01.ADDRESS THE “HUMAN SIDE” BEFORE ALL ELSE
Any significant transformation creates “people issues.” New leaders will be asked to step up, jobs will be changed, new skills and capabilities must be developed, and employees will be uncertain and resistant. Dealing with these issues on a reactive, case-by-case basis puts deadlines, morale, and results at risk. A formal approach for managing change — beginning with the leadership team and then engaging key stakeholders and leaders — should be developed early on and adapted frequently as change moves throughout the organization. This demands as much data collection and analysis, planning, and implementation discipline as it does a redesign of strategy, systems, or processes. The change-management approach should be fully integrated into program design and decision making, both informing and enabling strategic direction. It should be based on a realistic assessment of the organization’s history, readiness, and capacity to change. It is essential to consider the “human side” before anything else.
02. START AT THE TOP
Because change is inherently unsettling for people at all levels of an organization, when it is on the horizon, all eyes turn towards the CEO and the leadership team for strength, support, and direction. The leaders themselves must embrace the new approaches first, face the challenge and motivate the rest of the institution. They must speak with one voice and model the desired behaviors. The executive team also needs to understand that, although its public face may be one of unity, it, too, is composed of individuals who are going through stressful times and need to be supported. Executive teams that work well together are those that are best positioned for success. They are aligned and committed to the direction of change, understand the culture and behaviors the changes intend to introduce, and can then model those changes themselves.
03. INVOLVE EVERY LAYER
As transformation programs progress from defining strategy and setting targets to design and implementation, they start to affect different levels of the organization. Change efforts must include plans for identifying change leaders throughout the company and pushing responsibility for design and implementation downwards, so that change “cascades” through the organization. At each layer of the organization, the leaders who are identified and trained must also be aligned to the company’s vision, equipped to execute their specific mission, and motivated to make change happen.
04. MAKE THE FORMAL CASE
Individuals are inherently rational and will question to what extent change is needed, whether the company is heading in the right direction, and whether they want to commit personally to making change happen. They will look to leadership for answers. The articulation of a formal case for change and the creation of a written vision statement are invaluable opportunities to create or compel leadership-team alignment. Three steps should be followed in developing the case: First, confront reality and articulate a convincing need for change. Second, demonstrate faith that the company has a viable future and the leadership required to get there. Finally, provide a road map to guide behavior and decision making. Leaders must then customize this message for the various internal audiences, describing the pending change in real terms in an understandable way that matter to the individuals.
05. CREATE OWNERSHIP
Leaders of large change programs need to excel during the transformation and be the drivers who create a critical mass among the work force in favor of change. This requires more than mere buy-in or passive agreement that the direction of change is acceptable. It demands ownership by leaders willing to accept responsibility for making change happen in all of the areas they influence or control. Ownership is often best created by involving people in identifying problems and crafting solutions. It is reinforced by incentives and rewards. These can be tangible (for example, financial compensation) or psychological.
06. COMMUNICATE THE MESSAGE
Too often, change leaders make the mistake of believing that others understand the issues, feel the need to change, and see the new direction as clearly as they do. The best change programs reinforce core messages through regular, timely advice that is both inspirational and practicable. Communications flow in from the bottom and out from the top and are targeted to provide employees with the right information at the right time and to solicit their input and feedback. Often this will require regular targeted communication through multiple, channels.
07. ASSESS THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE
Successful change programs pick up speed and intensity as they cascade down, making it critically important that leaders understand and account for culture and behaviors at each level of the organization. Companies often make the mistake of assessing culture either too late or not at all. Thorough cultural diagnostics can assess organizational readiness to change, bring major problems to the surface, identify conflicts, and define factors that can recognize and influence sources of leadership and resistance. These diagnostics identify the core values, beliefs, behaviors, and perceptions that must be taken into account for successful change to occur. They serve as a common baseline for designing essential change elements, such as the new corporate vision, and building the infrastructure and programs needed to drive change.
08. ADDRESS CULTURE EXPLICITLY
Once the culture is understood, it should be addressed as thoroughly as any other area in a change program. Leaders should be explicit about the culture and underlying behaviors that will best support the new way of doing business and find opportunities to model and reward those behaviors. This requires developing a baseline, defining an explicit end- state or desired culture, and devising detailed plans to make the transition. Company culture is an amalgam of shared history, explicit values and beliefs, and common attitudes and behaviors. Change programs can involve creating a culture, combining cultures or reinforcing cultures. Understanding that all companies have a cultural center the locus of thought, activity, influence, or personal identification is often an effective way to jump-start culture change.
09. PREPARE FOR THE UNEXPECTED
No change program goes completely according to plan. People react in unexpected ways; areas of anticipated resistance fall away; and the external environment shifts. Effectively managing change requires continual reassessment of its impact and the organization’s willingness and ability to adopt the next wave of transformation. Fed by real data from the field and supported by information and solid decision-making processes, change leaders can then make the adjustments necessary to maintain momentum and drive results.
10. SPEAK TO THE INDIVIDUAL
Change is both an institutional journey and a very personal one. Individuals (or teams of individuals) need to know how their work will change, what is expected of them during and after the change program, how they will be measured, and what success or failure will mean for them and those around them. Team leaders should be as honest and explicit as possible. People will react to what they see and hear around them and need to be involved in the change process. Highly visible rewards, such as promotion, recognition, and bonuses, should be provided as dramatic reinforcement for embracing change. Most leaders contemplating change know that people matter. Mastering the “soft” side of change management needn’t be a mystery.