Delivering Change in Practice

25 July 2017
author picture Article written by Vincent Halluent

Your team has just designed a robust strategy fitting in with the shape and size of the transformation initially envisioned. It is now time to dive into the nuts and bolts of Change Management (CM) and to enter the second phase of the PROSCI process, managing the change. Here are five plans you need to customize in order to reach the finish line on time and on budget... and exceed expectations!

5 activities, 5 ways to boost the transition.

Just as if Change Management were some sort of tightly woven net, each activity plan is designed to bolster the others. In fact, more than activities, communication, sponsorship, coaching, training plans and resistance management are the CM organizational levers. At the end of the day, CM is not about delivering certificates of completion but to effectively drive the speed of adoption of the solution and make sure it is utilized by a critical mass.

·     Sponsorship plan: priming the pump and keeping goals on track.​

According to PROSCI’s benchmark studies, effective sponsorship lies at the heart of any successful organizational change. Sponsors have to take center stage and “hold the project flag high” from beginning to end ... from building awareness and creating desire among the people impacted, to reinforcing the change. Yet, appointed sponsors are often said to have a poor understanding of their roles. Simply put, senior leaders are expected to convey business and strategy-related messages and unify people around shared ambitions and goals. The ABC of sponsorship entails:

(A)  Active and visible participation throughout the whole project.

(B)  Building a coalition of sponsors.

(C)  Communicating effectively with employees.

In other words, sponsors are there to prime the pump and keep the goals on track. It is of utmost importance that expectations be followed through if only to avoid the “flavor of the month syndrome” whereby initiatives are launched and quickly replaced by new ones. Creating a clear roadmap for sponsors helps make “their mission” real in terms of involvement and schedule. The CM team is the one in charge of structuring and backing up those specific actions.

·       Communication plan: catalyzing support and getting everyone onboard.

Change Management is often equated with masterly communications. Even though it is a nuclear component of any transformational effort, it does not stand on its own as a CM activity. A good deal of effective sponsorship is in fact communication. And it is also much more than that. Communication is the art of tailoring a compelling message for a given audience. Matching the right sender to the type of message is instrumental in helping to raise awareness and drive engagement across the whole structure. It ranges from communicating the “why” of the change (senior leaders) to answering the “what’s in it for me”- WIIFM iconic question (direct managers). Best practices in the realm of communication include repeating the message from 5 up to 7 times, promoting one-on-one conversations and opening up two-way channels to allow for constant feedback.

·       Coaching plan: driving adoption.

When it comes to coaching, managers are key players. Their contribution covers the whole ADKAR spectrum, from raising awareness to providing support and recognition, and making the change stick. Not only should they lead by example, but given their proximity to the field, they are the ones expected to address the WIIFM questions in the first place and manage emerging resistances. For them to be effective drivers of the change and empathetic listeners, they have to own the change first.

Often caught “in between”, managers are both agents and recipients of the change. It is the task of the CM team to help them navigate these turbulent waters, as they go through their own transition process and further cascade the change. There is no better fit than your middle management to take up this challenge. At the end of the day, coaching is first and foremost a matter of trustworthy relationships and one-on-one conversations. No consultant, let alone project leaders, can substitute managers. The best CM skills applied in a social vacuum are most likely to generate a ROI close to zero.

·       Training plan: empowering people and “making it happen”.

It is not uncommon for leaders and managers alike to be faced with a barrage of questions from frontline employees, who doubt their ability to implement the solution. Coming up with a solid training plan to close the knowledge gap is crucial to drive adoption/usage of the solution and deal with resistances head on. The CM team plays an important role in partnering up with managers to identify missing skills or tools and liaising with the training group in charge of putting the plan together.

Training plans are often regarded as an obvious part of dealing with the change, and rightfully so. But a common mistake is to jump right into what is regarded as the “practical and tangible” side of CM. Proper training by itself does not create awareness or desire to change. Anyone who needs convincing of that should look back at his or her school days. We have all been there at least once, wondering “why on earth” is this XYZ course worth the effort.

·       Resistance Management plan: for a lasting, broad-based support.

Resistance may emerge anywhere, anytime during a project lifecycle. It can be real, imaginary or symbolic. PROSCI has coined the idea of proactive resistance management as a means of highlighting the recurring character of the issue and the need to tackle resistances from the get-go.

The ADKAR method to drive individual change is based upon a careful sequencing of change management. Skip the first steps - creating Awareness (A) and Desire (D) -, and the project is doomed to failure. Fail to empower the people with Knowledge (K) and Ability (A), and the project will hit the wall. Fail to Reinforce the change (R) by celebrating successes and people will go back to the “good old ways” of working.

Just as Project Management is a method, packed with specific tools to ensure successful outcomes, Change Management is a discipline in its own right, one that requires more than planning and one-shot actions. Because leading the change is a collective endeavor that requires endurance, the five activities outlined above build upon each other to engage the organization as whole and drive adoption / usage of the solution, one person at a time.



(2)  communication checklist: 


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