Assumptions are part of any change effort. It’s the untested assumptions that can kill a project though. This applies to stakeholders support and the little details of our change. I may buy in, until I learn that a small detail will have a negative impact on the people I care about and my support will vanish. Build project plan steps to record, question, and test all change project assumptions.
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After identifying the key stakeholders for your project, assign a project team member the part-time job to “be” the stakeholder in all project discussions and decisions. The team member learns enough about the stakeholder to represent their views. This requires regular attention to that stakeholder. It’s too easy to forget about key stakeholder needs without this level of attention.Read More »
How will you learn the important details if the people that have these details don’t feel comfortable approaching you for a conversation? Be careful not to allow the ‘busyness’ to cause you to insulate yourself from the sources of important information. Are you taking the time for in-depth conversations with people each hour of your day?Read More »
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice. — William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Change project leaders are very busy people. The skill of active listening, which is important for any leader, is hypercritical in a change project. Listening for the subtle nuances of the organizational political process can save a great deal of time and effort, and possibly the change project. The unsuccessful change leader, while having many of the expected project interactions, misses the important information due to a lack of listening skills.Read More »
These change quotes are popular, traditional quotes interpreted by Jim Canterucci from a change leadership perspective.
Albert Schweitzer “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it’s the only thing.” W. Edwards Deming “The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which 70 percent have nothing to do with work.” Thomas Merton “The biggest temptation is to settle for too little.” Sun Tzu “All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” Alfred Montapert “To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualize, then plan…believe…act!” Roger von Oech “Take advantage of the ambiguity in the world. Look at something and think about what else it might be.” Martin Luther King, Jr. “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Sir Winston Churchill ”A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Eric Hoffer “Every new adjustment is a crisis in self esteem.” Bill Gates “If you have enough information to make a decision, you’re too late.” Anonymous “People rise to the challenge when it’s their challenge.” St. Francis of Assisi “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” George Bernard Shaw “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.” Emo Phillips “Some mornings it just doesn’t seem worth it to gnaw through the leather straps.” Anonymous “There is no limit to the amount of good that people can accomplish, if they don’t care who gets the credit.” William James “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” Karen Kaiser Clark “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” Oscar Wilde “Always forgive your enemies — nothing annoys them so much.” John Cage “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m afraid of the old ones.” Bertrand Russell “Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” Cicero “Nothing quite new is perfect.” Peter Drucker “The talk you hear…about adapting to change is not only stupid, it’s…dangerous. The only way you can manage change is to create it. By the time you catch up to change, the competition is ahead of you.” Martin Luther King, Jr. “All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.” T. S. Eliot “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” Albert Einstein “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” G. K. Chesterton “It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.” William Shakespeare “Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice.” Bertolt Brecht “If there are obstacles, the shortest line between two points may be the crooked line.” Harry S. Truman “I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.” Gandhi “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Dr. Robert Schuller “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” Henry Miller “Confusion is a word we have created for an order which is not yet understood.” Woodrow Wilson “I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow.” Alfred North Whitehead “We think in generalities but we live in details.” Upton Sinclair “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Jack Welch “We have to get everybody involved. If we do that, the best ideas rise to the top.” Ralph Waldo Emerson “People see only what they are prepared to see.” Will Rogers “Rumor travels faster, but it don’t stay put as long as truth.” An American Proverb “You can’t jump a twenty-foot chasm in two ten-foot leaps.”Read More »
It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem. — G. K. Chesterton, The Point of a Pin
Upper level management many times initiates change projects. The reason for the change could be based on market analysis, competitor analysis, financial projections, or some outside force the front-line employee is not exposed to on a day-to-day basis.
It is natural to spend a great deal of time describing the change or the solution we are providing in a variety of ways. Our message might not get through though if the audience is wondering — Why do we need to change? Or, What would happen if we do nothing? These are valid questions for constituents to ask. Take time to explain the reason the change is necessary in a way that relates to the local work area.Read More »
The Four Keys to Successful Change Communication
We’re all familiar with traditional means of corporate communications including memos, the company newsletter, team briefings, videos, posters, attitude surveys, and employee suggestion programs to name a few. These in fact are methods of communication and tend to be effective in disseminating information to the middle management layer and above.
For the purposes of this article however lets define communication as information that changes behavior in front-line employees. After all, this is our goal in communicating organizational change. There are four keys to communication that changes behavior. We’ll explore these below.
Sergeants carry the message. Like the cliché war movie theme in which the ‘spiffy’ educated Lieutenant is saved by the experienced although ‘crusty’ Sergeant, our supervisors are a powerful force for change. They are in direct contact with those that must change behavior. We as managers have to depend on them. Day to day communications can trickle down but large change communications should be made directly from senior management to the supervisor, bypassing the middle managers who naturally tend to filter the meaning from the message. Communicating to everyone at once seems like a good idea but it in fact undermines the authority of our supervisors who can make or break the effort.
Communicate at the local level. Employees don’t care about the company. At least not the same way we do as managers. We think our employees want to hear about quarterly financial results, the latest production targets, who runs what after the third or fourth restructuring, and where we stand on our United Way goal. Studies have shown that what employees want to know is what the future plans of the company are relative to their local work area.
Communicate performance. By letting people know where they stand it is clear that what they do matters. We tend to not communicate how we’re doing (at the local level) relative to client needs and competitors, we tend to communicate how much. For example, tons per man hour, sales per square foot, throughput, plant utilization, number of transactions, calls answered. By comparing a work unit to a competitor or another similar group within the organization, a positive pressure is created that taps into the local values of pride and competition.
Communicate face-to-face. The normal means of communication tends to be “stuff” and events. It needs to be face-to-face to be most effective. 35% of Americans have not read a book since high school and only 20% have been in a bookstore. Why do we write memos? The supervisors can bring our communications directly to the people that matter, when they need it most – when they ask a question.
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Communication is the cornerstone to the successful management of organizational transitions. Evaluate all change communications by applying the four keys. Are the people in direct contact with the front-line employees carrying the message? Are we communicating at the local work area level using local values rather than corporate values? Are we communicating performance? Is the communication face-to-face? Ultimately, will the communication change behavior?Read More »
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. — Albert Einstein
Keep it simple is always good advice. However change initiatives are frequently complex. Cutting away information isn’t simplifying. Remember the goal — we want to generate as much support as possible for our change effort. Ambiguity is the enemy. In all communications seek the essence of the change and communicate that. It’s important to edit for clarity rather than to simply edit for volume. Find the balance.
Realize that we all frequently hear a large volume of scattered information. The natural advice is to cut or shrink your presentation. Instead, attempt to find a way to communicate your change initiative in a way that gets all of the necessary information across in an interesting and engaging way. Also, customizing information flow and providing pertinent information to each constituency while being careful to bridge to the big picture is important to achieving this balance.Read More »
Analyze your past stories. You know, the examples you always use to describe a change scenario. Stories of past successes and failures are the best way to get a message across. Our culture has used stories to pass down important information from generation to generation. Stories have a way of painting a picture for the listener.
Do your stories and examples clarify the picture of change you are trying to paint or does the story muddle this picture? Are your stories current? Do your stories consider current times?
As we become more experienced it’s easier to go with what got us here as change leaders. The most successful though continue to innovate in every way, including the messages used to build and support the case for change. Always look for new stories to make your points. Attend conferences and seminars on change. Look inside and outside your industry. Keep your message fresh!Read More »
Humankind cannot bear very much reality. — T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral
When was the last time you were overwhelmed? Yesterday? An hour ago? Think about your change constituents. They are bombarded with changes, some represent good news, more represent bad news.
A solid change management methodology will help create a framework for the delivery of communication regarding separate change issues in a consistent and patterned way. However, it is unrealistic to think we can methodically feed information to our constituents in bite size chunks. Our world moves too fast. Sometimes though it could be wise to postpone the start of a new change initiative slightly at the expense of appearing to be capable of lightening speed. At least consider the appetite of our constituents for intense reality.Read More »