This is the fourth in series of ten posts on 50 common sense tips on mastering organizational change.
Points 16 and 17 conclude the section on Planning, in the three-step process I refer to as Planning, Selling, and Engaging. The Selling phase follows, beginning with point 18.
16. Assemble Your Champions – Recruit the visionaries and aficionados that will serve as your champions throughout the implementation process. These can be business representatives with a keen interest in the outcome, or it can be team members who are passionate about the initiative. The champions are the ones who will make sure the job gets done right. Don’t be afraid of heroes either. Some organizations try to avoid a situation where just a few people are doing the bulk of the work. Yet, throughout history, most major accomplishments were driven by a single catalyst or a small group of people. Be sure to nurture and retain those people.
17. Choose Your Leaders Wisely – When faced with a large endeavor and few good leaders, resist the temptation to take your star performers and make them leaders. Often it does nothing other than rob your organization of good performers and provide poor leaders. A good performer does not a leader make, as owners of sports teams have learned when selecting coaches. In fact, with few exceptions, many of history’s greatest coaches were nothing more than mediocre players. But they studied the game and knew how to move, engage, and inspire people. Change leadership is a unique skill that requires the ability to empathize, sell, delegate, influence, present, facilitate, negotiate, coach, and solve problems. In many cases, a core leadership team is needed to cover all these skills.
Selling the Message
So, now you’ve reviewed and chosen your success strategies and have a good understanding of:
- The “why”
- The goal
- The singular focus or rallying cry
- Key priorities
- Stakeholders’ needs
- The current and desired user experience
- Local and regional nuances, concerns, and input; and
- Who your leaders and champions are
With a good platform from which to start, you’re ready to communicate your message clearly and effectively, in a way that will inspire passion—or at least understanding. In the film, Cool Hand Luke, actor Strother Martin voiced the now-famous line, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Here are some tools and tips for ensuring that doesn’t happen to you.
18. What’s the Problem? Focus on why, not how. People need to understand the problem they’re being asked to help solve through their participation and/or cooperation. To assure you’re selling the true problem, keep asking yourself “why” until you get to the root of the problem (the Japanese lean manufacturing movement calls this “The Five Whys”). Once people understand the why, they’ll more easily embrace the how.
If you can find a way to make them care deeply, all the better. Poet and author Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Granted, it’s hard to do that with something like timesheets (Trust me, nothing you can say will make people long to submit their time). But even with that, finding a way to demonstrate where and how the data will be used will make the pill easier to swallow, as will creating a vision of a less overworked world for the user.
19. Keep it Simple – The artist Hans Hoffman once said, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Don’t bombard people with long emails that incorporate multiple messages or instructions. Don’t roll out a series of ten metrics for people to strive to meet. And don’t have a long list of goals that the initiative is supposed accomplish.
Focus on one key message with two or three supporting points that augment the main theme. Then, in another communication, another message can be addressed. In Selling the Invisible, service marketing expert Harry Beckwith tells us it’s imperative to say one thing—and one thing only. “Saying many things,” he says, “usually communicates nothing.”
20. Consider the Alternative – General Eric Shinseki, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff, frequently used to tell his commanders: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” Along those lines, it’s often effective to convey an alternate reality to people, depicting what life would be like if the change is not implemented. Consider both the short-term and long term impacts. People like to have choices. In order to see value in something, they like to know the value in comparison to something else.
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