Welcome back to our conversation, focusing on Change Leadership.  We return to discussing the corporate change.  This is the third and last post from my dear friend and colleague Karen Davey-Winter.  

In our first conversation with Karen, we learned that as leaders of change we must understand and navigate (at least) three dimensions of change – our approach and reaction to change, how to lead our teams through change, and how to help the people we impact with our changes (e.g., customers, end users). This last conversation with Karen will focus on how to help engage customers to make the change more successful. Now, I am handing the “mic” over to Karen. 

“If you haven’t yet read ‘Switch,’ I highly recommend it. 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. 

Information 

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 and 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 to not only provide a vision but also to provide enough clarity about the details of the change to reduce people’s anxiety. 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, providing logical information about why a change is important and necessary on its own is not enough. 

Emotion 

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. 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 appealing changes and reduce the resistance and anxiety that so often accompany 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. Now, we’ve provided the logical reason for the change, and we’ve also appealed to people’s motivation. On their own, these two components are still not enough. 

Direction 

The final component of how to engage customers in change is to provide the direction or the path. The change must be seen as making life easier. Otherwise, there will be resistance, and 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 and 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 buy 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% of 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! 

Back to Mary 

Thank you, Karen, for your perspective. You can learn more about Karen at www.worklifeperspectives.com 

Let’s recap. Karen addressed three dimensions of change – inform, emotion (resistance) and direction. Informing team members of the facts and expected impacts is not for the meek. It is too easy to brush off the impacts with the hope that 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 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 respectfully 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 the outcome and be their advocate.  

To be informed of a change is one thing, feeling a 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.  

Until then, have a great week! 

Mary 

ITeffectivity LLC was founded in 2013 with the mission of helping IT Leaders bring order to their ever-changing world.  Since then, Mary has advised over 80 leaders as well on behalf of Fortune 100 firms to small non-profits.  

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