Welcome back to our conversation focusing on Change Leadership. We return to discussing corporate change. This is the third and last post hearing from my dear friend and colleague Karen Davey-Winter.
In our first conversation with Karen, we learned for leaders of change there are (at least) three dimensions of change that must be understood and navigated – our own approach and reaction to change, how to lead our teams through change, and how to help the people we impact with our changes, i.e. customers, ends users, etc. This last conversation with Karen will focus on how to help engage customers to make the change more successful. I hand the “mic” over to Karen:
“If you haven’t yet read ‘Switch’ I highly recommend it, and some of the ideas in this newsletter are loosely based on some of the concepts in the book. Instead of the Elephant, the Rider and the Path, though, I’m going to suggest that we think about changing using the following three dimensions – Information, Emotion and Direction. All three need to be covered to successfully engage a group of stakeholders.
One of the key things that people need to understand before they can engage in a change is the logic behind it, the reasoning, and the analysis of why it’s important. As leaders it’s important to provide the business case, what problem is being fixed but also, and perhaps most importantly, a vision of what the future will look like when the change is complete. As we all know, though, the devil is in the details so it’s really important not only to provide a vision, but also enough clarity about the details of the change to reduce people’s anxiety. So if I’m implementing, for example, a new Lab system in a hospital, I might want to know why this will help the Lab be more efficient, how it will save the hospital money, how that money will be used to improve other areas, and so on. However, while providing the logical information about why a change is important is necessary, on its own it’s not enough.
The second component of making change successful is based on how to appeal to people from a motivational perspective. This is about making change a matter of identity, not just of consequence. So if I’m a lab tech, and I see a new system being implemented, what kind of Lab technician do I want to be? What would a Lab technician like me do in this situation? If as leaders we can understand how to harness people’s motivation and values, we can make change appeal, and reduce the resistance and anxiety that so often accompanies any kind of change project. If we combine this with finding a way to make change manageable, we’re on our way to improved stakeholder engagement. So now we’ve provided by the logical reason for the change, and we’ve also appealed to people’s motivation. However, on their own these two components are still not enough.
The final component of how to engage customers in change is to provide the direction, or the path. The change has to be seen to make life easier otherwise there will be resistance, and so if implementing a new Lab system just makes life more complicated, and the new tools and procedures seem onerous, then the success of the change is in jeopardy. One way to help customers see that the change will make their lives easier is to engage them early in the planning process, have them collaborate to develop the detailed work procedures, set up checklists to track the items, develop diagrams so that they can see the impact. Once they engage in reducing the complexity of the change, they will not only see that it’s not going to be as bad as they expected, but they will also be bought into a process that they helped define.
So for all of you that lead projects that cause your customers to feel that a change is being ‘done to’ them, see if you can frame your engagement activities using the model above. Also, remember the 20-60-20 rule – 20 people will get on board immediately and not need to be persuaded; 60% will be on the fence until they understand the impact of the change and see how leaders help them through it; 20% will never get on board. If you spend most of your energy engaging that 60%, your chances of a successful change initiative are drastically increased. Let me know how it goes!
Thank you Karen for your perspective. You can enjoy a more detailed view into Karen’s perspective at these links:
Karen Davey-Winter, PMP, ACC Executive Coach/Management Consultant
Let’s recap. Karen addressed three dimensions of change – inform, emotion (resistance) and direction. Informing the facts and expected impacts are not for the meek. It is too easy to brush off the impacts with the hope the details will work themselves out. They won’t. At the same time it is impossible to analyze and predict all possible impacts. It is okay to simply say you don’t know, it is okay to say you can’t share or show vulnerability with transparency. It is not okay to pretend you don’t know or simply tell a lie.
Emotion is very personal. You are not expected to know absolutely for sure how everyone will accept the change. There are too many variables. For example, let’s say that the change calls for outsourcing infrastructure management. From a customer perspective, some will see it as an opportunity to cut costs and improve service. Some customers will see it as risk based on prior experience. No one will be 100% comfortable. It is our job as leaders to seek and listen to the business’s concerns and address each of them respectful with a mitigation plan for the business impacting risks. The customer will be more excepting of the change when they have confidence in your ability to manage outcome and be their advocate.
To be informed of a change is one thing, feeling part of the direction is a much stronger emotion. Engaging the customer in the change goes a long way to reduce or eliminate the “what are they doing to me” emotion. As you can see none of these dimensions stand alone.
Until next time, have an effective week! Next week we will close out our change leadership discussion by focusing on sustaining change.
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