Internal and external suppliers and customers are not as engaged in the project as you are. Each project team member should take responsibility for the communication necessary — the handoff — to clarify requirements from both directions.
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When dealing with multiple projects that make up a change initiative the biggest danger are the tasks that fall through the cracks. It may be wise to assign individuals part-time responsibility for shepherding these functions across projects. Areas in which this may apply are systems and technology, human resources, communication, change, process flows, or facilities. It is important to make clear that this person’s role is coordination and support rather than full responsibility for successful implementation. This remains the role of the project manager.Read More »
Change initiatives usually cross organizational boundaries. For your change initiatives to be successful, you must become aware of the boundaries your project must cross. Without the support of key constituents throughout the organization success is merely a dream. To obtain and maintain this elusive support, coalition building is a critical skill set change leaders must develop. Our surveys of change leaders rank coalition building very high among all of the change leader skill sets discussed in these articles. Interestingly, the more experienced the change leader, the higher they rank coalition building and the lower they rank their perceived skill indicating the need for improvement in this area. Experience talks.
It is unlikely that too much time can be budgeted for the important act of coalition building and representing the views of all constituents on the change project management team. Coalition building is done at breakfast meetings, in the hallways, and as meeting attendees are gathering their papers. The change leader can expect to spend at least half their time on this task.
The job of the change leader is to anticipate the actions and reactions of important constituents, possibly influencing these actions and reactions. Open and frank communication, both formal and informal, facilitates coalition building. Change project leaders do have control of the information communicated concerning the change project to these constituents. Clear, concise, communication in terms that are relative to the audience serves as the best way to build effective coalitions that can pay large dividends at critical points in the project.
As with the general population, it is dangerous to stereotype change constituents. Individuals change their viewpoints as new information is obtained and evaluated. Keeping ahead of this curve is the challenge.
Consideration of the following keys to building coalitions will contribute to the success of your change effort.
Recruit stakeholders. Who can influence others? Identify these individuals and recruit them to your team. It may be possible to involve a key constituent as a functioning member of your change leadership team. As an insider they will be able to ‘live’ the reasons and benefits for the change. Also, as with the choice of a vice-presidential running mate in politics, executive sponsors should be selected with some consideration to their effectiveness in forging coalitions to bring the project home successfully.
Involve stakeholders. Get important stakeholders involved in problem solving, monitoring progress, and sharing knowledge regarding the change initiative. By providing something tangible for stakeholders to do, ownership is more likely.
Solicit customer input. Since most of the company is involved with and measures their compensation based on the customer, consideration of customer needs and how they could be positively effected by the change initiative can go a long way to obtaining support from internal constituents.
Spend time with stakeholders. There is no substitute for quality time with important stakeholders. Remember, time spent ensuring stakeholders are comfortable with your ability to lead the change, as well as time to humanize the change effort is time well spent. I frequently like to find a way to travel with a key stakeholder. This uninterrupted, informal time is like gold.
Showcase successful pilots. Managed well, a successful pilot of the change in one area can be used to sell the approach in other geographical, functional or processing areas.
Clarify authority. We are trying to change behavior. Without clear lines of authority and decision making, participants may interpret time spent with them on the change effort as informational only, leading to little or no action. Ask for decisions and commitments to be made.
Don’t surprise stakeholders. A primary goal for the change leader should be – no surprises for the important stakeholders. This may mean individual sessions with all attendees prior to the scheduled group meeting. No one said this was going to be easy!
The coalitions built can make or break a change effort. Include coalition building activities in your work and staffing plans to ensure your change effort reaches the desired outcome.Read More »
Creativity vs. Innovation. Creativity is the process of generating something new. Innovation however is the practical application of creativity into something that has an impact. So, it’s about action more than simply great ideas. How do we implement the great ideas? Check out Personal Brilliance for more information.Read More »
Stakeholder is a very descriptive word that identifies those that have a stake in the outcome of our change initiative. I use this word frequently. There is a better descriptor though. I like the word constituent. This descriptor implies a responsibility on the part of the change leader. It’s necessary that we worry about our constituents – about how our change will affect them and what matters to them. So try the word constituent as a replacement for the word stakeholder, letting the descriptor serve as a reminder of our responsibilities.Read More »
We usually separate a training plan from a communication plan in our change projects. That makes sense from a planning perspective but don’t lose sight of the fact that they support each other. Prior to any training activities heavy communication is necessary to prime the audience and reinforce the reasons for the changes. During training sessions, schedule Change Breakthrough Analysis sessions to help the students balance their feelings about the change. Training should be more than a deliverable. Remember we want to change behavior.Read More »
Communicating about your change initiative differently than we traditionally communicate sends a strong message that this change initiative is something special. Everyday communication is different from communication about a change initiative. Employees regularly face a number of changes, to the point where the changes become commonplace. It’s important that our communication approaches don’t become a routine.
Employees of one client recently reported that they had never in their careers experienced communication about a change effort like it was being done. This alone set the significance of the effort in their minds and elevated the attention spent on this project. Mix things up. Don’t just send a memo. Turn communication into a special event. Use different medium.Read More »
Analyzing your stakeholders, communicating well, and ensuring people are trained and ready are just common sense if you are responsible for implementing a project for your organization. Anyone should be able to do it. Why then is lack of change leadership pointed to so often as a reason for not reaching the return on investment for projects?
Change Leadership is a Discipline
We wouldn’t dream of not following a defined approach for workflow development, system design, technical architecture, or training. So why would we leave change leadership to chance? It’s natural to think of the change activities as basic leadership. And to a great extent, they are. How often though do people naturally exhibit great leadership skills? Especially in the high-stress environment of a large change initiative.
Another reason change leadership is not usually thought of formally is the misinterpretation that influencing scores of people to change their mind-set and behavior is somehow “soft” vs. the real work of the project.
What we inherently know though is that all the great technical work being done perfectly doesn’t ensure that the change will be implemented successfully. This brings us to the third reason change leadership isn’t an official activity: it’s hard to define and it’s hard work that must be done by busy people.
A big misconception is that change leadership is a “bolt on” component separate from project management activities. This leads to the conclusion that change leadership, since it involves people, is the domain of Human Resources. Calling in Human Resources folks, disconnected from the business and the project, has virtually no chance of success. It’s easy to delegate this important but time-consuming function but from our experience this just isn’t a viable alternative.
Change leadership activities must be tightly integrated with the other tasks of the project. Change activities take place as the more traditional work of the project is being done. And, this change activity is performed by those same project resources.
So, how do you integrate solid change leadership within your organization? First, education is necessary to identify the nuances of change leadership techniques and to begin to see the integration of these techniques within your project management methodology (see Change Leadership Focus). Second, it’s necessary to exercise these techniques in a practical way within existing projects.
Change leadership is truly an art. The real-life examples allow you to apply the learning in a practical way. When we provide this education and advisory service for our clients we find that virtually everyone associated with a project from senior leadership to project administrators are touched in some way with new and more effective approaches to their jobs. Contact our office to strategize how you can eliminate the risk of leaving change leadership to chance and make change leadership a discipline for your organization.
As a change leader, do you specifically focus on change leadership or does it just happen?Read More »
President Bush has recently been in coalition building mode with the UN Security Council members as well as other countries relating to the Iraq situation. Notice that some target coalition members such as the UK play a more public role while others are kept in the background. Determine how best to utilize your coalition members. Some may be helpful in attracting other coalition members while others benefit your change initiative logistically.Read More »
Trying to make a significant change in an organization without first building a compelling case for that change – a foundation for change – is about as effective as trying to move a mountain with a single shovel.
Chances are that no matter what change you’re proposing, some of your stakeholders and employees are going to balk. Others will dig in their heels. A few may covertly stage a mutiny. As frustrating as these behaviors can be, they’re predictable and understandable, especially if your employees’ jobs and daily lives are going to significantly change because of your initiative.
Instead of engaging in a battle of wills, put your energy into building a strong foundation for your change before you announce your plans and begin the change project. To garner the support that your change project will require to succeed, guide your change project team through the process of creating an airtight case for the change and a communications campaign to strategically educate and inform stakeholders and employees.
The four primary steps to building the foundation for change
- Create a compelling case for the change project
- Formulate an effective communications campaign
- Reinforce the need for and benefits of the change project
- Invite stakeholders to participate in the change process
Create a Compelling Case for Change
Your case for change is a persuasive argument that justifies the outcome of your change project. It provides the guiding force behind the change initiative and is also your primary reference for creating presentations, brochures, and other communication tools.
Make your case for change as clear, concise, and straightforward as possible, without leaving out important information or details. Ensure that the logic and reasoning you present is sound and founded on valid research. When you and your change project team are preparing the case, keep the values and concerns of your stakeholders uppermost in your mind.
You should be able to show that your change project is not just possible and desirable; it is a critical mission that calls for immediate action. Conclude your case with a powerful call to action, telling stakeholders and employees at all levels of the organization how they can be involved and what they can do to help.
Formulate an Effective Communications Campaign
An effective communications campaign is the best way to present your case to the stakeholders and employees. The communication campaign should include all of the communication you plan to do (both formal and informal) and all the important details associated with each piece of information.
Your communication campaign should paint a clear and engaging vision for the future. It should include face-to-face presentations, written materials such as flyers, brochures, newsletter articles, letters, and memos, and possibly an Internet site or phone line to continuously update stakeholders and respond to questions.
Reinforce the Need for Change
One of the most convincing ways to show stakeholders that changes need to be made is to compare your organization’s productivity, effectiveness, and profits with those of competing companies.
The key is showing that the way you plan to “do better” makes sense and is critical to the continued success of the company, satisfaction of customers, and ultimately – job security. Always address the “What’s in it for me?” question.
You have to show stakeholders what the change is and what it means by providing visual aids, and illustrating your points with success stories that they can readily relate to. And then, you need to go the extra mile.
Going the extra mile means painting a vivid and positive picture of how the organization will run once the change is implemented. Each part of painting this picture is going to involve your best creative thinking and that of your change team.
Invite Stakeholders to Participate
Invite stakeholders to participate in the change project and offer them specific options to be involved in planning and implementing the change. The more input they have in the decision-making process, the more they will buy into and champion the change. Giving stakeholders “hands-on” tasks increases their ownership and understanding of the project.
It is not necessary to know every detail of how every part of the change will work when you are just beginning. In fact, telling stakeholders and employees that some of the details have not been determined lets them know there is room for their input and suggestions. It allows you to sincerely question them and get their feedback so it can be weighed and considered.Read More »