use of their authoritative power to eliminate barriers.

Generate Short Term Wins To Gain Momentum
Politicians, Hollywood actors and teen pop-stars would all secretly agree that perception is everything – try telling otherwise to someone like Jennifer Lopez. Perception is also important on change initiatives, especially at the start when is it imperative to get the change project started on the right foot. The strategy I like to keep in mind when identifying short-term wins is to identify tasks and milestones that are easy to implement, low risk and highly visible to employees. These “quick wins” can then be used to broadcast the progress of the change initiative to others and gain momentum towards a successful campaign. In other words, “don’t try to boil the ocean”. One of my past projects involved replacing an outdated ERP system in several catering centers across Canada. Because changing the ERP system in all of the centers at once would be too risky, we chose to replace the outdated ERP system one centre at a time. By implementing change one centre at a time, we were able to communicate our successes to the other centres to gain momentum and acceptance in advance. We were also able to focus on centre-specific issues, which resulted in a superior user-experience for that centre.

As we implemented the new ERP system in each centre, we were able to have the actual employees promote the new system from inside the company. This increased the momentum of the change exponentially.

As always, remember to use more than one change model when implementing change to cover all angles – as far as I know, there is no all-encompassing change model.  If used properly and in the right context, Kotter’s model can be an excellent tool for leading employees through complex change initiatives. Metaphorically speaking, Kotter’s model is one of the first tools I use out of my toolbox.

Stay tuned for my last post in this series – William Bridges’s Managing Transitions Model. Join my Email RSS feed to have updates sent straight to your inbox.

A Journey Into The Fog – Managing Change In A Complex World

Here it is. My first post in the vast land of the Internet. The journey has begun. Frankly, I don’t know where this site will take me. The first few articles will most likely be focused on discussing my favorite change management models and answering general questions I’ve been asked while on change engagements. One thing I know for sure is that I plan to base all content on my own personal experiences. Wishful thinking would lead me to believe that the honest and genuine undertones of my articles will be appreciated by some random, high-powered individuals who say – “wow, that guy’s amazing – we need him on our team”.

Unrealistic dreams aside, I’m hopeful that this blog will transform into a jive with academics and corporate citizens alike – exchanging experiences and promoting different ways of implementing change. (Or perhaps it may be more of a dance-off where I put my best foot forward, get challenged by my readers and fellow bloggers, go back and forth and end up with an experience that benefits us all.) If nothing else, I plan to enjoy the dance.

Wherever it takes me, I’m really looking forward to seeing what this blog becomes. Hopefully you’ll be interested too.