Active listening is critical even when you’re the one doing the communicating. It’s critical to identify how the constituents are “hearing” the message. Remember, just getting the information out is not the goal. Ask clarifying, confirming questions and listen closely to the answers. Have team members in the room to help analyze how the audience is responding to your message.
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Your experts work on the front line of your organization. Their information isn’t necessarily better than the corporate strategic planners, but it certainly is different. It also comes from the place closest to the customer who usually figures in strongly to why we’re making a change.
The front line staff provides a comprehensive picture of what the needs of the marketplace are and what the organization is capable of delivering. The key to making the front line staff an integral part of the intelligence network is to provide as much information as possible to this constituency so they can couple their first hand knowledge with other data to provide extremely rich analysis.Read More »
The complexity of your change initiative should dictate how many of the change tools are used and to what depth these tools should be used. In the Change Planning/Monitoring Workshop, we use a specific instrument to help the change team measure the complexity of the initiative. The process itself serves as an anchor to the planning process while also providing team members a mechanism to see the change initiative more broadly. The best test for this tool – a client recently postponed lunch to keep going with the complexity analysis. Details on the Change Planning/Monitoring Workshop are contained in Change Project Management – The Next Step – The System for Change Leaders.Read More »
Not being ready for a change implementation on the “launch date” can have huge implications in the marketplace, with your customers, and on your bottom line. Consequently, readiness should be addressed in the planning phase of a change initiative.
There are two different sides of readiness: workplace readiness and employee readiness. Workplace readiness is the process of making sure that physical facilities have the equipment, desks, chairs, file cabinets, lights, and other physical necessities for employees to perform their jobs. Employee readiness is the process of ensuring the employees are trained for the new system or procedures, understand their role in the change, and know how to do their jobs.
Recruit Readiness Coordinators
As soon as you inform employees that the change is coming, begin the readiness work by recruiting readiness coordinators. Readiness coordinators are staff members that manage the journey for small groups of employees throughout the change process and implementation. Giving a briefing of what’s going on, conducting change analysis sessions, scheduling people for training, testing after the training, surveying the employees about readiness, and other change-related activities can all be orchestrated through the readiness coordinators. They are the legs, ears, and eyes of your readiness process. They also bring information, feedback, questions, and concerns from the employees to the project management team.
Define Employee Groups
Divide the employees into appropriate, manageable groups. The most logical way to do this is to use the existing groups or departments as your starting point and then break these groups down into smaller groups of ten to twenty people each.
Select Your Readiness Leader
The person assigned to lead and manage the readiness coordinators will serve as a vital link between the front lines and your change project team. This person will manage the team of readiness coordinators throughout the organization.
A successful readiness coordinator leader will have:
- Adept facilitation skills
- Strong organization skills
- Management and cross functional management experience
- Knowledge of the organization and how it’s run. (You wouldn’t want to select the project team member who’s been at the company for only 6 months to do this job. You want a leader who’s been with the company for at least 3 years.)
The primary objective of the readiness coordinator leader is to maintain a continuous flow of information between the change project team, readiness coordinators, and the employees in their respective units.
Identify Functional Support Areas
The key functional support areas are your vital links. If the change involves moving employees, you need to include facilities management. If the change involves the computer system, you need to include the information technology group and possibly the training group. In most cases, the human resources department needs to be involved, particularly if you are dealing with outplacement.
Do a thorough assessment of all the linkages and include them and how they need to be engaged in your readiness plans.
Define the Readiness Requirements
Your readiness requirements will be determined by what sort of change initiative you are leading. Include people at all levels of the organization when you are determining these requirements. Together with your project team, identify all employee concerns, questions, and issues. Your objective is to identify and collect these concerns on as local a level as possible.
Once you have identified the concerns, questions, and issues, divide them into the organizational readiness categories of:
By placing these issues and questions into the appropriate categories, you can address them in a more efficient and succinct manner.
Develop Action Plans
Develop specific action plans to accomplish all of the readiness requirements you have defined. These plans, which are based on critical needs, time frames, and priorities, include setting up training courses, getting people scheduled for training, facilitating readiness surveys, testing skills, and all the other tasks that need to be accomplished.
If you find that you won’t be fully ready because the volume of new work is slowing your pace, it might make sense to bring in some temporary help for a period of time while you’re making the transition.
Finally, you must have the ability and the confidence to put the brakes on if you’re not ready. All of your planning should be around not having that happen, but if you find that you are truly not ready, you shouldn’t go forward.Read More »
The perspective of the front line employee is drawn from a firsthand experience of the organizations’ strengths and weaknesses. Can the organization actually pull something off? The front line employees know the answer. Many times the front line employee can see opportunities for bold action that executives can’t see because they really understand the wiggle room in any risk assessment.Read More »
Are you a Project Manager or a Change Leader? I’m not talking about your title. I’m talking about your role in the organization. The first thing we do in every change leadership presentation is give project managers a promotion to change leader. (No immediate pay increase of course.)
This in no way denigrates the profession of project management. Everything we do is about layering the art of change leadership upon the science of project management. We believe strongly in the science of project management. However, we’ve found that solid project management alone doesn’t always allow for the realization of the value equation proposed at the beginning of a project. Success is about so much more than “On-time” and “On-budget.”
Repositioning of the project management role to a change leadership role is crucial. Project managers have certain negative stereotypes within their own organizations. These range from being viewed as the note taker in meetings to being the necessary evil if you have to go through official channels to get something done. These negative stereotypes exist based on experiences with previous project managers, regardless of the skill of the current project manager. They need to be acknowledged and overcome.
One regular complaint we hear from project managers is: “The executive sponsor isn’t doing what they are supposed to. This is why my project isn’t as successful as it could be.” After a minute of empathetic co-whining, I usually say: “That’s your fault (project manager).” You have to look at what you have done before. How have you positioned yourself to influence those with whom you have no positional power? This line of thinking gets us to the measurements of success for project managers.
If you are positioned as a project manager three or four layers below the executive sponsor, with all of the typical outsiders’ perception of what a project manager is, there is little hope that you can influence the executive to do anything.
But if you are positioned as one who leads change within the organization – no matter your rank on the organization chart – there is a purpose for working with you as a partner to get the change implemented successfully. It’s in the executive’s best interest to listen to you as a trusted advisor. The executive develops a reputation as one whose initiatives are organizationally, reputationally, and financially sound – they get things done.
Are you ready to transition from project manager to change leader? Call 800.370.7373 (614.783.6565) to determine if working with Jim Canterucci as your private advisor will help you reach this higher level of impact.Read More »
The best time to capture the detail of the changes that are taking place is during the design phase of any change initiative. This is when we see the difference between the old way and the new way. Unfortunately, we really need this information much later at deployment time when we’re ready to conduct a training class. At that point the training person is looking for information on the detail changes which the design person has long since forgotten. Create a way to capture the detail changes identified in design anticipating the need of the deployment people to be able to make the translation for the end user in your new environment.Read More »
In a recent change initiative in which sales people were affected there was great resistance to the proposed changes. The changes were seen as something that would be a barrier to what they naturally did — sell. In other words we were going to try to change them. Not a good idea.
The key to success was to take the time to explain clearly that what the changes represented were in fact the elimination of barriers that allowed them to do what they do best — sell. Once this occurred we were able to work together with the same goals. If your constituents aren’t being changed but actually being allowed to go with their natural flow more easily, the changes are much easier to swallow. Of course, this has to be true. Spend time on this in the planning phase.Read More »
Talking points are a good idea, especially when there are multiple communicators. However, each audience is different and has different needs. Each interprets your change initiative differently — from their own viewpoint. Get the facts and details out but be sure to customize the message to each audience. This helps you meet the goal of the communication.Read More »
In my change leadership seminars I often make the point that communication will occur within your organization. The only question is, do you want to participate in the communication? The biggest mistake we can make is to delay communication until we know more. About the time you are swearing your leadership team to secrecy is about the time the rumors begin. Honesty, early and often, is the best policy.
But wait. How can I tell everyone what’s going on when I don’t even know what’s going on? Again, the truth, early and often, is the answer. Tell what you can. Speak in probabilities. It’s OK to say something like: “We are exploring XYZ direction. There is a 70% chance that we will make this choice. I will let you know when the analysis is done. If we go in that direction it does mean X. It does not mean Y.”
This is hard. You have to show your thought process publicly. Do you have the courage to expose yourself as a leader? Believe it or not, some managers have actually convinced themselves that their employees don’t want or need to know, yet. Take a moment to think about this from the employee’s perspective. Be careful not to mistake their inexperience with receiving communication from their organization as disinterest in communication. This is a learning process for both sides.
You also have to follow-up. The environment changes rapidly. You’re busy. So are your employees. It’s critical to keep everyone up to date. You’ve exposed your thought process. Regular updates are necessary so that over time the wisdom becomes organized into a theme leading into your change initiative. Finding a variety of ways to keep people informed and involved is the fun part.
Analyze your rumors
Rumors are the window into the soul of the organization. What are your rumors like? Analyzing the rumors will give you insight into the needs of your company. Just some of the symptoms that can be exposed by the content of the rumors include lack of trust, lack of information (the trickledown effect isn’t working), or a lack of respect in management’s abilities.
Is the rumor so farfetched it sounds like a best-selling novel? This may indicate that the employees are too far removed from how management and the decision making structure actually works. Grandiose rumors can hit both ends of the spectrum. They can erroneously depict the organization in a very positive light, which might indicate an arrogance that could be troublesome in the marketplace.
More often though, the greatly exaggerated rumor is slanted to the negative. If the rumor were true the management team and the company would be ashamed. How could our employees dream up such things? If the rumor were true it would prove that management actually lies or withholds things. Perhaps the rumor is a symptom of a basic distrust of management. This is frustrating when you are telling the truth. Focus on the cause of this feeling beyond the current rumor. What led to the possibility that an employee would think that this could happen? Take actions to build trust and credibility. How? Spend extra effort on communicating, explaining the decision making process, and explaining the why. This extra effort will educate employees as to how these things get done and possibly may identify some faulty logic that could be adjusted.
Maybe rumors indicate a basic lack of information. If you are still solely dependent on middle managers distributing information down through the ranks to front-line employees, this will be a common problem. Recall the game of passing a message from child to child and seeing how distorted it is at the end. Trickle down communication in a corporate environment works just as poorly. For more information on this topic, read the related article Communicating Organizational Change.
Take advantage of the rumor mill to help diagnose problems and issues that if ignored can cripple your organization.Read More »